January 28, 2019

Procivis Flagship Event 2019 in Davos: Building a Digital State

As global leaders united in the alpine town of Davos for the World Economic Forum annual meeting, the Procivis team together with the newly established VETRI Foundation Board were present to connect to important stakeholders and partners.

The Procivis flagship event was the industry luncheon “Building a Digital State: Blockchain Solutions for the Public Sector” hosted together with GBBC at the Blockchain Central lounge. In attendance were prominent public sector representatives including the Premier of Bermuda, Hon. E. David Burt and Government Councilor of the Canton of Zurich, Carmen Walker Späh.

The event was kicked off by Tomicah Tilleman, Chair of the Board at GBBC interviewing Daniel Gasteiger, CEO of Procivis AG. Giving a global perspective on the state of democratic participation, Daniel pointed out that after decades of global stability, we now live in an age of political and social upheaval. Evidence from across the world suggests that trust in public authorities is at an alarming low. Trust in local authorities fell by 23% and 21% in Spain and Greece respectively in the years leading from 2008 to 2016 [1]. Trust in democracy too appears to be on the decline with 72% of Americans born before WWII believing it was essential to live in a democracy compared to just 30% among those born in the 1980s [2]. The same study reveals an equally alarming fall in the trust in democracy in countries such as Sweden, Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain over the same period.

Percentage of people who believe it is essential to live in a democracy by year of birth

Source: Yascha Mounk and Roberto Stefan Foa, “The Signs of Democratic Deconsolidation,” Journal of Democracy | By The New York Times

It is in this context that the Baltic nation of Estonia inspired the founding of Procivis. Emerging independent from Soviet rule in 1991, the Republic of Estonia leveraged the power of digital technologies to build an efficient and transparent public administration accountable to its citizens. In an age of political instability, blockchain, coupled with the proliferation of the internet, offers a similar opportunity to usher in a new wave of transparency and accountability in government.

Tomicah Tilleman (l) and Daniel Gasteiger (r)

Recognizing the foundational role of digital identity in enabling this transformation, Procivis started its journey by launching eID+, a blockchain-secured, smartphone-based digital identity solution which puts citizens in control of their personal data. Key features of the blockchain such as immutability and auditability, make it valuable for applications across the public sector such as creating tamperproof document registries and tokenizing assets which can have far reaching implications in creating transparency and minimizing corruption.

The transformational potential of blockchain further extends into the very bedrock of democracy – voting. In line with this, Procivis in collaboration with the University of Zurich has developed a blockchain-enabled eVoting prototype which allows for tamperproof records of votes and universal auditability of results. However, no technological innovation comes without risks. The Procivis Think Tank is working on fostering evidence-based research on the cutting edge of digital democracy to uncover these risks and the exploit potential of digital tools to shape society for the better.

Lastly, Daniel shared his vision on the future of personal data management, manifested in Procivis’ project VETRI. VETRI is a blockchain-enabled personal data management platform, taking the concept of personal data self-sovereignty to the next level. The project aims to empower individuals to take part in the rapidly growing data economy – in a safe and easy way.

Government Councilor Carmen Walker-Späh

Government Councilor of the Canton of Zurich, Carmen Walker Späh, built on the point. She offered an insight into the Canton’s own efforts in establishing Zurich as a fertile ground for blockchain innovation, while enacting the necessary regulations to minimize the risks posed by the technology. Premier of Bermuda, Hon. E. David Burt who has been a leading public sector proponent of blockchain enriched the discussion with his learnings from Bermuda’s national digital identity program. Recognizing the efficiency gains to be leveraged by decentralizing the process of identity issuance, the government of Bermuda is engaging private sector players as identity issuers with the blockchain serving as a trust anchor.

The Procivis and VETRI team in Davos

With the formal event concluding, our attendees stayed on to engage in riveting discussions, reaffirming our belief in the transformative potential offered by our solution to the public sector. At Procivis, we are grateful to our attendees who took the time to join us and make the luncheon a grand success. This blog post wouldn’t be complete if we did not express our gratitude to the representatives from the Canton of Zurich in attendance, Government Councilor, Carmen Walker Späh and Head of the Office for Economy and Labor, Bruno Sauter who have played an active role in supporting the growth of the blockchain ecosystem in the Canton. Further, we’d also like to thank our co-host Global Blockchain Business Council, as well as to Caspian Week, Davos for the invitation to the panel on ‚Smart Economy’ and to Switzerland Global Enterprise for the inspiring ‚Crypto Winter‘ event at the House of Switzerland.

References

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2016/oct/15/how-europeans-are-losing-trust-in-local-democracy

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/29/world/americas/western-liberal-democracy.html