April 13, Ukraine’s state agency for e-governance and BitFury have signed a historic memorandum of cooperation. A few days later, the country’s Ministry of Justice announced it was ready to deploy blockchain technology within SETAM, the system for escheat sales, and the ministry’s basic ledgers.
ForkLog contacted Konstantin Yarmolenko, advisor for the head of Ukraine’s agency for e-governance and one of the project’s originators. He spoke about expanding blockchain’s applicability in the Ukraine, and what effects could it have on the country in the near future.
FL: When did Ukraine’s state agency for e-governance and BitFury first decide to cooperate? How did it start?
Konstantin Yarmolenko: Making Ukraine an innovative nation and the world’s leader in blockchain implementation has been my crusade for a while. It was among the main reasons why I became an advisor for the head of Ukraine’s agency for e-governance.
Last November, Andriy Dubetsky of Bitcoin Foundation Ukraine introduced me to George Kikvadze, Bitfury Group’s deputy chairman of board. The company is one of the world’s leaders in blockchain development. I turned on the heat to invite the world’s best experience to Ukraine in order to modernize the country with this unique technology. After the initial negotiations, George invited Artiom Afian of Juscutum, the law firm representing Bitfury Group in Ukraine.
FL: How does this collaborative development of blockchain in Ukraine kick off?
K. Y.: The agency is responsible for government ledgers, open data, e-services, and e-identification. Our cooperation under the memorandum starts with studying the current state of affairs in the country, the way the ledgers and government services currently are, and developing recommendations as to where blockchain could be the most useful and efficient, and how to standardize and use it for nation state governance.
Bitfury is also experienced in implementing blockchain in land titles in Georgia. In Ukraine, this realm is very promising. Moreover, the latest memorandum between Ukraine and the IMF requires gradual liberalization of the agricultural lands market, passing relevant laws, and cancelling the moratorium [to sell such lands –– FL]. In this context, blockchain has enormous potential.
FL: Is there a development plan, and, if yes, what’s in there?
K. Y.: For now, there’s no particular plan for blockchain development in Ukraine. We intend to include this provision in so-called Digital Agenda 2020. It’s a state plan for development of digital economy and digital society in Ukraine with blockchain being its integral part. Aside for that, we’ll integrate blockchain in the recently approved concept for development of e-services, and prepare a roadmap for deployment of the technology in Ukraine.
FL: How can it influence everyday lives of the Ukrainians? Will there be any social solutions deployed in the near future?
K. Y.: I think that Ukrainians are quite negative about their own government. They consider the state non-transparent, corrupted and slow. In fact, they see it as their enemy. The idea of blockchain technology is about ensuring transparency and openness of the state to the citizens, and making it a friend and a partner.
Blockchain is a big electronic book containing all government data currently stored in state ledgers. Once recorded, they cannot be changed from inside or hacked from outside. Smart contracts will ensure automatic interaction between ledgers to render e-services to the people with no involvement from any officials thus reducing corruption risks to naught. That’s the main advantage of blockchain: it is corruption killer.
FL: Will budgetary funds be assigned to develop it?
K. Y.: Currently, there are no such plans yet we plan to attract donor assets and private investment.
FL: What projects are you going to implement in the near future?
K. Y.: There will be at least one pilot project this year, yet I hope there could be three to five, in land titles, construction, and property rights.
FL: Are you trying to build the future’s government system on blockchain? How do you see it?
K. Y.: It’s a great question. One has to differentiate my personal opinion as an advisor for the head of the agency, and the actual policy of the agency. Personally, I see Ukraine blockchainized. I don’t see a pyramid with a pharaoh on the top, officials in the middle, and citizens at its foot. It’s an archaic nation state structure, I believe.
Instead, I see Ukraine as the world’s most progressive community of e-citizens using p2p networks. All e-citizens will be able to exchange data and assets without intermediaries. The government’s role in this new structure is to create the required framework and provide the required infrastructure.
It’s a very appealing picture, and as a strategic advisor I do my best and provide all possible arguments to make this vision a priority of our agency and the entire state policy.