There's simply too much of information and often we have to bear the brunt of its overload, if not an avalanche. While not wanting to open up a Pandora's Box whether even all of it is required but one thing is certain - both veracity and trust (of source) are non-negotiable constructs.
Is it difficult to imagine our world without intermediaries. Well, currently it is and solely for the purpose of making information and other assets reliable to facilitate transactions, they thrive. Isn't it ironical that with diminishing barriers to information interchange, we continue to be waylaid by lack of trust?
The most basic and simplistic definition of Blockchain technology takes off right here. It's a distributed ledger technology that stores information across multiple systems in a secured manner to enable peer-to-peer transactions based on a trustworthy source. It may sound stretched right now but once blockchain takes off like the way it is envisioned, the influence of intermediaries will diminish to the point of redundancy, someday.
In truth, the road isn't as smooth as tech geeks would have wanted. Policy wonks obviously see things a bit differently right now. For instance, the RBI has maintained a cautionary approach dating back to December 2013 and through its more recent ban (April '18 Circular) on "virtual currency" they have maintained status quo. For the propagation of blockchain technology per se, it's hardly a crippling blow but it can be, if adopters aren't able to distinguish the said technology from cryptocurrency. It is of critical importance we get the message across, that despite the ban - we hope it's a temporary one - blockchain technology can still be used to bring about disruptive change which is no less than the second coming of the internet even. Sure, the underlying technology that fires Bitcoin is Blockchain but we must realize, the canvas is way bigger than cryptocurrency applications.
The fundamental attribute of blockchain, which makes it so powerful, is immutability. If one can imagine a universal ledger in the cloud which is shared by those who have the rights to access. Any entry in the ledger gets added in the form of an additional block which has to be authenticated by all participants. That's why it's so difficult if not downright impossible for hackers to break through the entire chain to get consensus from all participants.
Blockchain applications - the Indian scenario (selective cases)
Opening a bank account is easy but providing KYC details (sometimes multiple times over) can be onerous. There's no by- passing it though, without which nothing will move. Banks and financial institutions prefer private-permissioned blockchains where specifically one identity has the rights to edit information. Insofar, different Lines of Business (LoBs) can share KYC details in a secured manner and the same details needn't repeatedly be sought from the customer. KYC performed by one bank can be used by a different bank or another branch of the same bank if they be part of a common blockchain network. Imagine the time and paperwork that can be saved!
Two-thirds of pending civil court cases pertain to disputed land records. There's no gainsaying that only tech intervention can address such a daunting ask. But, is it going to be blockchain? Information on land records, exist in silos and in no uniform format which makes retrieval and sharing so very time-consuming. Abysmal land records necessitates that foremost, there be a common consensus on ownership.
Title dispute is central to the mess and certainly blockchain cannot be the answer across the board. It would be more realistic to introduce it in areas where there are least amount of issues - government land for instance, and build trust protocols subsequently. The Central Government has created a Govt. Land Information System which can be leveraged to secure land details which are undisputed. Obviously, the scope is limited right now but it's worthwhile to start. Initial success will lead to mammoth-sized opportunities even in private land holdings, once the stakeholders see value.
Let's look at Agritech applications. The food supply chain is one characterized by asymmetry of information. The complex network comprises farmers, brokers, distributors, processors, retailers, regulators and consumers. Improved data sharing will result in stakeholders getting their dues (particularly poor farmers with small land holdings) and consumers having control on food quality. Traceability right now is contentious and needs to be addressed.
The future beckons
There can be many other industries where blockchain can be introduced - manufacturing, healthcare, retail, telecom etc. The incredible advantages of immutability aren't lost on anyone really. While it looks perfect in theory but for all practical purposes, it has yet to take off. Obviously, the technology is complex and few people have gained the requisite level of expertise - even more pronounced if it has to be scaled up. This can't happen out of thin air - it requires substantial investments in cloud infrastructure. In addition, experts are still trying to work out how the legacy systems will be made to integrate.
Right now, we need a few quick wins particularly from the government's side and for policy makers to create an environment which will foster innovation in this particular area. Also, one can sense a degree of restlessness in blockchain professionals. Unless, things change rapidly, we can expect an exodus of high-end talent to shores which are more open to adopting blockchain technology.