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September 12, 2018

Disrupting Business as Usual

By: Ian Houvet, Director Boxfusion

Technology continues to disrupt the public sector across the globe. And while some may treat new developments, such as automated leave processes, paperless auditing, AI and Blockchain technologies with suspicion, they can be harnessed to improve processes within the public sphere to great effect.

Numerous countries – often those in the developing world – are beginning to come to this realisation too. Many BRICS countries, (particularly India, China and Brazil) are experimenting with using Blockchain in regulatory processes, while Dubai aims to be the first fully-digitised government by 2020.

In fact, the emirates wants to use Blockchain technology to process all government bills, licences and visas within the next two years, which is projected to save 25.1 million hours of manpower as they go paperless.

While Blockchain technology is often associated with cryptocurrencies and all that denotes, for the purposes of the public sector, it has great potential to improve upon and tighten-up the functioning of government.

In essence, Blockchain acts as a digital ledger that can be used for all transactions, from shipping logistics to issuing business licences and registering land. Blockchain uses cryptographic protocols to ensure consensus among users and transparency across all transactions. This means that data cannot be tampered with without all stakeholders immediately being notified, and without the Blockchain technology detecting and preventing it.

The benefits of such technology in the public sector cannot yet be imagined. This kind of tool promotes transparency, integrity and accurate historical records, without relying on human frailty or paper-based processes (both prone to errors). These are the mandated ideals that many democratic governments were founded on, and which can now be achieved using the power of this disruptive technology.

As a study by Deloitte’s indicates, this technology allows transactions to take place in a way that is decentralised and distributed to all stakeholders, it’s irreversible and immutable (which means no tampering), and occurs in real-time.

Besides the potential for minimising corruption and removing human error, using Blockchain technology in the public sphere has many other benefits. As projected in Dubai, it can save huge amounts of time, as it will have the capacity to process an estimated 100 million documents, while still allowing for an auditable (digital) paper trail.

This technology, while disrupting cumbersome but essential functions of government, could ease regulatory processes, while speeding them up. The most appealing part is, as a country that is still developing and evolving these essential functions, South Africa could leapfrog developed countries where such functions are more deeply entrenched, thus becoming a global leader in the use of technology in the public sphere.

Blockchain could simplify everything from supply chain traceability, to managing SOE logistics, issuing of identity documents and birth certificates, real estate contracts, currency shares, patents, healthcare and even voting.

The opportunities and possibilities to improve the public sector and restore the electorates’ trust using such technology are endless. But a good place to start is with the automation of back-office processes, using existing local software like that produced by Boxfusion.