Could Blockchain Technologies Help Government Agencies Deliver Better Citizen Experiences?

Interlocking metal chain resting on computer keyboardGovernment agencies aren’t known for seamless customer service, but that could change with the proliferation of blockchain solutions in the public sector.

If you’ve ever found yourself waiting in a long line at the post office or filling out tedious paperwork at the DMV, you’ll likely agree that the public sector has a customer service problem. Unfortunately, you’re not alone: according to a recent report, 73 percent of Americans rank government among the bottom three industries in terms of customer experience.

While it can sometimes seem as though government agencies and customer service are like oil and water, it's inaccurate to attribute this to an intrinsic issue with the public sector. Plagued by perennial underfunding, there’s only so much government agencies can do to improve their customer service efforts.

Luckily, the emergence of blockchain technologies has the potential to provide powerful solutions to a slew of government agencies’ customer service pain points. Although we’re still a long way from broad-based adoption of blockchain among government agencies, there are myriad potential use cases for the technology that paint an encouraging picture of the future of customer service in the public sector.

What Is Blockchain and How Can Governments Use It?

At a high level, blockchain can best be understood as a mathematical structure for storing data. Leveraging cryptographic principles, blockchain serves as an incorruptible digital ledger that is managed by a cluster of distributed computers rather than being governed by a single centralized authority. Every “block” of data on the ledger is secured by the block preceding it. This combination of immutability and decentralization makes the ledger secure, transparent, and inherently democratic.

To date, blockchain technology has been utilized most frequently in industries like banking in which accurate, secure transactions are essential, but it can be programmed to record practically anything of value — supply chain data, votes, medical records, etc. Indeed, even a few ambitious governments have begun passing legislation linked to the development of blockchain solutions.

While blockchain technologies have yet to take hold in a robust way in the public sector, a recent report reveals that nearly two-thirds of government stakeholders are beginning to test the blockchain waters, albeit only via informal conversations. Initial talking points in these conversations focus on how blockchain can help government agencies evaluate licenses, optimize tax calculations and payments, administer tickets and fines, and even manage the voting process during elections.

If these conversations turn into tangible actions — and, in turn, positive results — there’s a good chance blockchain will lead to significant improvements in government agencies’ customer service abilities. Who might even shorten those long lines at the post office.

The Illinois Blockchain Initiative: A Blockchain Case Study

Illinois has been leading the blockchain charge in the public sector over the past several years. Driven by the The Illinois Blockchain Initiative — a collaborative effort that explores blockchain’s impact on government — more potential government-related blockchain use cases are being brought to light in Illinois than in any other state.

For example, in the summer of 2017, Illinois participated in the national Medicaid Enterprise Systems Conference, an annual event during which the public and private sectors collaborate on health policies associated with the Medicaid system. At the 2017 edition of the conference, Illinois proposed several innovative solutions driven by blockchain technology, including using a digital ledger to optimize healthcare provider registries and secure sensitive patient data during the preauthorization stage of smart insurance applications.

The Initiative is also developing plans to leverage blockchain technology to improve energy resource planning, particularly when it comes to incorporating more sustainable energy into the public grid. In the past, regulatory barriers have limited consumer participation in the energy market. To help lower these barriers, Illinois proposed a partnership with LO3 Energy to use blockchain to offer consumers a transactive, distributed system that grants individuals more autonomy over their energy microgrids. Consumers would be able to collect tokens based on their production, storage, and consumption of energy, and governments would be able reward individual energy efficiency based on this data.

Finding a Trusted IT Support Partner

While the blockchain use cases outlined above are exciting — and may eventually end up being just what the public sector needs to produce better experiences for citizens — ensuring that these innovative solutions function properly will be key to the realization of their full potential.

As blockchain — and other digital technologies — continue to come to the fore, leaders in the public sector will have to contend with the challenges of implementing and supporting these kinds of solutions. Between setting up new support infrastructure, fostering citizen and employee buy-in, and initiating a plethora of new training programs, government agencies are likely to find a lot on their plates as they experiment with innovative digital solutions to their long-standing customer service problems.

Fortunately, partnering with an IT support expert like Epiphany Management Group can help government agencies get their innovative digital initiatives off on the right foot — and keep them there. Our multilingual, HIPAA-compliant IT support services can help any government agency implement, manage, and troubleshoot their digital solutions 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. Reach out to today to learn more about how we can help you drive meaningful improvements to your digital citizen services.
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