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How Andhra Pradesh Is Emerging As India’s Blockchain Hub

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Cryptocurrencies have become a hot theme of discussion since last year and it has taken the world by storm. India too has got on the bandwagon, after which the Narendra Modi-led government had to intervene to curb cryptocurrencies in India. Though the government may have killed the cryptocurrency party in India but the blockchain technology did not fail to catch the fancy of the government.

The blockchain technology started from the banking and finance sector. Last year, India’s first blockchain consortium, Bank-chain, was launched for banks. The blockchain bug has bitten state governments and private companies as well. State government and private firms are increasingly exploring blockchain for improved governance and ensuring transparency.

India’s First Blockchain Hub

After changing Hyderabad into an IT hub which houses India’s Google and Facebook headquarters, Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu now aims to transform Vizag to a world-class fintech ecosystem bringing government, academia, corporates, investors, entrepreneurs together. In 2016, Naidu announced an ambitious FinTech Valley Vizag plan.

That makes Andhra Pradesh the first state in the country to introduce pilot projects for the departments of civil supplies and land records in order to protect data of subsidies and land ownership from cyber attacks. Similarly, the technology is used in transport department to streamline titles of the vehicles.

“I want to make Visakhapatnam not only India’s capital for FinTech or blockchain technologies, it will be centre of excellence for the global community,” Naidu said at a blockchain business conference held last year.

The FinTech Valley Vizag aims to create 5 lakh jobs by 2020. As of 2017, the Valley Vizag has created over 5,500 jobs and has attracted $900 million in investment.

Naidu also plans to make the Andhra Pradesh a cashless state. Soon after demonetisation, he has been encouraging people to adopt cashless models of transactions. The state had launched the AP Purse mobile application, linked with 13 mobile banking and 10 mobile wallets, which are also linked with Aadhaar.

Dealing with Land Fraudsters

Land ownership system is grappling under fraudsters and people often fear being duped with fake land certificates. Land records in most states date back to the colonial era. The disputes over titles often end up in courts. In fact, over 66 percent of civil cases in India are property-related disputes.

According to McKinsey Global Institute, distortion to India’s land markets is a barrier to faster growth, accounting for 1.3 percent of lost GDP growth every year.

To deal with such crisis, the state government wanted to use the technology in managing land records first. Putting India’s land records on blockchain would help in reducing fraud, increase efficiency and in return boost economic growth. It will also lessen the administrative hassle of registration and title transfer.

Once the data on lands or real estate transactions are on blockchain all the parties can involved can track the deal. The technology works by creating public ledgers of all the transactions, replacing a mass of overlapping records with a simple database.

Partnership With Firms

In collaboration with a Sweden-based startup ChromaWay, AP government is building a ledger system tracking digital information that will allow people to collatarise property.

To increase the efficiency further, it also partnered with a Visakhapatnam-based firm for dealing with land records. The state government has so far secured more than 1,00,000 land records through Zebi Data. “We will authenticate the credentials of users, allow them to access the records and give them a certificate. No one can tamper with the database. The buyers, too, can access relevant information on registering with their credentials,” Babu Munagala, founder and CEO at Zebi Data India said.

Vizag has also collaborated with Covalent Fund to develop India-focused blockchain stack. With the help of Velugu Core government will be able to access data through APIs. Later, it will let developers create a range of apps based on the available information. Last year, it has also partnered with KPMG to develop a high potential ecosystem in Vizag.

Recently, the state government has signed a MoU with Malaysia-based cryptocurrency player Belfrics Global to set up an academy in Vizag with Gitam University and for application of blockchain in several government operations. Earlier this month, the government also signed a MoU with New York-based ConsenSys to establish the first Indian cohort of ConsenSys Education.

This year at Davos, the government of Andhra Pradesh signed a MoU with Hitachi. Hitachi will help establish an online governance platform called the Hitachi MGRM Citizen Lifecycle E-Governance in the state.

Preventing Cyber Attacks

India was affected by ransomware attack WannaCry last year after the key markets within the country took huge hits. As a result, blockchain would make a huge difference in fostering secure transactions. The blockchain is the only trust protocol that guarantees the safety of all digital and financial assets. The main characteristic of the technology is the data cannot be modified after it is created as a result it can prevent and detect any form of tampering. AP is spearheading the revolution by embracing the technology. The state’s adoption of blockchain technology will help in securing the government data. The state is training police forces on blockchain technology through workshops to prevent cybercrime.

To secure the data from ransomware or cyber attacks, the state is establishing a research and development centre for cryptocurrency in association with RC Bose Center for Cryptology and Security at the Indian Statistical Institute. Other initiatives also include specialized centers of excellence in collaboration with Thomson Reuters, Broadridge for blockchain.

It is also working towards integrating its own e-governance program and securing its assets on blockchain by 2019.

The State also plans to build the largest repository of blockchain use cases in transport, finance and digital security.

On A Concluding Note

After Vizag’s initial success in blockchain technology made other states follow suit. Telangana, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala have also supported the technology and announced pilot projects to ramp up e-governance transparency.

The Central government can take a note out of Andhra’s success to adopt blockchain technology. Bringing blockchain technology into the mainstream will give a boost Digital India initiative, which currently lags far behind expectations. The technology will enable paperless governance with permissions, licences, services and transactions being managed digitally.

Belfrics to establish blockchain centre in Visakhapatnam

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Visakhapatnam: One of the fastest growing Blockchain Development startups in India, Belfrics Global, will open its development centre in Vizag. Belfrics will also set up Blockchain Academy, in association with Gitam University, in the port city. It signed an MoU with the Andhra Pradesh government on Thursday, which will help to develop AP as a fintech hub of India and the blockchain-based solutions developed by Belfrics will also help the government to run its day to day affair in a smooth and systematic manner.

Speaking on this development, Praveenkumar Vijayakumar, Founder & CEO of Belfrics Global said, “This MoU is a testament to our capabilities in developing blockchain solutions for the Indian market. We are expecting a 300 pc growth in our blockchain vertical in the year 2018, thanks to this MoU”. Special Chief Secretary and IT Advisor to Andhra Pradesh CM, J.A. Chowdary said, “The government of Andhra Pradesh welcomes Belfrics Global to setup their development centre in Fintech Valley – Vizag. We will work in association with Belfrics in creating the critical manpower required for the blockchain technology industry. The government will also be more than happy to provide the Proof of Concept (POC) for implementing blockchain technology in supply chain logistics, tender issuance and bidding. We are also excited for the launch of Belfrics Academy in association with Gitam University located in Vizag.”

Belfrics will be enabling the government to adopt blockchain technology effectively for the state to improve efficiency and automation of various government services. The startup will be working closely with the government for identity management, supply chain management, education, payment solutions and business automation. Startup is the new buzzword in business involving many youngsters who are putting in all their innovative thoughts into action.

Belfrics, Ethereum co-founder’s ConsenSys boost Andhra Pradesh’s blockchain initiatives

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Vizag, or Visakhapatnam, is set to become India’s first blockchain hub, if everything goes according to plan. And, a bunch of tech startups will be the link to Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu’s ambitious fintech valley initiative.

Naidu’s love for technology in running the day-to-day affairs of his government goes back almost two decades when he was the CM of united Andhra between 1994 and 2004.

But his recent call on technology through a two-day event, saw India- and Southeast Asia-based blockchain and cryptocurrency startup Belfrics and New York-based blockchain firm ConsenSys emerge as the lead players to drive the state’s administrative functions using blockchain technology.

While Belfrics offers a bitcoin exchange, a wallet and a payment platform, among other services, ConsenSys, which was incorporated in 2014 by one of the co-founders of Ethereum blockchain network, Joseph Lubin, has a global presence with offices in London, Paris and Dubai.

Belfrics

Belfrics CEO Praveen Kumar told TechCircle that the startup has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Andhra government to help the state machinery as well as private entities implement blockchain across business processes.

“Birth registry and identity management will be at the heart of infusing blockchain technology in the state. Imagine the benefits for the state and its people if all their identities are on the blockchain. It is a clear roadmap for good governance,” said Kumar, adding that the startup will also add to the ongoing multi-party venture of bringing land registry on blockchain.

While his company continues to develop proof of concepts for the government, Kumar said blockchain-based identity management and birth registration services should roll out in 2019. “Today we have Identity providers who issue a physical/digital identity on a central database. The service providers identify end users using these identities and provide services. The problem with the current system is that the service providers have no way to verify whether the identity provided by the user is genuine or not. This is where, blockchains can come to the rescue.”

According to Kumar, if the certificates are issued on a blockchain network, the user can be the owner of his/her own data and share it with parties on a need-to-know basis. The ingenuity of the certificates can also be easily verified by end parties given that the certificates are timestamped and immutable.

“A system can be built for issuing educational certificates, employment certificates, driver certificates and any other, and it can bring down customer onboarding costs and operation times effectively.”

“In case of birth registry, the solution will also allow doctors, parents and the relatives present at the time of birth to log and register the event along with all necessary details using respective private keys. The newborn can be issued a digital identity immediately. It may be the basis of any additional identities, including for land registration and e-voting, which he or she may acquire during the course of life,” he added.

The company is also working on implementing blockchain on the state’s e-tender process to make it more secure and transparent. “The use of blockchain is going to root out corruption from the entire process. Using blockchains for bidding we can build a closed bidding system where the bids are closed until the dead line. Once the deadline is reached the winner is automatically chosen by the smart contract and all the bids are made public. This increases the trust within the system and gives equal opportunities to small and medium scale industries.”

“We are working with state-run and private universities to implement blockchain on graduation certificates. The chain, which will be operational by the time the next batch is ready to graduate, will deliver the certificates on the chain.” Kumar said that this initiative will help the universities secure the students’ records and ensure easy access of the certificates when needed.

The company also has plans to put the entire education record of a student on the chain. “The implementation of blockchain on the entire record of a student is going to make it easier for new-age employers and job seekers. The course of education is changing. For example, if you were to take a specific course on, say, flying cars, then that certificate can be added easily to the record for the job seeker to see,” he explained.

The company is also planning to teach college students about blockchain tech through Belfrics Academy. “We want to teach students about the new technology so that they can add to the new workforce which will soon be in high demand in the country.”

“There are so many use-cases. For example, we can even deploy our solution to sectors such as forests and fisheries. However, those areas haven’t been opened up yet. The Andhra government is in continuous talks with us in exploring newer use cases,” Kumar said.

Belfrics Global, founded by Kumar in 2014, first developed a currency exchange in Singapore in 2016, followed by its India and Kenya launch in 2017.

According to Kumar, the company was the first cryptocurrency firm in West Asia to get a ‘Sandbox License’ from the Central Bank of Bahrain. The approval granted by the bank allowed the company to get access to the $50-billion digital transaction industry of West Asian and North African nations.

Kumar said the government will pay the company for the blockchain projects. For private projects, the company was not considering a bake-and-sell route, but was willing to play a partnership role as the technology is still new.

ConsenSys

ConsenSys, too, has signed an MoU with the Andhra government to spearhead its technology-driven education initiatives.

The Economic Times reported that ConsenSys Academy, a blockchain education platform, will steer the state government’s initiative to bridge the deep ethereum knowledge gap and revolutionise education through blockchain technology.

ConsenSys executive director Kavita Gupta told the financial daily that traditional education programmes will not be able keep up with the rapidly developing pace of Ethereum and blockchain as a whole. “So, there’s a need to continue educating new participants in the blockchain ecosystem.”

The Andhra government is expected to help the company with infrastructure costs, besides recruitment, the report added.

“We believe that Blockchain technology has tremendous potential to revolutionise the way governments, institutions and corporates function. It also has the potential to transform multiple industries and make processes more democratic, secure, transparent and efficient,” Andhra IT Minister Nara Lokesh was quoted in the report.

 

Interest in blockchain has seen phenomenal rise after Union finance minister Arun Jaitley said that the government will explore the use of the technology proactively for ushering in a digital economy.

The Andhra government initiative also comes at a time when Niti Aayog, the country’s policy think tank, is working on implementing blockchain in health and education.

A report from job portal Indeed was also upbeat about job postings related to blockchain and cryptocurrency despite regulatory uncertainties.

According to the report, in the six months to November 2017, the number of cryptocurrency and blockchain jobs posted on its website rose 290%. In the same period, job searches with keywords related to cryptocurrency and blockchain rose 52%.

AP govt signs MoU with Belfrics to set up Blockchain academy with GITAM in Visakhapatnam

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In another thrust towards making Visakhapatnam a technology hub, the Andhra Pradesh government has inked a pact with Belfrics, a fast-growing blockchain development firm, to set up a blockchain academy in the city in association with GITAM University. The university is expected to promote the disruptive technology in Visakhapatnam and use its applications in several government operations.

Special Chief Secretary and IT Advisor to Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, JA Chowdary, while welcoming Belfrics to Visakhapatnam, said, “The government is also looking to provide the Proof of Concept (POC) for implementing blockchain technology in supply chain logistics, tender issuance and bidding”.

Praveenkumar Vijayakumar, founder of Belfrics Global said the company was expecting a 300% growth in its vertical in 2018. He further informed that the company was signing MoUs with the governments of other states as well to offer similar services.

“We are looking at penetrating the Indian market by developing innovative blockchain based solutions across Industries. We believe this will help us reach our revenue targets of Rs 100 crore by 2020. We will also be looking at hiring 100 blockchain developers in India as well as in Malaysia,” Jabeer K.M., chief operating officer, Belfrics Group, was quoted as saying.

Earlier, the Andhra Pradesh government also signed a pact with New York-based ConsenSys to promote the blockchain ecosystem in the state. It was also reported that the state and ConsenSys will work together to set up the first Indian cohort of ConsenSys Education.

Andhra Pradesh inks pact with Belfrics, to set up blockchain academy with Gitam in Vizag

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The Andhra Pradesh government on Wednesday announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Malaysia-based crypto currency player Belfrics Global to set up an academy in Vizag with Gitam University and for application of blockchain in several government operations.

Earlier this month, the state government also signed an MoU with New York-based ConsenSys on similar lines.
J.A. Chowdary, special chief secretary and information technology advisor to the Andhra Pradesh chief minister said, “The government is also looking to provide the Proof of Concept (POC) for implementing blockchain technology in supply chain logistics, tender issuance and bidding”.

He added that the state will work in association with Belfrics in creating the critical manpower required for the blockchain technology industry.

Anticipating big demand for blockchain technology in India, Praveenkumar Vijayakumar, founder of Belfrics Global said, “We are expecting a 300% growth in our Blockchain vertical in the year 2018, thanks to this MoU. In fact, we are signing similar MoUs with other state governments, banking organisations and educational institutes for developing similar solutions for them”.

The startup will be working closely with the government for identity management, supply chain management, education, payment solutions and business automation. “We are looking at penetrating the Indian market by developing innovative blockchain based solutions across Industries. We believe this will help us reach our revenue targets of Rs 100 crore by 2020. We will also be looking at hiring 100 blockchain developers in India as well as in Malaysia,” said Jabeer K.M., chief operating officer, Belfrics Group.