Dr Satya N Gupta in a series of interviews with business leaders inviting their comments on blockchain technology and its impact on business. Interview with Sumit D. Choudhury
Having been an early starter and a pioneer in digital public infrastructure and blockchain technology, how do you see development and the current state of the blockchain ecosystem in India? What critical problems are being solved as promised by the wonder technology?
Like the rest of the world, there was a lot of confusion wherein blockchain technology was used interchangeably with crypto-currency (which happens to be just one of the many use cases of this technology). The underlying technology of blockchain, distribute ledger technology, is now getting the right recognition of something that is verifiable, indelible records that can be used by known and unknown multi-party trust-based platforms to establish and propagate knowledge and trust. The government is one of the biggest users of this wonder technology now with certificate issuing authorities for birth and death, education, weights and measures, company documents for GST, incorporation, financial certificates, authentication and validations, etc., where the people creating the document need not be the one who are calling in every time to certify the authenticity of the submitted document. Distributed authentication is one big use-case that is being solved using blockchain. Distributed ledgers have been used for thousands of years to keep records across countries to keep track of transactions and settle them, but with blockchain these are decentralized, doing away with the need of any central authority. Additionally, with the advent of digital encryption, these ledgers have become secure and the security and trust is established and enforced by all parties in the ecosystem.
Individual companies may not have much incentive to invest in blockchain technology to start with and drive this within the company unless they are market-place creators. Multi-party trust-based marketplaces are the best places to implement this technology.
How will the blockchain industry impact IT and telecom industry and also its applications in other fields?
blockchain is just another database technology, with added encryption and distributed computing and decentralized trust establishment. It is not going to transform the industry but certainly aid the continuum of development of systems that allow us to improve processes, business, and lives for society at large. In the telecom industry, standards and strict adherence to such standards has allowed multi-party trust systems to integrate with each other to establish calls and data connections. The blockchain technology does not help much in that directly. The only place in the telecom industry where we have seen the use of blockchain is in Do-Not-Call database and processes to maintain this distributed ledger, and allowing different OTT players to broadcast the messages based on consent, and customers have one interface to get registered into this system. This can help the regulator and the government to curb the menace of spam calls, which are unsolicited by the subscribers. TRAI, the telecom regulator, has already made a beginning in the direction. As other applications, at state level and local government level, land-records, citizen identity health records, and many other digital information about citizens, their assets, etc., is being stored and securely transacted using blockchain without need for a third-party oversight.
India has always been the pioneer in software development in the world for at least 25 years. Keeping this leadership stature in mind, what would be your advice to the young talent pool in India to explore blockchain and decentralized ledger technologies (DLT) as a career/entrepreneurship option and what can be the way forward?
Understanding blockchain and DLT is just another skill set and, as I mentioned before, is just another way to solve a functional problem of establishing distributed trust. Architects need to understand when to apply this technology and when it should not be used. It is definitely not appropriate for large-scale transaction processing systems. We need to be part of the large global open networks; we need to contribute to the open-source community that is developing and maintaining such systems. Our computer science curriculums should have a course and ensure all CS graduates are able to develop this further. As an entrepreneur, my recommendation will be to look at the problem you are solving and ensure it is the right problem, which can be solved using blockchain only more efficiently. Entrepreneurs building marketplaces should especially look into the technology.