Training session for UNDP staff

We at UNDP Moldova were thrilled by the intense deliberation around blockchain technology, so as its uptake, that we could not just sit and observe on the side-line. We believe blockchain can revolutionize the way we do development. And we saw great examples: from how citizens vote in Ukraine and register their properties in Georgia, to the way Indonesia tracks the sustainability of its fishing supply chains and remittances transfers are harnessed in Serbia.

Therefore, the time has come for us to peer into our crystal ball and test the potential of this disruptor, asking ourselves: Could blockchain help streamline development? Facing the struggle to identify what is blockchain and to sense its limits, we are addressing an existing issue most people can relate to: booking a car or a driver for a work trip. Needless to say, the time spent on filling out all necessary paperwork and the hassle in booking a car/driver in short time aren’t outlandish for anyone who has ever gone through this.

We asked ourselves whether blockchain technology can help make a more efficient and user-friendly fleet management for us at UNDP, but also other UN agencies and projects in Moldova, making better use of the resources. UNDP Moldova’s Social Innovation Lab (MiLab) took lead to unlock this challenge.

Digitization of the car management process – could that be enough?

The current informal system, although dealing with a plain issue like booking a car or a driver, has enough pain points. Personal calls, networking and unclear time needed to spend on schedule checking, are just the top of the iceberg, as information isn’t equally accessible to all and records do not facilitate understanding of what resources are being used, by whom and for what purpose. As it stood out, the traditional arrangement was time intensive as it consisted of lots of steps and people who need to take action in the system - all for the good reason of making sure resources are used efficiently.

With all short- and long-term constraints considered, our intuition pointed that the new technology may be able to shorten this cumbersome process and improve the overall experience. A simple digitization of the process could have been enough, but not when it comes to reconciliation and mutual accounts settlement (who pays what amount of maintenance, gas, driver’s time, etc.). Surely, off the shelf solutions could have been an option, but factors like transparency, traceability and most importantly, security, defined our choice to test the blockchain technology.

About the Blockchain … and other technologies 

One of the most appealing aspects of blockchain technology is the privacy that it can provide. It allows for the immutable tracking of transportation requests and cars usage. This means that UN knows exactly how its resources are being used, whether there is space for improvement, so as if the workload is evenly distributed. Such transparency helps to maintain the integrity and enhance mutual trust.

Piloting mood: more kilometres, less costs

Since last year, the UN Moldova fleet management system is being piloted and tested via desktop and mobile applications. There are now three major stages of a transportation request being logged on blockchain: creation, acceptance and completion. Gradual access rights were given to UNDP and UNFPA, and the number of users directly involved in the pilot is constantly growing. We are already experiencing the advantages of the blockchain technology and, most important, are tapping into valuable user-generate data that the system provides.

“In 12 months of piloting, we realized that a total number of 1,171 requests were successfully processed, out of which approximately 12% were renting requests, contributing to better planning, improved monitoring, and more efficient car fleet usage. Although the number of kilometres driven by the cars participating in the pilot has increased and considering that the cost of fuel has risen on average by 10% during current year, now we spend by 6.85% less on our car fleet,” noted Dorin Rotaru, Assistant Resident Representative/Head of Operations at UNDP Moldova.

So, what’s next?

Within next months, the solution will be piloted in other UN country offices and blockchain’s full potential will be tested. If successful, this experiment will save time and hassle in booking a car, reduce transactional costs, enhance transparency and availability of data, but moreover – create a precedent in decentralizing services and unravel experiences of office-to-office and shared services.

Moreover, government administrations could trial blockchain in a range of public services, including health records, voting and taxation. Adding license renewals and bill payments, wouldn’t just increase traceability and transparency, but might also cut CO2 emission due to trip reductions and contribute to a redistribution of hours of economic productivity. Likewise, blockchain based solutions could be the next big thing when it comes to public procurement and combating counterfeits. Zooming out: wherever there is a record-keeping activity, blockchain could make it more secure and reliable, most importantly it could change current modus operandi and address public sector challenges both today and tomorrow.

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