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No hurdles for blockchain in Tamil Nadu

Change management has long been accepted by business leaders as an essential part of leadership. Change is typically triggered by innovation, technology market shifts or regulatory developments. Sometimes described as disruption or transformation management depending on the level and scale of change, companies big and small have grown to live with upheavals.

Government entities, however, tend to move in a different orbit, at a much slower pace. The popular trend of self-inflicted disruption is rarely seen or successful. The fourth industrial revolution and push for digital India is creating unusual champions in domestic governance systems.

Various national and regional bodies of the government are making valiant and laudable efforts at tech-led transformation. When Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami announced its Blockchain Policy 2020, it was the first state to do so. Government processes require multiple departments to work together to provide a service to the citizen. “Seamless data exchange between departments is critical to provide efficient service delivery. Smart contract enabled workflows and shared ledgers can track inter-departmental processes, bring in accountability and enforce data security and ownership,” says the policy. “Blockchain can be used as a source of authentication and verification for all the information and data produced by government departments.”

As in many government initiatives, the key challenge is to go beyond intention and announcement to implementation and impact. The responsibility of implementing this change agenda for the state government lies on the Tamil Nadu eGovernance Agency (TNeGA). This body functions as the key promoter, supporter and mentor to various arms of the state governments that are looking for tech-led governance solutions.

Typically, different departments approach TNeGA with a problem or a challenge they face. Experts at the Centre of Excellence under TNeGA work with the department heads to understand the problem and work on an answer.

“We architect the solution for the department which approaches us. Once we have developed a model, we invite specialist developers and startups to work with us and complete the coding,” says the chief executive officer of TNeGA, Santosh Misra. Effectively, TNeGA has become the blockchain design, development and implementing arm within the government. Officers in other departments find it easier to work with peers in TNeGA who understand the nuances of government processes.

The state is using blockchain for creating and storing identity and qualification certificates for its citizens. Authentication of education certificates and degrees is easy using blockchain. The verification of community and caste certificates can sometimes take more than a year. With blockchain, this can be done instantaneously, and individuals and institutions can be assured of genuine documents.

Misra says that the state government is working with startups to help find solutions to key citizen-facing governance challenges.

TNeGA has also announced its Safe and Ethical Artificial Intelligence Policy: “To provide a framework for inclusive, safe & ethical use of Artificial Intelligence in Government domain and to build fairness, equity, transparency and trust in AI-assisted decision making systems.”

Both these efforts are important examples of tech-led transformation in governance. For such changes to be successful, government departments will have to be innovative too. Technology is not the solution but an enabler.

Just deploying blockchain and AI will not be enough. Policy makers will have to rethink internal rules, processes and inter-departmental communication. Merely replicating and reproducing existing rules in a digital format will not unlock the value of blockchain and AI.

True leadership and change management will involve deeper shifts in governance rules. States like TN must remember that as they deploy emerging technologies. Business Standard

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