A number of years in the past, a blockchain technique for Catalonia was revealed to the world, presenting a complete define of how a authorities — albeit a neighborhood one — can in time swap to being an e-government. Such a mannequin could be backed by varied blockchain programs that will accommodate the wants of the residents for digital identities and voting, and will even be used to observe budgetary spending and recycling.
It’s a courageous and bold plan — although, not one which many have heard about, possible as a result of lack of knowledge. The primary rumors round blockchain implementation in Catalonia appeared a number of years in the past and had been later confirmed by an official assertion.
Only a 12 months after the announcement, the official paperwork at the moment are accessible online for all to see. However aside from a governmental report and a number of other information articles, Catalonia’s blockchain initiative has not obtained a lot highlight.
Cointelegraph spoke to Daniel Marco, the director common of innovation and the digital economic system within the authorities of Catalonia, to learn the way far alongside the area is on its path towards blockchain-enabled digitalization.
Cointelegraph: One of many greatest matters within the SmartCat technique is specializing in city growth and companies that individuals can truly use of their day-to-day lives. How a lot of that has already been carried out?
Daniel Marco: Nicely, we’re studying how blockchain may be utilized. We’re testing the expertise and the governance of this expertise. That implies that to supply these sorts of large-scale initiatives, we have to trust. Sensible Catalonia helped us as a result of it is a connection between the digital technique of the federal government and the native authorities who’ve essentially the most progressive public administrations — not solely the cities but additionally the counties.
One other venture we’re doing proper now’s within the agricultural space, in regards to the traceability of merchandise. We have now an organization — a really small one, from Girona — that takes eggs and may observe them by means of the availability chain. It is a solution to begin displaying these sorts of use instances.
We’re additionally certifying data with diplomas by means of the blockchain. Additionally, for instance, in universities, there are bins for plastic bottles. While you throw a bottle into certainly one of these bins, you possibly can earn a token after which you may make donations with these tokens.
CT: An enormous a part of that technique is the digital identification plan referred to as IdentiCat. The concept sounds intriguing however then, when contemplating switching the whole lot to that system over — like training, well being care, pensions, and so forth. — the duty turns into immense. What would you say are the primary challenges?
DM: For us, digital identification is a key venture of our blockchain technique, however it is also a pillar for the general digital method as a result of it is not going to solely be useful for simply blockchain and different ledger initiatives.
Why does the federal government — or a giant company or a financial institution — must handle your identification if you are able to do it by your self? Know-how may also help with that. And if we arrive at that place, which is our objective and we’re very dedicated to doing that, we would be the first public administration to advertise digital identification with out the management of the federal government. On the finish, what we wish is to validate identification and this might be our function — the validation that you’re you.
CT: So, in your view, such programs needs to be decentralized, and the federal government ought to create the system after which step apart?
DM: We try to develop an open-source system and provides it to the neighborhood. Then, we might be part of the governance, validating identification, which is the principal attribute of this expertise.
And in addition, we might ensure that all of the governance is absolutely authorized and gives confidence, as a result of the federal government additionally must outline issues and to place in all these processes and the authorized framework.
CT: So, this blockchain system, would it not be developed and powered by native corporations, or will or not it’s outsourced or possibly a mixture of native and overseas corporations?
DM: This blockchain technique is part of a nationwide digital technique. And we’ve two sides to it. A method is figuring out applied sciences that may change our society. We’ve recognized that 5G, blockchain and synthetic intelligence are the primary pillars.
And that implies that we’re engaged on adoption and accelerating the adoption of those methods to have a constructive affect on our residents. However on the identical time, for us, it is a precedence to have a neighborhood ecosystem to construct this new economic system.
This sort of expertise might be deployed in all places and can work to rework our society and to advance as a digital nation. We have to have this expertise.
It is also related to draw investments from massive corporations. It is not solely about having locals — we wish worldwide ecosystems. It’s not like the federal government solely desires to work with native corporations as a result of they’re right here — we wish that as a result of it generates financial progress.
Now, it is the actually early stage as a result of we’ve 76 corporations recognized as consultancies, builders or corporations which can be utilizing blockchain of their core enterprise. They’re both within the finance or within the cultural sector — and I feel that we’re speaking about round 500 staff. So, we’re within the section of growing proof of ideas, and on this, we’re nearer to analysis facilities and small corporations.
CT: However most small corporations will possible want some assist from the federal government. Is there some type of backing from the federal government to develop the non-public sector?
DM: We’re serving to as a result of we’ve established a nationwide technique with totally different departments. Within the digital coverage division, what we’re doing is producing the suitable setting, which means to attach all of the totally different sides with the demand. I feel that in the beginning, among the best issues that this ecosystem wants is to have initiatives and the suitable merchandise.
For instance, one month in the past, we labored with a waste administration company the place that they had a problem about methods to interact the residents to do selective recycling. And blockchain may also help that.
After which, we put the problem to the neighborhood — and on the finish, we had some totally different initiatives that may assist speed up that, as a result of first we set a problem, after which we assist the smaller corporations with growth.
The second is the expertise — we’re serving to corporations to get extra expertise. However many of the builders that we’ve have realized on their very own. Proper now, we’ve two universities which can be doing grasp’s levels in blockchain. One is extra technological and is for builders, and the opposite is extra in regards to the enterprise mannequin definition.
CT: So, would you say that individuals in Catalonia are conscious of the expertise and so they’re prepared to interact with it?
DM: Sure, and that is altering year-by-year as a result of blockchain two years in the past — whenever you had been speaking to any director, any head of division — solely these folks and a few technical folks find out about it.
After which, we did a whole lot of work on constructing consciousness. For us, it’s fairly related that every one the expertise corporations that we’ve in Catalonia have this blockchain method. This permits for higher consciousness amongst businesspeople in Catalonia, however there may be a whole lot of work to do.
Nonetheless, from the facet of the residents, civic actions are utilizing blockchain applied sciences to develop their actions, and the mass media was reporting on the app Tsunami, which they’re utilizing.
We need to change the setting, and it’s fairly troublesome to get there. However with tokenization fashions, we will take motion and supply folks with reactions or ramifications. We need to do all this stuff to cross all these theories on to our governance.
Including an additional twist to the Catalan blockchain situation is a proposed legislation that seeks to grant the federal government the rights to turn on the internet-censorship guillotine. If imposed, the Spanish authorities would be capable to reduce off entry to any web site, very similar to it’s now in Russia with Telegram, China with something Google-related, and an entire host of different locations. And according to the nation’s chief, Pedro Sanchez, this measure will forestall the Catalans from forming a digital, on-line unbiased republic.
CT: Concerning the internet-censorship legislation, will Catalonia nonetheless push on to develop the expertise?
DM: Proper now, we’ve the largest problem, which is that we’ve a decree from the Spanish authorities that disallows any public establishment to advertise or develop this type of expertise. And proper now, it is a larger hurdle for us as a result of it is also limiting the potential of the non-public sector to develop this expertise. It’s not just for public establishments and never just for Catalonia — it is for the entire state.
We’ll combat in opposition to this as a result of the place isn’t associated to the expertise of the Spanish authorities, but it surely’s associated solely to the precise scenario right here in Catalonia. And this must be solved in one other approach. So, the expertise, the innovation isn’t actually the issue as a result of the expertise will arrive. In the event that they cease or not, you can not shut the doorways to the sphere.
And in addition, we want the assistance of their blockchain communities as a result of not having it stops innovation. This may cease investments in Catalonia in addition to financial progress and the creation of recent jobs. What you want in case you are a startup or entrepreneur is a framework that helps you obtain goals — in any other case, there are a whole lot of locations to develop.
Marco admitted that the legislation makes it arduous to proceed the event of the digital identification system and the method subsequently needed to be stopped briefly earlier than the scenario turns into extra clear. On a extra optimistic notice, nevertheless, Marco did admit that the Catalonian approach of getting Cat within the identify of each venture doesn’t make it interesting to folks exterior of the area.
DM: However the greatest drawback with digital identification, or IdentiCat, is that we’re not superb with Catalan names. We all the time put “Cat” on the finish. [Laughs]
CT: However it creates a picture and a sure model.
DM: However folks overseas don’t perceive as a result of “Cat” is native. We began with SmartCat and proper now, our worldwide identify is Sensible Catalonia. As a result of in any other case it looks as if it’s a cat that’s sensible. [Laughs]
CT: Theoretically, blockchain is partially the answer to the issue, however but you do not have sufficient time to develop that resolution. The Web of Issues, 5G and blockchain mixed collectively can present all the required instruments to type a digital authorities.
DM: It is because whenever you discuss all these free applied sciences, it is actually type of a radical new approach of connection, that are intelligence networks that may join something, with any individual, with something — these identities that may speak to one another. And then you definately add distributed synthetic intelligence and we’ll arrive at autonomous vehicles or industrial machines that may actually be safer and extra linked.
And we’re growing these three on roughly the identical degree. That is additionally a long-term imaginative and prescient. We’re altering some standing quos and we’re altering the connection between the folks and the federal government — the enterprise fashions. However it is not going to arrive in two or three years.
CT: Are you contemplating utilizing blockchain-backed programs to facilitate voting and e-voting?
DM: Concerning e-voting and blockchain e-voting — as a result of they’re two separate issues — the expertise is there. We have now, right here in Catalonia, some of the essential e-voting corporations on the earth: Scytl.
It’s beginning to develop blockchain options, however the primary initiatives that they’re doing usually are not with blockchain. Additionally, we’ve different smaller corporations which can be doing blockchain voting. And we did it in SmartLab of Sensible Catalonia. We had a blockchain-based vote in a village that has a street that was all the time busy. After which we, as the federal government, modified the route for the vehicles to go to the freeway.
We have now two challenges for the Catalan authorities. The primary is extra about belief. I’m positive that the thrust of the those that voted no or sure, relying on the outcomes, might not agree with it as a result of they don’t seem to be used to the method.
The folks and the unions have voted with digital ballots, and in addition the Chamber of Commerce has held such an election for the primary time — and I have no idea the numbers, however the enhance of participation was very excessive.
Additionally in the mean time, the soccer membership Barcelona is wanting into having its voting by means of e-voting. On the finish, if folks vote in soccer and the Chamber of Commerce, and if it is okay, then why not scale up?
However the second problem is the electoral legislation. We do not have a Catalan legislation — it’s a Spanish legislation. And to include digital voting, we have to change this legislation. And to vary the electoral legislation, there might be issues with that.
This interview has been edited and condensed.