There is a common misconception in the market that blockchain and cryptocurrencies are basically one and the same. As a result, with the recent turmoil in the exchange markets, many would argue there is no place for blockchain in the conservative world of social security administration.
In reality, blockchain is the secure technology foundation that actually allows a cryptocurrency to be exchanged in trusted, peer-to-peer transactions without a central intermediary. Blockchain technology has its own potential—far beyond cryptocurrencies—in helping to secure the information people provide to multiple stakeholders in the social security ecosystem to satisfy eligibility and entitlement requirements. This is a challenge for all social security organisations no matter where they are on their technology and automation journey.
For example, the Crossroads Bank for Social Security (CBSS), established in Belgium over 25 years ago, is consistently recognised as the e-government standout for facilitating secure data exchange. Many administrators have admired the CBSS model but have not been able to replicate it. The 3000+ stakeholders in the social security system make the business model unique and influences the technical solution. However, blockchain could enable an upward or downward scalable approach to the challenge of data sharing, independent of the social security business model, which countries could deploy without the need for a central controlling infrastructure like the CBSS.
What is blockchain? Keep it simple please
Blockchain technology is a network for exchanging data which is trusted and secure. Information transfer and exchange occurs through a decentralised ledger and each participant has a copy of its content which is kept synchronised with other participants.
Special algorithms (called consensus algorithms) accept or reject transactions when they are recorded. Approved transactions are then entered in the ledger as a collection of “blocks” and stored in a chronological “chain” that cannot be altered.
One of the benefits of blockchain is that it is not controlled by a single entity. There is no single point of failure – it is transparent, decentralised and verifiable.
A faster path to a crossroads-like model
Competence for addressing social risk is divided between national, state/provincial and local levels of government as well as private and NGO stakeholders. Although most people have simple needs which can be readily serviced by one party, there are others experiencing multiple social risks requiring integrated service offers traversing layers of competency.
Sharing data amongst stakeholders working with those experiencing multiple social risks can provide the means for an enhanced customer experience, assuming they consent to the sharing of their data.
Information to be shared between stakeholders can be highly sensitive (e.g. medical records, case notes, personal identification documents). Blockchain technology could provide a secure means for recording where information is stored within a distributed network and how and when it is used and/or shared across the network.
Social security executives will gather in Casablanca, Morocco, on April 18-20 for the 15th ISSA International Conference on Information and Communication Technology in Social Security.
When the topic of blockchain comes up in Casablanca, rather than simply engaging in a discussion on new tech, I intend to turn it around to explore blockchain as an option for replicating the benefits of the CBSS model (distributed data, “tell us once”) without the business and technology infrastructure investment of a centralised controlling body.
There is potential for blockchain to better enable the personalised yet secure engagement model we all desire for social services. Is your agency ready to take the first step and explore how blockchain and innovative tech can power the era of empowerment? Read our POV and find out.
I would like to acknowledge the contributions of my colleagues Arun Gupta and Disha Jain for helping to explain blockchain within the social security context. To discuss further how blockchain can be used in a social security setting or how Accenture can help you to do this, visit us at Accenture.com/empowerment or contact me directly.