Will Blockchain Disrupt Government Corruption?

Carlos Santiso in Stanford Social Innovation Review: “Will blockchain technology be the next disrupting technology to revolutionize government? Probably not. Can it be a game changer in the global fight against corruption? Possibly so. New technologies are disrupting our lives and transforming government. Governments around the world are going digital, embracing digital innovations to modernize their bureaucracies and recast their relations with citizens. Technology is changing how governments are expected to meet the rising expectations of citizens in terms of quality, speed, and integrity. Digital citizens are expecting more from their governments, demanding better services and greater accountability. Governments struggle to catch up.

Technology has become the greatest ally of transparency, as it allows one to leverage the insights that can be gleaned from the exponential growth of data. Digitally savvy citizens are far less tolerant about corruption and have more means to uncover it. There are heightened and even inflated expectations about the potential of blockchain to improve the delivery of public services and strengthen integrity in government. Pilots and proofs of concept are mushrooming, driven by a myriad of technology-driven start-ups in a wide variety of industries. This enthusiasm is generating intense debate, and an “expectations bubble” is building up rapidly.

Given the hype, it is important to assess both the promises and the pitfalls of blockchain, thinking through what it can and cannot do, based on hard evidence. Initiatives such as blockchan.ge by New York University’s Governance Lab are starting to look closer at whether and how blockchain technologies can be used for social change. Blockchain has emerged first in the financial industry, building on cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. The requirements and implications of blockchain in the public sector, however, are yet to be fully understood. Key issues include being clearer about the problems it is expected to address, its advantages compared to alternative digital solutions, its fitness-for-purpose in different institutional contexts, and, ultimately, the value it could add to existing institutions….(More)”