Emerging technologies such as Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence have become the buzzwords today. As these technologies continue to disrupt multiple sectors and demonstrate numerous use cases, there is an increasing interest in understanding their scope to find out newer applications to solve real problems in daily life. Blockchain is certainly seen as the technology of the future.
By allowing data to be distributed but not copied, Blockchain technology has, in a way, created the backbone of a new form of internet. Primarily devised for the digital currency (Bitcoin), the technology community has, over the time, found several other potential applications across sectors.
What exactly is a Blockchain? It is a chain of individual units called “blocks”. Each block in this chain contains a data value, a unique “hash” value derived from this data, and the hash value of the previous block in the chain. Any change in the data of one block changes the block’s hash, compromising the entire chain, pointing to a now invalid hash, thus verifying and indicating that the data has been tampered. As a result of which, any breach in security can be effectively detected making the whole technology secure and the entire activity traceable.
Shared system, open to all
The Blockchain network represents a democratised system, as it has no central authority. Since it is a shared and immutable ledger, the information in it is open for anyone to see. Hence, anything that is built on the network is, by its very nature, transparent and all those involved are accountable for their actions. Information held on a Blockchain exists not only as a shared but a continually reconciled database. Such database is not stored in any single location, meaning the records in it are public and easily verifiable. As there is no centralised version of this information, it becomes hack-free with no scope to manipulate or misuse.
Blockchain has gained popularity for various merits it offers. It is seen as a decentralised network as it is not owned by a single entity. Blockchain is immutable and is thus tamper-proof. It is transparent and traceable. It gives internet users the ability to create value and authenticate digital information.
Experts believe that Blockchain will in future enable executing smart contracts in businesses. For instance, payments could be made when a financial instrument meets certain benchmark, making it automated. Such contracts can also safeguard copyright/intellectual property and automate the transactions of creative works online, eliminating the risk of either copying or further redistribution.
In the shared economy segments such as cab aggregators, Blockchain can remove mediation and transaction fees, connecting the service provider and seeker. The technology can also be useful in creating crowd-funding platforms and run them efficiently.
Anti-money laundering (AML) and know your customer (KYC) requirements of banks, insurance or other financial institutions have a strong potential to adopt Blockchain. Currently, these institutions have to indulge in labour-intensive exercise for each new customer. Hence, costs occurring through KYC could be minimized through cross-institution client verification, in addition to increasing monitoring.
Property titles are a clear case where Blockchain can be useful. These titles tend to be susceptible to fraud, as well as the process is costly and labour intensive in terms of administration. A number of countries are also undertaking Blockchain-based land registry projects.
Telangana has been a frontrunner in adopting and embracing emerging technologies such as Blockchain. The State has created an enabling ecosystem for Blockchain technology companies and startups to set up base and flourish.
For instance, T-Hub incubated startup StaTwig is solving the food and vaccine distribution problem of the world. It has been shortlisted for the GAVI’s Infuse programme this year, joining the ten startups chosen from across the world, and the only startup from India. The startup was also selected for the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund’s (UNICEF’s) Innovation Fund in December last year, making it the only Indian startup among the six chosen from across the world.
Japanese Blockchain service provider and consultant Emurgo, which has started its operations in India through Emurgo Academy, plans to set up a skilling centre in Hyderabad besides a few other select cities. In addition to the centre, which will provide skilling to working professionals, the company is also planning to provide courses for students from different colleges. Efforts like these are going to ensure that there is adequate talent pool in this space for companies to hire in the city.
IIIT-Hyderabad and TalentSprint have also come out with dedicated courses on Blockchain, both to enable IT professionals to upgrade their skills as well as to help engineering graduates to get specialised learning to choose this technology as their career domain.
Blockchain has found a key place in the IT policy framework of the State and several initiatives are being taken to effectively use the technology. Telangana has emerged as one of the most aggressive and progressive States in the entire country in terms of early adoption of emerging technologies be it Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Drones or the Blockchain. Several State bodies and departments are piloting these technologies to understand the use cases.
Telangana’s Blockchain District
Telangana government has conceptualised a Blockchain District, a first-of-its kind initiative, after carrying out several consultations with industry and academia. The move is aimed to be among the world’s top 10 leading Blockchain Technology ecosystems by driving key initiatives for developing talent pool, infrastructure, research and innovation, and community building.
In the words of Jayesh Ranjan, principal secretary, ITE&C Department, “Blockchain District provides a platform, which enables the stakeholders to collaborate, co-create and build solutions in Blockchain Technology, which, today, is at a nascent stage, but has enormous potential in the coming years. Telangana being the hub of innovation and technology would always strive to be the first mover in tech-domains.”
Government of Telangana, IIIT Hyderabad, C-DAC and Tech Mahindra are the founding members who have launched the Blockchain District.
The Bitfury Group, the largest full-service Blockchain technology company in the world, entered into a partnership with Blockchain District to establish a research and innovation centre in Hyderabad and to offer courses, necessary incubation and mentoring support to all associated members.
Indian School of Business will be offering co-working space, access to investor network, business expertise and other benefits to Blockchain District startups. MLR Institute of Technology will extend support in R&D and incubation.
All these steps are going to place Telangana on top of the technology adoption that will keep the State, ahead of time.