The Mumbai-based BJP’s Youth Wing IT and social media chief Devang Dave spoke to Blockchain Papers and shared important details on blockchain adoption within government departments at the regional and national level. He also highlighted how welcoming is the Modi government to accept and implement edge-cutting technologies.
Q1: Tell us about your journey, what was your motivation to take up technology to solve real-world challenges.
While studying Engineering, I always kept wondering how technology can be leveraged to bring about a change in the lives of the masses. Then, there was a constant comparison of India with western counterparts on technology-enabled government service delivery. As I was actively involved with various stakeholders of government to address critical technological capability gaps to be bridged, and over the last decade the government initiated a well-coordinated program to achieve economic and social aspirations backed by technological capacity building of different levels of government eventually benefiting broader society.
Q2: Please tell us about your tech journey and your first encounter and experience with Blockchain?
Application of Blockchain within the government came across only a few years back. The government of Maharashtra launched the ‘Aaple Sarkar’ initiative to address public grievances in a time-bound manner and bring transparency in public service delivery. Some modules of ‘Aaple Sarkar’ were developed on Blockchain, because of its decentralized and secure nature it was well-received by officials as the security of public data is very critical.
Q3: Some of the most pressing technological challenges you faced in public service delivery?
The most certain drawback of manual public service delivery is its centralized nature. To avail public services or to raise issues regarding those services citizens need to visit the mandated government offices, which usually results in wasting of time and effort of citizens and giving rise to corruption. Now, with ‘Aaple Sarkar’ portal all grievances of citizens were addressed digitally. Taking on board every department of government of Maharashtra and digitizing the whole grievance redressal process was challenging, the process was designed following each Department’s hierarchical and working structure.
Analytics based on the nature of grievances received helped officials to identify the pulse of people and revealed areas that needed the government’s attention.
Q4: Do you believe that Blockchain could bridge the governance gap usually seen in the delivery of public services?
As the delivery of public services needs to be navigated within the multi-institutional administrative set-up, the digitized services need to decentralise in nature. Blockchain could certainly be a good match because of its secure and decentralised nature. As per the mandate of GoI, digital service delivery to masses in a time-bound manner and as various agencies are involved in processing
Q5: Government is putting in huge efforts in programmes like ‘Digital India’, ‘Make in India’, ‘Stand-Up India’, ‘Jan Dhan–Aadhar- Mobile Numbers (JAM), etc. Going ahead what the government wants to build on it.
In line with Hon’ble Prime Minister’s vision of Digital India to provide government services to all citizens, the government of India launched Digilocker, an online platform to securely store and share official documents and certificates. This digital wallet can provide citizens ease of access to all documents and its legality is considered on par with originals leading to faster document exchange and submission for official purposes leading to faster government service delivery with real-time verification.
Digilocker has proven to be beneficial in catastrophe and natural disasters, wherein a digital copy of certificates and documents was considered availing benefits from government. That also helps avoid corruption. Now, digital copies from Digilocker are being considered to avail an array of government schemes and services.
Q6: The government of Maharashtra is adopting Blockchain and has initiated various projects. Can you give us more details?
Recently, the government of Maharashtra launched a Universal Travel Pass backed by Blockchain Technology, wherein citizens are required to upload an Aadhar card and a second dose of the vaccination certificate to get a travel pass for hassle-free and convenient travel.
Some modules of the CoWIN online portal and the Aarogya Setu app are backed by blockchain technology. Various state governments have initiated blockchain-based projects, and it has got the application in various fields and Departments.
Q7: State government and local government encounter a wholly different set of administrative issues? How to identify those issues? Any government platform for students/start-ups/private sector organizations to solve those issues?
True. Administration working at different levels of government has their own sets of issues. In the last decade, the government has focused on technically upskilling their functionaries to go digital and have a fine understanding of tech-based initiatives.
Also, private organizations are using the PPP tool to get into solving governance challenges and this has helped the public sector with its upskilling initiative.
Q8: How can innovative blockchain start-ups collaborate with governments?
The government of Maharashtra has a holistic start-up policy, and with Maharashtra Innovation Society any innovative tech start-up can come onboard to solve real-world challenges. GoM has started work on some blockchain-backed education and agriculture initiatives.
We have identified some innovative start-ups across rural geographies also working in different domains, and this clearly shows how our country is brimming with new and innovative ideas.
Q9: It seems we are entering a new phase of digital government service delivery. What could be the technology trends for the future of governance?
Blockchain certainly looks promising. Currently, the government is focused on ease of doing business, transparency & digital transactions and this would surely have a wide range of applications for blockchain as a technology. Globally, we have witnessed an enormous increase in the adoption of blockchain technology. In India, various state governments are collaborating with startups and private sector organizations to assimilate the benefits of blockchain tech in their various programs. Now going further this will surely be the trend for the future of digital governance.
Public Policy Analyst at WazirX. Public Affairs Consultant.
EY | KPMG | Chief Minister Fellow | SRCC