Maharashtra government calls for blockchain solutions; invites startups to test concepts

CM Devendra Fadnavis believes that blockchain will not only drive efficiencies in the system but also bridge the trust gap between governments and citizens.

In a definitive push towards making Mumbai the “techno-financial” hub of India, the local government on Wednesday called upon industry leaders, banking and financial institutions, researchers, academia and policy-makers at the inaugural Maharashtra Technology Summit (MTech) to discuss and deliberate on blockchain technologies and their role in public life.

Conducted in association with FICCI, the conference titled ‘Digital Transformation Through Blockchain sought measures and policies that can drive e-governance, eliminate intermediaries, and bridge the “trust deficit” between governments and citizens.

FICCI President Rashesh Shah underlined the importance of  a “supportive policy framework” for blockchain technologies to flourish in India. He lauded the Maharashtra government for being ahead of the curve in considering blockchain integration in day-to-day governance. “Blockchain is driving significant change in all industries. In financial services, transformation is happening on a daily basis. Various areas from e-governance to business to smart administrative solutions can be implemented through blockchain,” said Shah.

The Maharashtra government in partnership with consulting firm Deloitte unveiled a report on blockchain in digital transformation. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, while releasing the report, said, “Blockchain is not just the Internet of Things (IoT). It is the Internet of Trust, the Internet of Values.” He said that the state government has been working on implementing new technologies in governance for the past three years.

Blockchain in governance

“The government is one of the biggest data creator and data consumer. Blockchain will bring in more efficiency, transparency, accountability and accessibility in data flows,” he stated. The CM also revealed that Maharashtra’s upcoming smart-city project — wherein the state will have ten smart cities — will “need accountable governance on the back of technology.” He also expects blockchain to drive land record-keeping and agricultural processes in the state.  

The Maharashtra government is keen to foster a blockchain ecosystem, and has invited startups to test concepts, offer solutions to issues in governance, and partner with it on implementation. The government will either fund or incentivise these startups. “They can choose any area or issue they wish to solve and give us a proof of concept. We’re also looking to drive private investment in the sector,” Kaustubh Dhavse, Joint Secretary, Government of Maharashtra, told YourStory.

What corporate India wants

So, how does India Inc look at blockchain?

“Blockchain is an enigma, a paradox, a reality, and an opportunity,” said N Venkatram, Managing Partner and CEO, Deloitte India. “It has great commercial value and can be used to communicate within departments. Because it is nearly real-time, it brings you a certain speed which is important in areas where historically it takes time to access information,” he explained.

The industry reckons that blockchain could be a great driver of financial inclusion in India. It could transform the way India’s unbanked and underbanked population is serviced by financial institutions. “We have launched the Microsoft blockchain service in India. One of the predominant use cases coming up is group insurance,” said Basudev Banerjee, Director - Industry Solutions, Microsoft India. “Large organisations are using blockchain for auto-claim insurance management. Some large proof of concepts and pilot projects are already being run,” he added.

To further the use of blockchain across industries, India Inc called for a “vision document” from the government and urged it to be an “active partner” in innovation. “There are a plethora of blockchain technologies coming up. Allowing experiments by giving us access to specific data sets is the incentive we need. We can manage the funds ourselves,” said Madhivanan Balakrishnan, Chief Technology Officer, ICICI Bank.

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