Blockchain in the public sector: our first external case or how passion is a
key factor to success.
Here on Blockchain Studio, we see blockchain as a disruptive technology, but we also see it as the future. So, when we had the chance to use our expertise in a public sector project, we took it right away. I believe that everywhere in the world the public sector tends to be, or at least is considered, slow, confusing and inefficient. That is why the possibility to use blockchain in a government project was not only a great challenge but an excellent incentive. Before we received the proposal for this project, we had only performed internal courses at the university we are based. Because of that, the opportunity meant to have our first external case in an outstanding way!
It all started in November 2017 after we received an email from the BNDES (Social and Economic Development National Bank) requesting a course on the blockchain application. BNDES is a public company that with the objective of investing in the long term in all the segments of the Brazilian economy. They were a team that won an internal innovation competition presenting a solution that integrated all the bank's investment platform on the blockchain. The idea was that using blockchain for applying the investments to the companies it would be more transparent, faster, less bureaucratic and could be tracked by anyone. Their idea was to create a token for the bank's investments in order to be able to track and audit where and how the money was employed. The invested companies would pay their service providers using these tokens and the service providers after the job was completed would come to the bank to exchange the tokens for money. The deal was, they presented the solution to integrate the investments on blockchain but none of their developers knew how to employ it. The competition's prize was the bank investing in the solution development, so the team was going to be
excused of their routine activities and would have the budget necessary to deliver the solution including training and courses. Therefore, our participation in the project started.
The course involved 10 developers from this Bank and went on excellent, but when the developing phase started naturally doubts on the internal team side arose. In this moment, the passion started to make a difference and our long-term perspective on blockchain, and it's potential spoke louder. We wanted this project to work so much that we started performing a consultancy on our own to aid them to deliver the best transparency solution for their Bank. We did for the excitement, the challenge and the will to make it happen for six months, supporting them with doubts and to develop the solution.
Our friendship with Alex Van de Sande (https://medium.com/@avsa), Ethereum Foundation member and Mist browser designer, made an incredible difference for us, because he was an advisor during this consultancy step and later on in the BNDES Transparente project. During this period, they started experiencing an issue, they wanted to everything involved in the bank's investment process, this way we would have the real advantages in the blockchain use in the entire investment chain.
They needed to link the companies in the Ethereum network blockchain. The challenge here was that it was not as simple as someone creating a block stating he or she was the owner of a company; it was necessary to be validated so all the information the bank was going to deal on blockchain has been true since the start. Using the already existing electronic legal entity register number (e-CNPJ), which is an electronic certificate issued by some trustworthy Brazilian entities, we developed an open-source plugin to sign messages using this e-CNPJ certificate.
The bank's internal team developed a software that uses our web-sign plugin (https://github.com/investtools/websign) to digitally sign a message stating that the company that registered in the bank's platform was indeed the same company of the presented e-CNPJ.
The project followed with our consultancy with the same passion and enthusiasm in the solution when they approached another issue in the development. The very reason to be developing a solution in blockchain was to be transparent, auditable and trackable, and they required everyone to be able to participate in this process. Hence, they were encountering a problem on how to make even the most basic internet user able to audit and track the investments? That was how our third “commercial” contribution to this project began. We had to develop a system that would simplify the information on the blockchain and demonstrate it in the most transparent and user-friendly layout possible. To make it simple and quick for the people trying to audit the process, we had to extract the relevant information from the blockchain and put it in one place. For this reason, we developed the BNDES Transparente website (www.bndestransparente.com.br), once more we could rely on the support of Alex Van de Sande. This website essentially extracts and explains the information in the different blocks in the blockchain for the common citizens, delivering the relevant information, such as, names, dates, the amount invested if the money was withdrawn or not, which service was provided, and to which sector the company belongs.
In the end the project was presented in an event on Rio de Janeiro on their building downtown. At that place they explained their trajectory in the blockchain initiative for the BNDES token and we could present our contributions. From the course to the consultancy and presenting our direct solutions, the web signer and the BNDES Transparente.
We see this case as a incredibly memorable experience for driving us to an inspiring idea. We did it for the excitement and because of that, we were able to contribute even more to an incredible effort.
Our will to contribute took us to do something for the benefit we saw in the project. The contribution we were required to make helped in the differential the blockchain can bring, register and transparency. We thank the BNDES for this excellent opportunity and hope all our cases can be so fun and exciting.