IBM bats for greater use of blockchain technology in governance

IBM bats for greater use of blockchain technology in governance
Photo Credit: Reuters
19 Feb, 2018

Tech giant IBM has advocated greater use of blockchain technology in US governance processes to help make services more secure.

According to a Business Insider report, IBM's vice-president of blockchain technology Jerry Cuomo said during his testimony at a Congressional hearing that the US government should employ the digital ledger technology for services such as paying taxes, creating secure identities, tracking food and drug shipments, among other purposes.

"We should focus our efforts on projects that can positively impact US economic competitiveness, citizens, and businesses," Cuomo was quoted as saying by the Blockchain Caucus, which was launched by US Congressmen to discuss the technology in the context of public policy.

According to Cuomo, it would be preferable to integrate blockchain into existing government projects and programmes rather than creating new projects based on the technology. He feels this will help catalyse adoption of blockchain and keep the US ahead of the curve in terms of implementation.

The Business Inside report also indicated that federal and state governments in the US are already working on several experimental projects based on blockchain, with some states working on implementing blockchain-based drivers licenses and identification cards. 

The report further said that IBM itself was working with the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in implementing blockchain in existing and new projects. 

One of the projects included looking at increasing the speed of CDC's ability to develop new drugs. 

"Developing new drugs doesn't just take a long time because people are slow," Cuomo was quoted as saying. "The processes are extremely paper-intensive. I see these groups taking the right first steps." 

Apart from making transactions more secure, blockchain can help reduce time and effort by eliminating the paperwork involved in new drug development and also securely storing the data.

Cuomo also said that blockchain-based new identities are more likely to take off at the federal level first.

Walmart's vice president of food safety, Frank Yiannas, who also testified in front of the Caucus, said that his company had partnered with IBM to develop a blockchain that will track the movement of food from farmers to consumers including distributors and retail stores in between.

India, too, is gradually warming up to blockchain. While the government said it will move towards outlawing cryptocurrencies - where blockchain is most prominently used - it will embrace the technology in other areas.

The government’s policy think-tank, Niti Aayog, is currently testing the waters to employ blockchain technology in education, health and agriculture.