Journey with Blockchain Technology
National Informatics Centre (NIC) has been providing state-of-the-art technological solutions to the Central and State Government Departments for several decades. NIC Centres across the country have designed and developed applications at the District, State, and National levels. While the software and databases of different departments have always worked in silos, the last decade saw the integration of these applications to the extent of information being created by one department and being used by another department. The centralized databases used by various applications brought in other challenges, such as single point of failure, susceptibility to modification of data, challenges in seamless integration with agencies outside the Government, and many more.
The lack of confidence that the data does not tamper; only made the agencies to reduce the data entry in their system while they continue to manually verify the data. There was also no transparency in the end-to-end supply chain systems or approval systems.
While the Government did see the potential of blockchain technology in various sectors, the reluctance for its adoption was due to the lack of trained and experienced developers, and lack of investments in infrastructure and its maintenance. To address these concerns, National Informatics Centre established a ‘Centre of Excellence in Blockchain Technology’ for providing the necessary impetus for its adoption.
The Centre of Excellence (CoE) in Blockchain Technology was incepted with a small team of professionals working on a few use-cases. The team started working on a prototype for a Blood Bank system and Certificate Chain and used two distinct classes of blockchain solutions – Trusted Document Repository and a Supply Chain System. The Hyperledger Sawtooth framework was used. The API and Smart Contracts were developed and tested with one Node and then with Multi-Node Network.
Meanwhile, another use-case of interest was initiated for the health department – Drug Logistics Supply Chain. The Drug Logistics Software had been in use for a few years and it was observed that implementing a Blockchain Solution would give more impact to the users and more visibility to the technology. The team set up a Multi-Node Network in the production environment and deployed the applications. But when the load test was performed, the team started encountering problems – the synchronization between nodes was quite delayed; Chain began to Fork; the transaction queue was getting full, bringing down the network. The team explored alternative components such as the Consensus Algorithm with new releases of the Sawtooth framework and re-initiated the testing with some changes to the application.
When the Election Commission of India approached NIC to build a blockchain-based solution for the remote voting application, the team took this opportunity to develop the solution using Fabric. The solutions and results have been encouraging using different frameworks.
While the development activities were being carried out, the Centre of Excellence (CoE) was inaugurated by Shri. Ravi Shankar Prasad, Hon’ble Minister Law & Justice, Communications and Electronics & Information Technology in Bengaluru, Karnataka. The CoE aim to foster stronger collaboration between the Government, Public and Private sectors to ensure that the latest technological tools and frameworks are available for use in different dimensions of Governance.