Government Blockchain Consultant: Smart City Comes After Smart Citizens


Technologies are constantly changing modern society. Back in the day, VCRs disrupted home entertainment. Sometime later, social media disrupted news networks and communication. But once in a while, technologies bring about tectonic shifts in all areas of life at once.

David Kiziria, a blockchain consultant for the government of Georgia and an eGov expert, talked about the move towards digital society and explained the challenges of being in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This is the adaptation of the Russian-language talk from ForkLog’s Digital Middle Ages online conference.

Industrial Revolutions and Transformation

The printing press, invented by Johannes Gutenberg in the fifteenth century, kicked off a revolution and laid the basis of the world we’re used to. It was the end of the Middle Ages. It changed the way states are run and made them more centralized. It changed the economy and brought further division of labor. But this epoch comes to an end.

Right now, we’re entering the Digital Middle Ages. Not the Middle Ages in the classical sense, but as another step of transformation. Printing separated the authors and publishers from the consumers. The digital world eliminates this gap allowing people to take on different roles as they please. This is the Fourth Industrial Revolution. During the previous shift, we went for the physical realm to the virtual realm. This time, it’s about integrating these two realms.

Digital Middle Ages

The Digital Middle Ages will bring about a lot of changes to our way of life. Nation-states born during the age of the printing press will be replaced by horizontal networks of cities similar to that of Ancient Greece. Instead of centralized corporations, we will be seeing more of decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) formed by communities. More and more people learn that central banks aren’t 100% reliable and the pandemic catalyzes this process, but there are DeFi and cryptocurrencies. Political monopolies are going to change, as well as the role of an individual in society, which will become much more horizontal.

All these things rely on four elements of a decentralized society:

  • Decentralized communications;
  • Decentralized law;
  • Decentralized production;
  • Decentralized Finance.

People lose trust in the existing governments and traditional democracy. Across the world, authorities employ technologies to strengthen their position. Technologies we hear about the most like machine learning and IoT are the ones that help governments establish a digital dictatorship with censorship and surveillance. This works in authoritarian countries such as China, this works in liberal countries as well.

Coronavirus Impact and Digital Iron Curtain

Coronavirus pandemic is the catalyst for these processes. It changed quite a few things. Normally, people would be able to go to the street to gather and protest. Can’t do that now. We are physically isolated and restricted to our own homes. These restrictions have their effect on businesses but they also affect things such as elections.

While developed countries can afford to pull off remote elections in a relatively fair manner, for smaller developing countries this is a significant challenge. In some countries, such as Georgia, the Parliament has granted emergency powers to government officials, making them completely unaccountable.

The pandemic also pushes politicians towards increasing surveillance and control over people and their communication. I call it “AirBnB GULAG.” In the past, government agents would come and take you to a labor camp. Now they don’t need to come to you and can use your own home as confinement.

We’re close to the point of no return. I’m concerned that we may see another Iron Curtain rise, but this time a digital one. Looking at the reaction of state governments to the pandemic you may see a line. This may be the line that will eventually separate the free world from the rest.

I believe that we have to unite and seek the solution right now. I don’t want these problems to be left for the next generations.

What Can Be Done

In my opinion, we should, first of all, understand that a smart city comes after smart citizens. Unfortunately, the concepts of smart city and eGovernance are perceived and treated as tools to get more data on citizens quickly and efficiently. But these are the tools to make citizens comfortable, not the authorities. This is similar to medicine in that you have to be sure not to cause harm in the first place.

The same goes for the concepts of eDemocracy and eParticipation. We need to figure out if the new methods will let more people vote or they will have the opposite effect by empowering the government instead. We need more direct democracy powered by smaller self-governed communities.

We should pay more attention to the solutions that facilitate self-governance, crowdfunding, identification and anonymization, referendums, Wiki-initiatives, and collaboration.

Watch the full video on ForkLog YouTube channel

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