Using Blockchain to Disrupt Government Corruption in Uzbekistan
BY Matluba Umurzakova, Saidbek Djurabekov | March 7, 2019|Comments 0
The Uzbek government is concerned about how the public perceives corruption in the country, and with good reason. According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, which scores countries based on how corrupt their governments are believed to be, Uzbekistan ranked 157 out of 180. In 2018, the Uzbek General Prosecutor’s Office stated that 1,561 officials in the public sector were prosecuted on charges of corruption.
For the last two years, the government of Uzbekistan has been working non-stop to put an end to long-term corruption which pervades various sectors. An effort championed by President Mirziyoyev, corruption is a persistent national concern in Uzbekistan. In the words of Mirziyoyev, Uzbekistan is “far from such concepts as justice, honesty, responsibility, meeting the needs and serving the people.” The challenge that Uzbekistan faces in tackling well-ingrained corruption cannot be overstated, but the silver lining here is the case that we are building for using blockchain to combat corruption.
Addressing Old Problems with New Tech
According to a Presidential Decree signed July 2018, from 2021 blockchain will be incorporated into Uzbekistan’s government transactions to improve public services and ensure transparency and accountability. In response to this statement, we at the UN in Uzbekistan (namely, UNDP, UNICEF and UNODC) joined forces, with support from the UN Development Coordination Office, to explore how blockchain can limit corruption in national public and private sectors.
We took the cue from other regional efforts to combat corruption with blockchain. For example, Georgia recently used blockchain to counter land title fraud. In our case, we chose to pilot blockchain solutions in areas long impacted by corruption, with leaders committed to change, and with the technical readiness available to implement new technology. We chose two areas of focus:
- School certificates: The current paper-based system makes it easy for workers in public school institutions to issue invalid school certificates. Since school certificates are kept in each school and there is no central digital database to check the validity of each certificate, it’s difficult to monitor and keep tabs on who’s issuing and who’s receiving invalid school certificates.
To help counter this problem, the UN team created a web service for the Ministry of Public Education (MPE) to create digital records of the issued certificates and a private blockchain to make sure that the records in the data based are not manipulated through the publicly accessible service for online certification. At the moment, the web service is integrated with the private blockchain deployed on the MPE servers and running preliminary tests within the agency itself. After testing this approach, we are going to make it available at public education departments and schools throughout the country.
- Land cadastre: The way that Uzbekistan’s State Cadastre works makes it easy for committee inspectors to manipulate records in central digital databases by altering the stated real-estate size, lowering tax bills, and changing the legal status of properties before buying or selling takes place.
To test possible ways of detecting these fraudulent schemes, our team, along with the state cadaster committee, developed a demo blockchain application that prevents the unauthorized manipulation of the real estate data in the central government database. Citizens are also able to verify their property records online through a public portal making the agency’s activity more transparent. The blockchain app is being deployed in the committee’s servers and is undergoing internal tests. The next is to pilot the implementation of the blockchain system with real data.
To advance these applications beyond the pilot stage, our team is working with national partners to establish an enabling institutional and regulatory framework. We know that to effectively introduce blockchain systems in the public education space and land cadastre, we will need to see change happen at the agency-level administration as well in legislation to define the legal status of blockchain-stored data.
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