Telecoms & IT

New Kid on the Blockchain

Dubai inaugurates blockchain service

Dubai, no stranger to superlatives, becomes the first city in the world with a governmental agency operating purely on blockchain systems.

An employee smiles at the United Arab Emirates Telecommunication Regulatory Authority booth at GITEX 2010. The Dubai exhibition has been running since 1981

Dubai had great opportunity this week to flex some technological muscle at GITEX (Gulf Information Technology Exhibition), the GCC’s largest annual IT exhibition.

Each year, some 22,000 of the world’s most prominent technology executives flock to the event, keen to show off their latest innovations, and network with other tech tycoons.

While the average punter might have been distracted by the sight of Annie the Android serving up chilled drinks, or the chance to take a spin in a self-driving car, Dubai’s administration had bigger fish to fry.

Late last year, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council, announced ambitions for Dubai government to become the world’s first city administrator run entirely on blockchain technology.

The Sheikh has promised that by 2020 the Emirate will have issued its last ever paper transaction, and migrated entirely to a digital system.

This week brought Dubai one step closer to its goals.

From its stand at GITEX, the Dubai Land Department (DLD) launched a pioneering initiative:“Simple, Secure, Fast,” an online database built on blockchain technology that records all real estate transactions throughout the city.

“Simple, Secure, Fast” allows Dubai residents and foreign investors alike to view and access property data that has been verified by timestamp signatures, improving accuracy, transparency, and credibility of all real estate transactions in and around the city.

The DLD says its new system makes it the first governmental entity in the world to migrate fully to blockchain technology.

However, the DLD is not the only department incorporating blockchain into revolutionary new agendas.

The government of Georgia has teamed up with the BitFury group to launch a blockchain based land registry platform.

In the US state of Delaware, a law has been passed allowing incorporated companies to use blockchain for stock trading and record keeping.

The authorities in Abu Dhabi, and in the Ukraine, have both successfully implemented e-voting platforms built on blockchain technology.

In an exclusive interview with TBY this week, a senior representative of the Moscow City Government outlined plans to use blockchain to revolutionize management of its citizens data.

In fact, interest among public sector bodies across the globe has inspired the founding of organizations like the Government Blockchain Association (GBA), a membership group based in the US that promotes and advises on the use of blockchain for government activities.

According to the GBA, governments can rely on blockchain for a whole range of operations, such as facilitating imports and exports, securing citizen identity e-registration, or improving delivery of social welfare.

Indeed, the possibilities for governments, and individuals, are endless.

Never mind swapping cups of sugar, Blockchain can be used to enable neighbors to buy and sell solar energy with one another. It can be used to reduce counterfeit drug sales in developing countries. It can even be used to let farmers keep track of their cattle and poultry.

However, nobody should count their chickens — even with the help of blockchain — before they have hatched.

While governments have begun trying and testing new blockchain systems, as well as exploring the impact it could have on global administration, the technology is still in its infancy.

The DLD might have got there first this week, but the race to the frontline of innovation is by no means over.

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