Blockchain Application Innovation in Beijing Municipal Utilities

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China has the most comprehensive blockchain strategy in the world. Public enterprises, local governments, as well as the participation of large domestic and foreign private companies drive the strategy forward. The strategy and its execution are comprehensive and well funded. While other governments are dipping their toes into central bank digital currency, the Chinese are testing the Digital Electronic Money Payment System (DCEP).

The foundations are laid on two fronts, the Blockchain service network as well as the blockchain standards operate through China’s Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology Standardization Technical Committee. The Chinese are members of DCGI (Digital Currency Global Initiative), a joint project of Stanford University and ITU, a special agency of the United Nations. The ITU is chaired by a Chinese citizen.

Xi Jinping, the country’s top official, is an advocate of blockchain technology. Such high-level support and funding enabled the Chinese to execute the strategy; all public and private companies are working together to ensure the success of the strategy. In a country like China, toeing the official line is a good approach. This statement also applies to most foreign companies doing significant business in China.

This is an article about a project that fits into the overall scheme, which is the publication of a municipal plan for Beijing, with a comprehensive roadmap for the transformation of municipal services and governance. The document is very complete and has more than 140 pages in English. The document and its message are summarized below.

The Beijing municipal government and its departments have evolved organically and resulted in islands of data and segmentation creating inefficiencies in governance. To overcome this inefficiency, the solution is “programmable government” based on blockchain 3.0. The document separates the blockchain era into blockchain 1.0 which coincides with the release of bitcoin paper and the first version of bitcoin core, blockchain 2.0 which injected programmability into the blockchain through Ethereum and now blockchain 3.0. Blockchain 3.0 is the application of blockchain to various industries, not just financial and payment systems.

Blockchain 3.0 is the new infrastructure driving modernization governance capabilities through new infrastructure. The new infrastructure will enable cross-hierarchy, cross-department and cross-domain data sharing with new technical tools, collaborative platforms and infrastructure. Data quality will improve with built-in auditing, non-tampering, and traceability, enabling better analytics. Due to the speed of updates and data sharing, important documents such as licenses and registration of various companies are updated and available. The overall level of government services will be improved.

Given the roots of blockchain technology in the provenance and authenticity of documents, it is not surprising that improving government services, which are based on document management, is facilitated by the transition to blockchain.

The document details the twelve projects that have been launched to implement Beijing Municipality’s blockchain 3.0 vision. The description of each project details the problem to be solved as well as the implementation as well as the current status of the project. A few representative projects are listed below.

The first is the Beijing Airport Blockchain International Logistics Platform. From the description, it appears to be a Hyperledger Fabric-based platform. The document does not explicitly mention the platform, but was launched in March 2020. The project allows rapid coordination between different agencies thanks to the integration of the following documents in an easily searchable and tamper-proof system: the international port information, commercial data , logistics data, customs clearance information and tax information.

The second is the Municipal Services Bureau’s management of blockchain-based e-licenses. Repeated submission of license information, theft of license data to create fraudulent licenses. Currently, several licenses including electronic business licenses, ID cards, driver’s licenses, marriage certificates and many more are handled by the pilot project.

The appendix contains data dictionaries and the process flow of many projects. Of course, this global “programmable society” approach will raise eyebrows. The possibility of mass surveillance and the misuse of private transaction information to control society will be most prominent in people’s minds.

This is not due to the technology itself, but to the lack of regulations and laws that govern the use of data. In the West, despite multiple regulations, private companies collect immense amounts of data and use it to influence us to buy things and in fact to overthrow democracy itself. In any country, a balance must be struck between efficiency and the misuse of data. Some of them are cultural norms, this article alludes to the multiple ways in which the privacy of information is secured.

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