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How decentralization can stop bureaucratic bullying of citizens

Bureaucracy. What comes to mind when you read that word? 

For the average citizen, the word “bureaucracy” can oftentimes bring to mind all the hassles involving long and inefficient document issuance processes. Some countries with high corruption perception index and (therefore) rampant corruption like Indonesia, Cambodia, South Sudan, Somalia and Venezuela have attempted to reform its bureaucracy. 

The case of Kristen Gray, who got deported from Indonesia upon admitting (quite proudly?) on social media (in a string of Tweets which she later deleted) that she had bribed some immigration officers, for instance, is just the tip of the corruption iceberg.  Across various parts of the globe, bureaucrats and civil servants are highly associated with corruption.

Due to bureaucracy’s high vulnerability of corruption, especially among some countries, the justice which revolves around citizens’ affairs have been turned upside down.  While those with lots of money (such as Gray) can easily break the law, citizens with no money can get ruthlessly blackmailed and bullied when all they need is simply to get an essential certificate issued or get their basic needs met.  Any citizens processing any kinds of documents, from marriage certificates to work permits, can be vulnerable to this kind of bullying. This bullying has also turned document issuance or renewal processes into inefficient, long and costly one.

Now, the decentralized nature of blockchain technology can potentially accelerate bureaucratic reform and mitigate the rampant corruption in various public institutions around the world. Something that can also be applied in countries with little to no corruption, but with slow bureaucratic processes.

This article includes the following sections: 

–What is decentralization 

–How decentralization can accelerate bureaucratic reform and prevent corruption.

What is decentralization?

Decentralization is one of the solutions offered by blockchain technology. The peculiarity of decentralised systems is the absence of a central point of control, a central point of failure, and a centralized location where data is kept. Decentralized solutions follow pre-written rules comprising algorithmic “if…, then…” steps, secured through group consensus, coded into the system, that apply to each node of the network in the exact same way.

The decentralization of the IT infrastructure of a government, for example, means that while there is a unique system to cover any part of the country, the servers hosting and managing the data are scattered all around the country, with each being part of the all system.  Each region, county, regency, city, or even suburb, can run a “node” of the network, making the full system stronger and more efficient, and yet making it impossible for each individual office to tamper with the data they host and the procedures agreed upon by the all country.

How can decentralization improve document management?

Decentralization can automate document management. For instance, document issuance processes can be automated by requiring individuals to submit prerequisites documents through the blockchain.  As blockchain pre-set functions validate the required documents, which cannot be tampered with as they are secured through cryptography, then the request will be duly processed automatically.

Through this mechanism, decentralization automates the entire document validation and issuance process, thereby removing the human intermediaries (such as bureaucrats) who are prone to errors, and often make such management less efficient and more costly. Furthermore, as stated above, instead of being controlled under a central server, these rules are enforced through a peer-to-peer (P2P) network. This gives citizens greater transparency and assurance in managing their documents, without risking being exploited by third parties. 

Decentralization through platforms such as the blockchain also makes it harder for unscrupulous parties to tamper with the set coded rules, as any node operator that makes arbitrary changes to the codes of their node will automatically blacklist their node from the network.

How can decentralization accelerate bureaucratic reform?

First of all, the automation made possible by blockchain-enabled decentralization will by default replace the civil servants which can often make administrative affairs difficult. 

In countries such as Indonesia, where every government issued document is validated with a QR code that links to its online digital twin. In terms of security, an impostor can falsify the paper document, but it will be impossible for them to create the exact replica of the original digital document hosted by the government.  

Under such a secure system, citizens can simply scan the prerequisite for the issuance or renewal of their vehicle registration certificates into a blockchain based system.  From there, they can simply leave the rest to the system, which will automatically issue a new certificate, or extend the validity of an already-existing one. This will help citizens to save the time they used to allocate for these administrative affairs for more meaningful activities. 

The beauty of decentralization for public affairs: obviously as the civil servants who handle these things get replaced by an automated system, corruption is automatically removed from bureaucratic procedures. Under such automation, the only work left for policymakers and citizens in public administration is designing and voting the correct and most efficient procedures to be embedded in the system.

To go back to the subject of time once again, many professionals are frustrated because they do not have time to handle their administrative affairs, owing to the fact that the opening hours of government offices collide with their working hours. 

These offices are also not open during the weekends. The blockchain will also overcome this time constraint issue dramatically, as it is available 24/7, any day of the week. Citizens are able to handle their documents and records any time they desire, which is great especially during urgent or emergency situations. With decentralization, gone are the days of citizens having no other choice but to endure bureaucratic bullying just so they can get their administrative needs met.

Conclusion

Thanks to the nature of decentralization solutions, governments which adopt it will make administrative affairs for their citizens free of unnecessary harassment, while mitigating corruption along the way.

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