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By Jeff Powell
Some local governments were left behind during the transition from analog operations to what later became known as Web1 and Web2, maintaining largely paper-based records and processes. As we move toward Web3, or the distributed web, municipalities are taking the opportunity to get ahead of the curve this time around. By adopting blockchain technology (as opposed to cryptocurrency) they can more than catch up to the current standard for the digital era. Blockchain brings accountability and transparency to municipal processes and empowers constituents more than ever before.
What are Web1, 2 and 3?
Web1 was the first iteration of the web, which was essentially a read-only version, where users could access information but not interact with it. Web2 is the primary form of the web used today, where interactive and user-generated content creates a participative web. User data is collected, owned and monetized by the platforms, which sell it to other businesses to target users in various ways, especially for advertising. Web3 moves from centralized platforms to a decentralized web, where users can interact, exchange information and perform financial transactions in a peer-to-peer fashion, without any central authority. Blockchain technology forms the backbone of Web3, introducing a new form of governance that allows users to establish trust and transact with one another directly.  
Digital transformation at the local government level
For various reasons, municipalities haven’t undergone the same degree of digital transformation as corporate entities and may not be meeting the public’s expectations for online services. As the mayor of Reno, Nevada, recently described, many local governments seem to have missed out on capitalizing on Web1 and Web2. They have paper-based records that require physical access to review or obtain, and their processes also remain manual and time-consuming. This situation is less than ideal for constituents wanting easy access to their local government’s records.
As a case in point, the Reno, Nevada, is working to create The Biggest Little Blockchain, where government records can be accessed directly by the public and updated by relevant city departments.
The first records added to the blockchain will be Reno’s Register of Historic Places. These records have been digitized and then added to the blockchain. Each property is represented by an NFT (non-fungible token) that stores all relevant information about the property: name, street address, historical relevance, purpose and more. In the future, NFTs of specific properties will be for sale to the public.
The functionality goes beyond just record storage. Landowners and developers in Reno will request “Certificates of Appropriateness” for proposed work on historical properties. Past and present Certificates permanently will reside on the ledger where users can view the details and status. The blockchain helps city administrators, who are responsible for approving and denying Certificate of Appropriateness requests, improve their workflow and display their commitment to transparency in their governance practices.
Other use cases
Historical registries are just one use case. Web3 provides the potential for just about all government processes and commerce to be conducted on the blockchain. Other use cases that have been piloted include vehicle registration and title tracking for state motor vehicle departments. Most DMVs are using incomplete, deprecated and scattered databases for managing vehicle registrations. By creating a records management system that tracks ownership and vehicle status from first registration to retirement, there exists a single source of truth even as ownership and vehicle status change over time. As more governments adopt this technology, their vehicle registrations systems can interoperate, and transferring registration to other states will maintain a complete audit trail.
Other applications of the technology include maintaining credentials and certifications for professionals and even tax collection. Blockchain will help bolster data security and validity in these areas as well as automate labor-intensive processes. Overall, if adoption continues, we will see an increase in efficiency and accountability for local governments and municipalities.
For local governments and municipalities looking to dive further into digital transformation or establish themselves as a technology hub, these are just some of the core use cases that have proved to increase efficiency, drive constituent trust, automate time-consuming tasks and save costs. Web3 adoption will continue to increase over the next few years regardless of local government involvement, and those who begin navigating the waters now will certainly not be left behind.
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