Government departments the country over manage thousands of databases. A lot of it is our private information. Governments do not have an enviable track record at keeping information private, let alone up to date. Yes, governments are trying new ways to innovate. However, stories of breaches and errors are increasingly making the news here and abroad.
The lack of a central, trustworthy repository means that some databases are up-to-date while others are not, and that government processes can be left to become slow and tedious.
All across government, from Births, Deaths and Marriages to Vicroads, from the Department of Immigration to the Australian Tax Office, time is wasted trying to find information and reconcile incomplete data sets. These inefficient processes are expensive both for the state, and for the people and businesses that rely on such information being accurate and readily available.
To tackle the problem of widely dispersed, incomplete databases, the Australian government is rolling out Govpass. Over the next year, as many as eight high-volume government services will pilot the digital identity system. It will involve more than 500,000 Australians. Once fully rolled out, it will be safer and easier than ever before for Australians to prove who they are when dealing with the government.
A core component of the Govpass system will be blockchain technology. The advantages of blockchain in this situation are manifold. All arms of government will be able to do away with their own databases, and instead can access and update a single identity database shared by all. This will dramatically reduce the armies of public servants often required to oversee what can be more efficiently and competently managed by technology.
Blockchain’s application in government could soon be used by IP Australia to manage patent registries and improve the notoriously illiquid patent market. Similarly, blockchain has great potential for managing land registries, as is already done in India. The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is investigating the possibility of using a blockchain platform for water trading in Australia’s $16 billion water market.
The common theme of all civic use cases of blockchain technology around the world is that they enable streamlining of government and the removal of red tape. Blockchain’s inherent trustworthiness and immutability eliminates the need for endless numbers of bureaucratic middlemen managing endless numbers of incomplete databases. The potential savings in public expenditure are enormous.
As Liberals, we are relentlessly determined to make government not only smaller but smarter. Where we see an opportunity to make government smaller, faster and more efficient, we must take it. Blockchain is an opportunity to do just that.
Senator Jane Hume is a Liberal Senator for Victoria and is Co-convenor of the Parliamentary Friends of Blockchain.