E-governance and blockchain in India and Oman – Interview with Daniel Gasteiger

The “Swiss-Indian forum e-governance” in New Delhi, India, and the “Blockchain Symposium” in Muscat, Oman, brought together entrepreneurs and policymakers from around the world to discuss the opportunities and the challenges behind the implementation of blockchain technology in general and blockchain-enabled e-governance in particular. Procivis CEO Daniel Gasteiger was invited to speak on behalf of the private sector and shared his experience from introducing digital identities to Swiss citizens as well as his plans for the company’s latest project called VALID.

 

Is it correct to assume that there is a consensus among policymakers that e-governance is in fact the next evolutionary step for public administrations and how they will operate in the future?

It seems widely acknowledged – both in Europe and abroad – that something has to change. Today’s paper-based bureaucracy constitutes a massive waste of resources and a source of big inefficiencies. Nevertheless, different countries are at various stages of development when it comes to e-governance. In India, the debate focused on benefits of enabling citizens access to government services online, without making use of enabling technologies, mainly because of a lack of necessary basic infrastructure – even though this is changing and smartphones can be easily bought for less than $10. In Oman, blockchain is seen as a formidable chance to revolutionize many processes from everyday life and Procivis’ value proposition was considered a great example of how technology can bring public administration into the digital age.

Are citizens and institutions ready – both psychologically and technologically – for this radical shift?

I don’t consider e-governance as a radical shift. However, e-governance is still in its early stage of development. In some places, basic infrastructure is still missing, while in others, there is little understanding of how blockchain technologies operate and can be utilized. Moreover, the lack of pressure from citizens and heavy bureaucracies create major challenges while at the same time constitute a source of opportunities for companies such as Procivis and thesolutions we propose. I see e-governance is the natural evolutionary step for public administrations. If an individual can buy a car or sneakers online from another country, but can’t access government services online in an efficient manner, it will be more and more considered a flaw in the system – especially by the new generations.

What constitutes the cornerstone of e-governance?

It is obviously the implementation and application of digital identities that empower citizens and allow them to participate in the democratic process in a modern and seamless manner. Such digital identities, or “eID’s” will eventually permit the introduction of e-voting solutions both at the national and the corporate levels. In the last months, much has been said about the flaws of the current voting system, its obvious inefficiencies and its vulnerabilities (or “points of failure”. However, it is not easy to persuade societies of the benefits of modern e-voting solutions, even though they primarily focus on increased security, reliability and accessibility for all. Consequently, raising awareness and educating stakeholders about blockchain-based solutions remains one of my primary goals.