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Forging a blockchain agencies can use

Besides examining agency spending and performance, the Government Accountability Office also has its eye on distributed ledger technologies.

GAO’s five-year strategic plan released in February identified blockchain and cryptocurrencies as technologies that have the ability “potentially transform” society.

Agencies considering using blockchain to improve government processes must develop policies and procedures that address risk, change management and training as part of their strategy, GAO Director of Financial Management and Assurance Asif Khan said. “Blockchain is so customizable and versatile so you need to clearly think through the needs in your environment,” he said at May 2 KPMG Future Ready Government event.

“We find people who are interested in blockchain because it is a buzzword,” Khan said. But with more experimentation and proofs of concept, “the word will get out as to how people can adopt blockchain within their own [agencies],” he said.

Agencies need risk-based policies and procedures for the blockchain projects.  For instance, Khan said, agencies must have a game plan for what happens if the ledger is hacked and the chain can no longer be accessed for a specific project.

Change management and training enter the picture when blockchain starts making processes more efficient and eliminating redundancies.  “Peoples’ roles are going to shift, so change management is necessary to show how [the project] will be implemented,” Khan said.  “Each person needs to be trained on what their roles are in the environment.”

GAO itself is interested in using blockchain to verify information at the source level for its reports, but the idea has not gone beyond the discussion phase, Kahn said.

The Treasury Department’s Bureau of Fiscal Service, however, already has seen benefits from a blockchain proof of concept that inventoried employees’ computers and phones.  However, it remains to be seen whether blockchain will be able to live up to the hype, said Craig Fischer, program manager for that agency’s Office of Financial Innovation and Transformation.

“The next step is [to] understand what this [type of project] means when it is moved to into an operational environment in the federal government,” Fischer said.  “When you have a network that spans and effects several agencies, it could be useful, but we need to determine what the architecture for that would look like.”

Blockchain

Bank of Korea Seeks to Deploy Blockchain in Bond Market: Report

Global central banks are increasingly looking at blockchain technology as a tool to make interbanking processes more efficient and transparent.

Following the World Bank’s exemplary experience of blockchain bond transactions, South Korea’s central bank is working on its own blockchain-based bonds, Cointelegraph Korea reports Feb. 18.

Bank of Korea started the project in late 2019

According to a report by local publication Yonhap Infomax, the Bank of Korea has been seeking a blockchain services provider in order to build a blockchain bond system that would allow distribution of the bond records among all participants.

The Bank of Korea reportedly launched a Proof of Concept (PoC) project in late 2019 in order to move bond transaction records that are currently maintained by the Korea Securities Depository to a blockchain-powered base of records accessible by multiple nodes.

South Korea’s central bank to evaluate blockchain’s capabilities in speeding up transactions

The blockchain bond project would involve separate nodes operated by South Korea’s regulatory authority, the Korea Fair Trade Commission, the Bank of Korea and other financial institutions, the report notes.

A local official reportedly confirmed that the South Korea’s financial authorities have been testing the potential of blockchain in terms of issuing state bonds to record transactions:

“We are using government bonds to record securities and cash transactions in a distributed ledger and test whether a real-time simultaneous payment trading system is possible.”

According to Yonhap Infomax, the Bank of Korea’s blockchain research regarding the bond market is being conducted with reference to the purported first-ever blockchain bond transaction handled by the World Bank and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia back in 2018.

As reported by Cointelegraph, the World Bank raised a total of $74 million for its two-year blockchain bond as of August 2019. According to the bank, the bond is the first to be created, allocated, transferred and managed throughout its life cycle using distributed ledger technology.

Regarding the Bank of Korea, South Korea’s central bank announced in late 2019 that it will be setting up a dedicated group to research central bank digital currency in 2020.

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Blockchain technology helps China cope up with Coronavirus

Transparency, as well as privacy, are two crucial pillars that need to be respected during times of distress. With almost 1,770 fatalities in China, over 70,000 total cases reported, at press time, China has turned to blockchain-based solutions to not only fight the crisis.

In the latest development, blockchain technology has been aiding the Chinese government and medical agencies without compromising privacy while simultaneously providing transparency as it fights the epidemic.

According to the latest reports from People’s Daily, at least 20 blockchain-powered applications have been launched from 1st-14th February in the Coronavirus-hit China to fight the growing challenges.

The report further elaborated,

“Personal information management is a major area of blockchain application. As more people return to work this month, apps and platforms based on ID information are being launched.”

From managing health records, ensuring interoperability to keeping personal information encrypted in blockchain-based cloud servers, this technology has been deployed in numerous cases since the epidemic broke out.

In Jinan, Shandong Province, blockchain technology was used in the official daily updates to make information in the platform ” tamper-proof and traceable” in a bid to achieve a precise collection of epidemic data and eliminate rumors.

Moreover, Henry Ma, chief information officer at Tencent-backed online lender WeBank, had reportedly said,

“The cross-border, financial blockchain services platform can play a bigger role, and help medium and small-sized enterprises improve the efficiency and convenience of getting export trade financing and other financial credit support”

According to reports from South China Morning Post [SCMP], a donation tracking platform powered by blockchain technology, called ‘Shanzong’,  was launched in China in response to the inefficiencies and scandals in the distribution of funds and aids across the epidemic-stricken provinces.

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India Wants to Build Blockchain Platform to Improve Electoral Process

One of the biggest surprises of the year is India’s apparently gradual road back to embracing cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. 

The country, which is the third-largest economy in the world, has held out against cryptocurrencies in the past, with the government directing commercial banks across the nation not to do business with companies in the crypto space. However, several activities across the nation have indicated that the Modi administration might be getting ready to switch its stance- even if a little bit.

India’s Arduous Voting Process

Recently, India TV News reported that the Indian Election Commission has collaborated with the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, one of the country’s top technical institutes, to develop a blockchain-based voting system that will help to increase voter turnout. According to the report, the new platform is in line with the government’s mission to help improve the integrity of elections- a problem which the government is deeply disturbed about, in ensuring free and fair elections. 

Besides being the world’s third-largest economy, India is the most populous nation in the world, with 1.3 billion registered citizens. In last year’s elections, the country had 900 million eligible voters- a number that roughly represents about an eighth of the world’s total population. India’s elections have been seen by many as the largest exercise in democracy in human history. 

However, the sheer number of registered voters is just one of the main problems India’s election faces. In the country, polling stations need to be set up everywhere- in the country’s rural Westward cities, the Southern coastal region, and in the jungles that form its eastern border. Every Indian citizen is expected to be within 2km of a voting station. The ambitious project means that India has an election month- unlike other countries that have just one day (or, in the most extreme cases, a couple of days). 

Blockchain Will be Part of Democratic History 

With the blockchain platform, however, it could all change. As the news source explained, the platform will be a two-way blockchain remote voting process that will require voters to be present at a predetermined venue. Once a vote is cast, a smart contract is executed, and the ballot will be encrypted. A blockchain hashtag is generated in this process, and candidates- along with their political parties- will get notified. 

Senior Deputy Election Commissioner Sandeep Saxena also commented on the increased convenience that this platform could provide. “Suppose there is a Lok Sabha election, and a Chennai voter is in Delhi. Instead of returning to vote in his or her constituency or missing out on voting, the voter can reach a predesignated spot set up by the EC, say in Connaught Place, in a particular time window and can cast his vote,” the election commission boss explained. 

As for the prospect of cryptocurrencies gaining entry into the country, the case is still being debated. The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IMAI) is currently in the midst of a legal battle with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) over last year’s ban on banks serving crypto businesses.

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