From K S Viswanathan

There is just too much information and often we have to bear the brunt of its overload, if not an avalanche. Although one does not want to open Pandora's box, if only the whole thing is needed, but one thing is certain – both truthfulness and trust (the source) are non-negotiable constructs.

Is it hard to imagine our world without intermediaries? Now, for the time being, to make information and other assets reliable in order to facilitate transactions, they thrive. Is not it ironic that we continue to be bothered by a lack of trust as the barriers to information exchange diminish?

The most basic and simplest definition of blockchain technology starts here. It is a distributed ledger technology that securely stores information across multiple systems to enable peer-to-peer transactions based on a trusted source. It may sound stretched just now, but as soon as the blockchain starts up the way it would, the influence of the intermediaries will eventually diminish to redundancy.

In truth, the road is not as smooth as tech geeks would have wanted. At the moment politics seems to see things differently. For example, RBI has maintained a cautionary approach from December 2013 and its recent ban (Circular of 18 April) on "virtual currency" has kept the status quo. It is hardly a crippling blow to the spread of blockchain technology itself, but it can be when users can not distinguish this technology from the cryptocurrency. It is crucial that we convey the message that despite the ban – we hope it is a temporary one – the blockchain technology can still be used to bring about a groundbreaking change that is no less than the return of the Internet , Sure, the underlying technology that fires Bitcoin is Blockchain, but we have to realize that the Canvas is much larger than cryptocurrency applications.

The basic attribute of Blockchain that makes it so powerful is immutability. If you can imagine a universal ledger in the cloud, shared by those who have access rights. Each entry in the general ledger is added in the form of an additional block that must be authenticated by all participants. That's why it's so difficult, if not impossible, for hackers to break through the entire chain to reach consensus among all participants.

Blockchain applications – the Indian scenario (selective cases)

Opening a bank account is easy, but providing KYC details (sometimes several times) can be cumbersome. However, there is no bypass without nothing moving. Banks and financial institutions prefer privately approved blockchains, where specifically an identity has the right to process information. As a result, different lines of business (LoBs) can securely share the KYC data, and the same details do not need to be repeatedly requested by the customer. KYCs executed by one bank may be used by another bank or branch of the same bank if they are part of a common blockchain network. Imagine the time and paperwork you can save!

Two-thirds of the pending civil cases relate to disputed land registers. There is no reply that only technical intervention can address such a discouraging question. But will it be Blockchain? Information on land registers exists in silos and in no uniform format, making retrieval and sharing so time-consuming. Abyssal land records above all require a common consensus on ownership.

Title dispute is central to the chaos and certainly Blockchain can not be the answer across the board. It would be more realistic to introduce it into areas where there are least problems – for example, with the government – and then to establish trust protocols. The central government has created a government. Land Information System, which can be used to secure undisputed land details. Obviously the scope is limited now, but it's worth starting. Initial success, even in private real estate areas, will create huge opportunities once stakeholders see value.

Let's take a look at Agritech applications. The food supply chain is characterized by asymmetry of information. The complex network includes farmers, brokers, traders, processors, distributors, regulators and consumers. Improved data sharing will result in stakeholders getting their contributions (especially poor, small-scale farmers) and consumers controlling food quality. Traceability is currently controversial and needs to be addressed.

The future beckons

There can be many other industries where Blockchain can be introduced – manufacturing, healthcare, retail, telecommunications, etc. The incredible benefits of immutability are not lost on anyone. While it looks perfect in theory, but for all practical purposes, it still has to take off. Obviously, the technology is complex and few people have the expertise they need-even more so when it needs to be scaled. This can not happen from nothing – it requires significant investment in the cloud infrastructure. In addition, experts are still trying to figure out how to integrate the legacy systems.

Right now we need some quick successes, especially from the government, and for policymakers to create an environment that fosters innovation in this particular area. In addition, you can feel a certain amount of restlessness with Blockchain professionals. If things do not change fast, we can count on an exodus of high-end talents opening up to blockchain technology.

(K S Viswanathan is vice president (industry initiatives), NASSCOM)



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