By Surya Suresh
During the presentation of the 2018-19 Budget, India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley discouraged the use of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ripple as they are not ‘legal tender. In the same speech, he also said, “The Government will explore the use of blockchain technology pro-actively for ushering in the digital economy”.
The central government’s think tank, Niti Aayog has been tasked with exploring the use-cases of blockchain technology and developing prototypes for the same. A significant step towards achieving this goal was taken on 6 February 2018, as the government announced the first implementation of IndiaChain for secure digital certification.
What is IndiaChain?
IndiaChain is the name given to Niti Aayog’s ambitious project to develop a nation-wide blockchain network. Niti Aayog’s vision is to link IndiaChain with IndiaStack, the digital infrastructure that forms the backbone of the Aadhar project. The IndiaChain project is currently in a nascent stage and officials at Niti Aayog are exploring use cases to develop PoC’s or ‘proof of concepts’ for the same. Some of the use cases identified include the security of records in agriculture, land and electricity distribution.
Despite the importance of the above use cases, the think tank has decided to test blockchain in the education sector and a source from Niti Aayog justified the same by noting that, “Even though land titles on the blockchain was another implementation being talked about, the process will take much longer as a lot of the states are yet to digitise their land records. Education has already been tested and is comparatively less complex to implement.”
Digitisation of certificates
The government hopes to issue digital certificates, starting with batches graduating from universities in 2019. The project is currently in the ‘pilot’ stage with IIT Bombay and Delhi University being chosen for the trials. A similar project is being undertaken by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the USA.
Fake certificates are a major problem in India, particularly for companies and universities. Obtaining a fake certificate is relatively simple in India and this has compounded the problem. Universities find it difficult to verify the details of students during enrollment and many companies end up spending large sums of money to conduct a background check of prospective employees.
The benefits of blockchain
Blockchain, which forms the backbone of cryptocurrencies, came to the fore owing to the flurry of action around Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. At its core, a blockchain is nothing but a secure, digitised and distributed ledger to store records. So what makes it different?
The blockchain ledger has several advantages over traditional databases. It is more transparent and secure as any changes to the ledger can be made only with the approval of all stakeholders. Further, the records in the ledger are distributed among the stakeholders and not stored in a centralised database, making blockchain almost unhackable.
Niti Aayog envisions blockchain as a technology that can reduce frauds, speed up transactions and ensure the enforcement of contracts. The digitisation of educational certification is only the first step in Niti Aayog’s plan to create one of the largest blockchain ecosystems in the world. The think tank also hopes to link IndiaChain with Aadhar, thus creating a secure personal identity for all Indians. If successful, this could lead to a digital world much safer than the one we currently operate in.
Featured Image Source: Pexels
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