Indian State Intends to Use the Blockchain to Protect Citizen Data

The Indian state of Andhra Pradesh has announced it is working with cybersecurity firm WISeKey to store citizens data on a blockchain securely.

Andhra Pradesh, bordering India’s southeastern coast, is the seventh largest state in the country. In an announcement, Swiss-based WISeKey and Andhra Pradesh will explore blockchain technology proof-of-concepts as pilot projects across a variety of departments.

The aim is to simplify processes and to enhance security in light of cybersecurity attacks worldwide. Earlier this year, malicious malware known as WannaCry crippled over 75,000 computers in 150 countries. It was the most audacious cyberattack to take place. According to Microsoft, it was a ‘wake-up call’ for governments to take action to prevent these attacks from happening. Shortly, thereafter, the NotPetya cyberattack targeted vulnerable computers around the world. Many victims were ordered to pay bitcoin ransom demands to receive access to their files.

In an attempt to take decisive steps, the government in Andhra Pradesh is taking measures to better protect citizen data. With a population of 88 million people there is a wealth of information that needs to be stored securely. To ensure this, it is teaming up with WISeKey to keep its various databases secure.

Carlos Moreira, founder and CEO of WISeKey, said:

“To have a pristine vision like putting the citizen at the center of gravity, and building all the infrastructure around this vision is the key to successfully empower citizens to unleash their full potential.”

JA Chowdary, special chief secretary & IT advisor to the chief minister of the government of Andhra Pradesh, said:

“We are looking towards WISeKey to play a leadership role in providing cybersecurity for the various initiatives of the government, but also drawing out the vision for smart cities who want to go beyond IoT, automation and use “Deep Tech” algorithmic technology.”

While N. Balasubramanyam, CEO and e-pragathi & transport commissioner for the government of Andhra Pradesh, added:

“Andhra Pradesh will be one of the first states in the world which will be implementing the blockchain technology in the transportation department.”

Andhra Pradesh to Record Land Deals on the Blockchain

In August, it was reported that the state of Andhra Pradesh was exploring the distributed ledger to record land deals. A second Indian state, Telangana, is also considering it too. The aim is to provide transparency to a corrupt system that leaves the poor at risk.

Most land ownership in India dates back to the colonial era. As such, knowing who owns what is fraught with difficulties. As a result, many people, particularly the poor, are left vulnerable with disputes ending up in court.

However, the use of the blockchain could provide better transparency for all concerned.

Vishal Batra at IBM Research, who works on the technology, said:

“The land registry is a good candidate for blockchain as there is no way to verify titles quickly. The process lends itself to fraud, as an owner can re-sell a property, and the buyer is ignorant. With blockchain there would be savings and efficiency, and there can be no fraud.”

Once a sale has been recorded on the blockchain, land owners, banks, sellers and brokers can track the record. This, in turn, gives everyone peace of mind that everything is above board.

Chowdary added:

“We are already digitising all land records, so this can be the next step.”

McKinsey Global Institute, the research arm of the global consulting firm, states that India’s land markets are hindering the country from producing more growth. Consequently, lost gross domestic product growth each year accounts for 1.3 percent.

Indian State to Secure Ration Cards with the Blockchain

These latest steps by Andhra Pradesh are not its first venture into the blockchain. In fact, its first steps can be traced back to 2016.

As early as then it was looking into the technology to fight cybercrime. As a result, it became the first state in Asia to implement the blockchain to provide cybersecurity and curb hacking.

This is significant considering the state’s government looks after a datebase of 103 million ration cards. N. Sambhasiva Rao, the director general of police in India, said at the time:

“Now the government has been encouraging to increase cashless and digital transactions from the present 10 percent to 50 percent.”

Ripple Opens New Office in India

Fintech payments firm Ripple has opened a new office in India’s business capital, Mumbai.

It’s hoped that the company will be capable of providing more customers with a faster settlement of international payments.

India has a population of 1.3 billion people. This expansion into India provides Ripple with a wealth of opportunities. Namely, because the country is the largest remittance receiver in the world. Ripple’s main objective is to get banks more attuned to the blockchain as a way of delivering faster payments.

For those sending money to India they may soon find themselves turning to Ripple’s services.

Navin Gupta, who has been appointed Country Manager for Ripple India, said:

“India is the largest recipient of corporate and retail remittances worldwide, totalling close to $71 billion. The businesses and Indian expatriates sending money into the country want their cross-border payments to be as fast and seamless as payments made within India’s domestic digital payment network.”

“Ripple’s instant, cost-effective blockchain-powered payments can be a transformative component of India’s economy, helping bring the many who have limited access to payment services into the fold.”

It remains to be seen what success this will bring to Ripple. Yet, considering India receives the most remittance payments in the world, the firm may see an uptick is users.

Turning to a Cashless Society

Over the last few years, India has been taking significant steps to embrace a digital agenda. What has helped to push the country forward was the removal of its two biggest banknotes: the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000.

Last November, Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, ordered their removal. As such around 90 percent of the nation’s currency was wiped out overnight. The aim was to prevent terrorism, corruption and black market money.

While it was no doubt a drastic move for the country, it has aided its journey toward a digital society.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

Indian States Look to the Blockchain Technology to Record Land Deals

Two Indian states are reported to be exploring the blockchain to record land deals to bring transparency to a corrupt system that leaves the poor at risk.

With the aid of the distributed ledger it is hoped that it will modernise an outdated system and boost economic growth. The southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are considering the blockchain to record land deals.

According to a report, most land records in India date back to the colonial era with land holdings uncertain of ownership. This can leave many people, particularly the poor, vulnerable with disputes over titles often ending up in court.

As fraud is a major issue with land deals the blockchain could alleviate this problem, bringing greater efficiency and transparency.

Vishal Batra at IBM Research, who works on the technology, said:

“The land registry is a good candidate for blockchain as there is no way to verify titles quickly. The process lends itself to fraud, as an owner can re-sell a property, and the buyer is ignorant. With blockchain there would be savings and efficiency, and there can be no fraud.”

Once a land record has been recorded on the blockchain all parties involved – land owners, sellers, banks and brokers – can track the deal. As the distributed ledger is an immutable record there is no way to falsify the information or change the data. This then gives all those concerned peace of mind to know that everything is correctly in place.

J.A. Chowdary, technology advisor to the Andhra Pradesh government, said:

“We are already digitising all land records, so this can be the next step.”

According to McKinsey Global Institute, the research arm of the global consulting firm, India’s land markets are preventing the country from producing more growth. As a result, lost gross domestic product growth each year accounts for 1.3 percent.

However, while the blockchain is being touted as the answer to India’s land registry issues, it can’t solve everything, according to the director of land laws and policy at advocacy group Landesa.

Sunil Kumar said:

“What if the data is incorrectly captured? To get a clean record, you need clean inputs. For that you need community involvement, particularly in rural areas, to verify ownership and resolve disputes.”

However, while Kumar may have some misgivings about what the blockchain can do, there are already other countries who have embraced the technology specifically for recording land deals.

Countries Embracing the Blockchain for Land Registry

Sweden is one country that is turning to the distributed ledger to improve the recording of land deals.

Last year, the country’s land registry authority, the Lantmäteriet, undertook a trial with the blockchain. The success of it meant that at the end of March the authority had moved to the second stage of the project.

According to Henrik Hjelte, ChromaWay CEO, it could add an economic boost to the country. Not only that, but Hjelte believes that Sweden is the ideal place to test the blockchain for land recordings as public trust in the authorities is high. As such, this will provide the incentive for other agencies to follow suit.

The U.K. is another nation that is utilising the distributed ledger. Her Majesty’s Land Registry, a U.K. government agency responsible for land ownership, revealed in May that it was conducting a project using the technology to register property.

In a report, this move would significantly transform the country’s 150-year history as it turns to speed, simplicity and an open approach to data.

In February, the Republic of Georgia joined forces with Bitfury Group, a provider of blockchain infrastructure, to use the blockchain to record property-related transfers. This marked the first time that a national government had employed the distributed ledger to confirm and secure government actions.

Countries such as Denmark, Ghana and the U.S. have also started the Bitland program to reclaim usable land titles and free up trillions of dollars for development in West Africa. Starting in Ghana and spreading through the rest of the African continent, it’s hoped that it will help to educate the nation on documented land ownership and how the blockchain can help to achieve this.

These are just a few of the countries that are turning their attention to the distributed ledger to improve how land ownerships are recorded.

The Blockchain Gains Prominence

As the technology develops and grows, more sectors are realising the benefits that it can provide. So much so, that one has to ask: how did we survive without it before? Such thinking also makes one think of how people survived without the Internet before it burst on the scenes in the late 90s. For many, the blockchain is becoming the next Internet sensation.

What’s important, though, is that we have the blockchain now and, consequently, many industries are using it to better their services.

Whether it’s within finance, healthcare, humanitarian, education or food supply, the blockchain is making its presence known.

One area where this can be seen includes tracking where China’s chickens are coming from. Confidence in China’s food supply is at an all-time low due to the number of food safety issues that have come up in the past. However, in a bid to improve consumer confidence with the country’s food it’s hoped that the blockchain will give people the peace of mind to know where their food is coming from.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is also employing the technology. In order to ensure the food and aid is reaching those in need, the UN undertook an experiment in May to see how successful it was by distributing aid to 10,000 Syrian refugees. The success of the trial meant that the agency was extending its reach to 100,000 refugees by the end of August with plans to include the entire Jordanian refugee population by the end of 2017.

With so many use cases underway featuring the technology it shows the importance and impact that it is having and the trust that people are willing to put into it to provide better services for many people.

Featured image from Shutterstock.