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India’s Digital Ecosystem 2018

For a society that has lost faith in its people: chaincode and algorithms are the answer

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It’s that time when every business pundit starts making predictions for the new year.  To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, the best way to predict the future is to create it.  Rather than making predictions for 2018, I’d like to use this article to call upon the young digital entrepreneurs of India to self-disrupt the country’s status quo by exploring use-cases at the intersection of Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet-of-Things (IoT) technologies.

Imagine a blockchain startup that tracks every paper transaction for a large enterprise on its chain-code.  Additionally, imagine an ensemble of algorithmic bots that monitor transactions directly on this chain-code to pre-emptively catch fraud and risk.

This isn’t science fiction.  A South African startup called Everledger is doing just this to reduce fraud and catch “conflict diamonds” within the diamonds industry.  Maersk is using blockchain and digital documents to track cross-border assets in real-time.  Walmart is trying to use blockchain to monitor food safety and pre-emptively reduce food risk across its complex global supply chain networks.

Can you imagine a blockchain for the Indian Administrative Services? Can you imagine real-time tracking of assets in the food supply chains of India to reduce food poisoning?  How about a blockchain supplemented with IoT and AI technology for India’s congested roads to reduce bad traffic behavior?
Blockchain is more than about Bitcoin or AltCoins or Digital Payments.  It’s about creating a new generation of companies that have the potential to disrupt the status quo, to leapfrog legacy institutions, and to wipe out the age-old social ills of corruption, fraud, waste, bureaucracy, and latency —  by using technology to enforce trust, transparency, and consensus in real-time.  

For a society that has lost faith in its people: chaincode and algorithms are the answer.

Most of the current Indian dialogue around blockchain has been focused on cryptocurrencies and market speculation — but this is a very limited use-case. We need to get back to what is at the heart of the blockchain movement:

1) A real-time, peer-to-peer distributed ledger that offers instant transparency, consensus, and trust
2) A new way for digital entrepreneurs to raise capital and access foreign investment using initial coin offerings (ICOs).

The Indian government has a historic opportunity — it can embrace Blockchain, ICOs, and sponsor a “curated” crypto ecosystem to lead the world in re-inventing itself and the country — or it can be left behind.

The young, Indian digital entrepreneurial class also has a historic opportunity — to continue to listen to the gatekeepers, or to finally rebel and use technology to disrupt the country towards a positive social transformation.

At the time of writing this article, the Indian outsourcing industry is embarking upon record-breaking layoffs, instead of investing in the country’s talent or in building innovative offerings.  At the same time, the new Indian VC class continues to focus myopically on eCommerce or western clones.

Meanwhile, a quiet Blockchain revolution continues to be ignored.  

If you’re a recently laid off digital youth in India — I encourage you to hold your head high and to consider building transformational use-cases using open-source, hyperledger technology.

India hasn’t had a revolution for almost 70 years.  I say we’re overdue a few new killer apps.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Kanishk Priyadarshi

The author is the Head of Engineering and Innovation for High-tech and Electronics at IBM Global Services

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