Technology

Blockchain Technology: The US Government Could Save Billions

Blockchain technology
MichaelWuensch / Pixabay

While many governments are getting more and more concerned about cryptocurrencies, it is now revealed that Blockchain technology can help the US Government alone save several billions. According to an article published in USA today in 2014, $614 billion were missing completely from the audit of 302 federal program. The government website USASpending.gov is expected to be an accurate and transparent representation of where the tax dollars are going. But, the Accountability Office of the Government found that just about 2 to 7% of the data on the website was accurate. That brings up the question where the remainder of the money went.

Responding to this report, a spokesperson representing the Office of Management and Budget, Jamal Brown told the media that OMB was committed to transparency in federal spending and was working with concerned agencies to improve accuracy and completeness of data submitted. In 2014, the then President Obama had signed the Data Act which became the nation’s first law on open data requiring transparency in spending by the U.S. Fed. However, some 430 government departments, agencies and sub-agencies continue to struggle with sharing information between them in an accurate and timely manner. Further, a single organization may also have multiple databases and information source stored in different formats.  With more than 2 million civilian workers currently employed by the government in the U.S. it is an uphill task to track the spending activities accurately with diverse databases. The numerous databases are spread across the nation and are not linked in any manner. But, again, that is not the singular technical issue that the government is facing today.

Three years back, China hacked into the database of 4 million former and current federal employees and that was the second time the same Chinese entity attacked the database within an year.

Earlier during the current year the personal data of some 240,000 employees of the Department of Homeland Security was breached.  However, the breach was not reckoned as a ‘hack’ but it continued to bring into focus major security issues afflicting the centralized government systems presently in vogue.

Blockchain technology

Blockchain technology can solve not just these two issues but several more for the federal government.  While blockchain technology has been recognized as the technology that drives bitcoin and other altcoins, its applications can get far beyond being a digital currency.  Blockchain technology represents a giant ledger which is stored on several thousand computers.  For novices, blockchain technology can be understood as a spreadsheet that can be accessed by several thousand computers to add to certain cells or blocks. At the expiry of a fixed period of time, the cell or block gets permanently locked and the next block gets added to it. The previous block that has been locked can never be altered though the information from the previous block can be varied for the purpose of accuracy.  Since data from every block resides on several thousand computers, hackers will find it extremely difficult to attack or access the information stored in the blockchain. The only exception perhaps is when a hacker manages to access 51% or more of the ‘nodes’ or computers handling the particular blockchain.

Blockchain technology successfully deployed elsewhere

As of now, several companies are employing blockchain technology for revolutionizing Healthcare, Supply chain management, Finance, Marketing, Human resources and many more sectors that impact our everyday living. Governments have also started testing the blockchain technology. Canada for instance is testing blockchain technology to enable citizens to view publically their grant spending and funding.  Sierra Leone, in West Africa, has just concluded their first election with the help of blockchain technology. Similarly Russia is currently testing blockchain technology for voting and payment system run by the government.

An apparently daunting task

Given the complexities of the U.S.Government, introducing blockchain technology in governance may be an apparently daunting task. But, implementing this technology could be the solution to many of the issues that is holding the government back currently. For instance, Pentagon could have averted the most recent loss of $800 million if blockchain technology had been adopted since everything remains accounted for with blockchain technology. If America is serious about addressing its infinite debt problem, it is perhaps time to take the emerging technology with all the seriousness it deserves. In January last, a joint hearing was held by the House of Representatives to examine applications of the Blockchain technology.

Most US citizens are acquainted with the useless customer service provided by the IRS or even spent several hours at the local post office only to be greeted by an unpleasant and most unhappy employee. All parties can be significantly happier when underlying systems are more efficient to quickly and securely process transactions.  The question that remains is – how soon the US Government will react and decide to implement the necessary changes.