Crisis communication cluster Challenge 2: Hacking bureaucracy and overcoming miscommunication
Our project it's focused on foment a better comunication between local governments from all around the world, but also between local governments and they citizents. Apart of solving this problem (helping to create a safe place for sharing información), publichain can help to other especifics problems that are common in many countries, and that represent real actual challengues. In one hand are the fake news: new technologies are causing the rapid dissolution of fake news, which damages the relationship between the local government and its inhabitants, as the latter can be guided by false information that has not been provided directly by the local government. And in other hand, the political clientelism: chieftaincy is still present today, even in democratic countries, at the local level. Political support based on favours is a widespread reality in public administration at these levels, which is a major problem when it comes to the transfer of power, hindering new ideas.
Blockchain is a huge resource in public administration, which is currently in its infancy. Its implementation could improve the efficiency of the public service in the direction of transparency, security, reliability and accessibility, which are essential conditions for generating trust in institutions.
- The digital transformation of PA is in a state of objective confusion, where the transition is often the cause of further disruption due to obvious governance gaps and the low digital literacy of citizens.
- Blockchain offers enormous potential in various areas, where the PA offers fundamental services to citizens: from the issuing of identity documents to public health and the electoral system.
- The blockchain can open a season of renewed trust in institutions, while also incentivising a reward system that can enhance the talent and initiative of public employees.
The PA today appears to the citizen as something chaotic, difficult to access, travelling at too different speeds, and with obvious shortcomings in what should actually be the main strength of the public administration: the role of governance. There are too many stand-alone, episodic initiatives, poorly coordinated with each other because of an initiative unrelated to a real strategic vision.
In the context of the digital transformation awaiting the PA, blockchain can facilitate many processes thanks to its technologies, which are capable of automating many of the most recurrent procedures in public administration offices. In particular, blockchain is functional to a digitalisation strategy along two directions:
- bureaucratic simplification, which translates into clear time and cost savings for the PA
- greater overall efficiency in operations, with a view to continuous improvement in qualities such as trust, transparency, security, reliability and accessibility, which are intrinsic to the design of the technology
Among the various tools aimed at supporting a profound digital transformation activity, blockchain for public administration would be one of the most exciting possibilities, thanks to its ability to regulate and automate many of the procedures commonly carried out in public offices.
The conditional is obligatory, as real cases are still limited in number and maturity, being mainly in the experimental phase. However, in order to realise the enormous application potential of blockchain, we are proposing an overview of possibilities that are destined to become increasingly concrete, given the advantages that would result.
In some cases, it will become particularly clear that the application of blockchain is not an exclusive condition, but a possibility to give rise to a strategy of digitisation of the public service, often in concert with other emerging technologies:
- digital identity certification: a database on a distributed registry that can be used while respecting privacy and sensitive data, with secure authentication systems
- certification of qualifications: to automatically validate any public procedure requiring certification, not least with a view to avoiding possible fraud or false subservience, which is very complex to verify
- certification of marital status documents: this would be the dream of many citizens, who are often forced to wait for bureaucratic delays at municipal offices, which in some cases are extremely incapable of communicating with each other
- certification of public rankings: to keep and make accessible to the various authorities the results of competitions, which could be used to recruit staff, thereby avoiding the need to hold new competitions, which would be very long and costly, when it would be sufficient to draw on the current rankings
- electronic voting procedures: if they were also adopted in general and local elections, they would save a lot of time and costs, as well as avoiding the occupation of school premises during the days needed to set up polling stations
- digitalisation of the land register: by enhancing the procedures already in place to set up databases that are more granular in describing the real existing building stock and easier for citizens to consult
- management of building procedures: blockchain is a technology that is consistent with the logic of building practices, which are increasingly oriented towards the asseveration by the professional, rather than the precise investigation by the offices
- management of calls for tender and tenders: to automate the complex procedures set out in the procurement code, with a smart contract structure that would, for example, speed up the various steps by checking the candidate's requirements and the tender documents submitted
- automated controls and combating tax evasion: in the context of legislation aimed at digitalising all relevant economic transactions;
- public health: any inefficiency on the part of the PA is also the cause of the greatest inconvenience, too often forcing people to rely on private speculation. Blockchain can make public health more efficient thanks to its tracking properties, to record medical records, store health and research data, rather than control the supply of medicines, avoiding fraud or anomalies.
One of the distinctive aspects of the blockchain is the ability to track all transactions transparently, without the possibility of changing what is validated without triggering a new verification procedure. Without going into technical details, the blockchain makes it possible to keep track of what happens during a process.
Let's assume a building procedure such as a building permit, which requires a concession from a specific technical office. In traditional procedures, the applicant only receives formal communications, which are bound to certain response times, but is not required to know when and how the application is being processed.
An obstructive reason is enough to keep the file on hold for a long time. In addition to the objective discomfort, this leads to a lack of transparency and trust in the institutions.
If it were compulsory to record the entire procedure on a blockchain, the contents could be made public easily and with full respect for privacy, since the data of a file would only be accessible to the applicants. This would also make it easy to monitor the performance of civil servants and the quality of the organisation set up by managers, providing incentives for higher quality of public service.
A rewarding scenario would allow people to work with greater ambition in public offices, and above all would allow citizens to regain trust in institutions.
The blockchain for the public administration thus assumes a value capable of overcoming the context of cost/benefit assessment of the technological solution, in order to return to the citizen the perception of a useful PA, rather than a barrier to be overcome in order to achieve its objectives.
Without going into too much technological detail, as our team does not have sufficient expertise to analyse this aspect, we simply point out that the type of blockchain suitable for this purpose is a public (permissionless), rather than a private (permissioned), blockchain.
The public blockchain overcomes the need to trust the service, even if the control over the data at the origin remains a non-objective factor, so that many conditional steps in the nature of a smart contract may remain tied to the validation of a third party trustee.
In this context, compared to the private subject, the PA is by nature "trusted", i.e. set up to act in the interest of the community, in a condition of impartiality with respect to private individuals.
The institutional role of the PA allows blockchain to be used more for its technological potential than to overcome a trust condition upstream. The relevant factor therefore becomes the efficiency of services. This is the case when we consider the relationship between PA and citizens.
On the other hand, as far as the internal relationship is concerned, between the various bodies and offices of the PA, where all subjects are recognised and given specific permissions, we find ourselves in the condition where a private blockchain, of a consortium type, is effective. This is the reason why permissioned blockchains are now the predominant activity in PA experimentation in this field.
This database would not only serve to link different local governments with each other, but also to provide reliable and accurate information on certain documents and data collected by the relevant municipality (e.g. data on covid patients during the pandemic). To this end, our project defines the idea of creating a user-friendly app, so that both the more tech-savvy and non-tech-savvy generations can access the information.
An app would be created to keep the local administration in contact with its citizens, with two levels: a simple and easy level (similar to the "Big Launcher" app) in which the elderly, the visually impaired or those with no knowledge of the use of technology, could manage in a very basic way, guided by emoticons. On the other hand, there would be the normal level, which aims to cover that part of the population that uses smartphones on a regular basis, and which also aims to access more complex information.
The application in its simple format would have auditory support as well as visual support (for those with disabilities or loss of capacity in these senses). Likewise, both the simple and normal versions would allow the option of different languages: the national language, English (as an international language), and as required, the local language or dialect (e.g. Catalan).
The need for technology in administration is addressed by the introduction of one of the most innovative and efficient databases available today. Modernity could go hand in hand with a simple and easy method that would allow both workers and citizens with more difficulties with new technologies to participate in the interactive community.
Fake news as well as clientelism would be easy to curb due to database technology. Blockchain makes every document unique, making it virtually impossible to falsify data without being recorded. The security of the software would help the administration to have more control over these important issues for local government.
In conclusion, it is necessary to establish that just as minimum means are necessary to carry out the project, so too is a basic knowledge on the part of the officials to use them. The programme allows the transmission of knowledge, and thus helps to ensure that the needs existing in one part of the world can be solved by those who have the experience or theoretical knowledge to do so. The programme thus brings those who are far away closer together, encouraging globalisation to be represented at the local level.
Pitch video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ene7iwECGF0&ab_channel=LucaC.