The County of Santa Cruz in northern California has become the latest local government to adopt blockchain technology for governmental services. At a meeting of the Board of Supervisors on April 25, 2023, members unanimously voted to move forward with implementing digital wallets for government services and official documentation purposes.
The white-label digital wallet will be powered by HUMBL and will launch a three-stage pilot program starting in July 2023. During the pilot period, beta testers, such as mobile users seeking access to government services like bicycle registration and RV parking registration, will be able to use the digital wallet. Other potential pilots include registration of park facilities, tracking volunteer hours, over-the-counter building permit distribution, and pet licensing.
Zach Friend, a Santa Cruz County Supervisor involved in the situation, stated that the value of digitizing paper documents, records, and services is an essential step for the convenience of Santa Cruz County residents and improving equity and access for the community.
Upon successful completion of the pilot, the county plans to provide a formal report and rollout plan by no later than September 2023.
The digital wallet project began to take shape in April 2022, following a collaboration between the Santa Cruz Board of Supervisors and HUMBL on the digital wallet technology infrastructure needed to begin a pilot program.
While local officials are pushing forward with the plans for a digital wallet, an open discussion forum on the county’s website revealed concerns from local residents. One commenter, Becky Seinbruner, asked to suspend further action and progress on the digital wallet developments. Seinbruner raised concerns over inappropriate use and sales of personal data by the infrastructure provider HUMBL.
During the pilot period, local officials will assess if users trust the underlying technology and understand what is happening “under the hood.” The county plans to provide a formal report and rollout plan for the digital wallet by no later than September 2023.
The adoption of blockchain technology by Santa Cruz County is part of a wider trend of governments turning to blockchain for better management of public records and services. By using blockchain technology, governments can create a tamper-proof and transparent record of transactions, leading to improved trust and efficiency in government services.
Blockchain also has the potential to reduce costs associated with traditional paper-based systems and the time-consuming manual processes that go along with them. Furthermore, it can provide secure access to information and services, thus improving equity and access for all members of the community.
Despite the benefits, concerns around privacy and data security remain. As seen in the case of Becky Seinbruner’s comment, some residents are worried about the potential misuse of personal data. To address these concerns, it is essential that governments work with trusted partners who have a strong track record of data security and privacy protection.
In conclusion, the adoption of blockchain technology by Santa Cruz County for governmental services is a promising development in the evolution of public services. By improving the efficiency and accessibility of services, governments can provide better value to citizens and drive growth in the local economy. As with any emerging technology, it is crucial to be mindful of privacy and security concerns, but with careful planning and execution, blockchain can become a valuable tool in modernizing government services.