60% of the world population dreams of traveling across the globe. But only 15% have been able to cross their domestic boundaries irrespective of the reason of travel.
Have you ever wondered why?
Visa rejection and low financials are some of the common reasons for not being able to travel outside one’s own country. But the most important reason is availability of passport. The average standard time required to issue a fresh passport worldwide is around 2-3 weeks. Renewal of passport takes minimum of 10 days and if you wish to make the process faster, it takes you double the money.
The US government charges $140 for passport card and book while the UK government charges £72.5 – £75.5 pounds for processing a fresh passport. And even after you are issued a passport, for each country that you wish to travel, there is usually a separate procedure to apply, separate security and verification procedures to be followed and it is not guaranteed that you will get the visa to travel (and no visa fee refund when your visa application is rejected…)
Globally, there is no standard procedure of passport issuance and passport verification. Even in a world that is becoming increasingly interconnected, many people today are still uninformed to the possibilities of travel. The worldwide tourism industry is losing out on a tremendous potential of catering to 4.5-5 billion people rather than just 1-1.5 billion.
Can you imagine a possibility of travel without passport?
Think of it. Why do we need passports?
- Identification of an individual and his/her citizenship
- Travel history (via checking of visas)
What if blockchain can eradicate the need for passport?
There are two driving forces in today’s global travel industry: the Internet and the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
While blockchain infrastructure can be used on the internet to set up a global network having travelers, travel agents, travel companies, visa service providers and government embassies as stakeholders, IATA can provide standardized, detailed information about travels taking place and easy ticketing and travel access across the globe with its network of 290 air carriers which represent 117 countries.
Of course, only setting up a network won’t help. We need to have a decentralized application (‘Dapp’) developed on the network built.
Here’s how I think we can travel without a passport worldwide –
- Travelers will have to install the decentralized application on their mobile device to build and create their profile. This profile will be verified by their own country government against their passport information using their passport number (if they have a passport). If someone doesn’t have a passport, governments can use another national identifier such as driver’s license numbers or social security numbers issued to citizens to verify their profile electronically. For example, in the United States it’s the social security number while in India it is Aadhar UIDAI number which would be checked for verification. If any other information is required, the Dapp can simply allow the user to scan and upload the required documents for government verification.
- Once the profile is validated, travelers can, using their smartphone device and the Dapp, generate a QR code. This QR code will contain all the information of the traveler which can then be verified by airport authorities for in-person security check.
With this QR code and Dapp, even the travel history would be easily accessed by the authorities for their verification.
- For outbound travel, that is travel of a citizen to a foreign country, the ticket issuing authority (i.e. airline companies) can simply scan the QR, assess the information mentioned above, let the traveler enter the return date (not necessary for travelers to have a return air ticket though) and via online payment methods, can take the payment and issue an electronic ticket on their Dapp. This will create a record of departure which will be stored across the network.
- At the time of arrival, the foreign country’s security will again scan the QR, check for ticket and the type of visa issued to the traveler and the return date entered by the traveler. I haven’t mentioned about visa approval integration with the Dapp, because this matter would require serious consideration and further complex research. But yes, the approval and type of visa can be entered/scanned into the Dapp (sent directly via the embassy) and shown separately.
- The QR scanned at the time of the arrival will also help record the date and time a particular traveler entered the foreign country. This will enhance traceability. This can become a serious breakthrough for security and policing departments of countries as this can help curb terrorism and immigration fraud acts faster.
Today, in the UK, application processing per passport costs £31.6 while production and personalization per passport book costs £10.79 and the overheads/administration cost incurred for one passport is £16.19. Imagine the savings for the government and for the citizens with digital passport Dapps.
Let’s not forget the time required now to process a new passport and a renewal case. With Dapp, once your initial profile is verified, there may not be any need to renew or revalidated it unless there is a change in your profile. In case you lose your device, which had your Dapp, no need to worry. Just buy another device, download the Dapp and enter your unique ID. All your information will be loaded on this new device, saving you from countless days required to receive a new passport and expensive service costs. Another advantage of blockchain infrastructure.
The information stored on the blockchain is immutable because of its structure. Even if somebody tried to hack into the system, they will require a computation power so great that it would be almost impossible to achieve. And even if someone gathers the same, he would have to hack in all the nodes of the network at the same time and change the data which is also practically impossible. In addition to providing a tamper proof and secure framework, a blockchain passport would also allow government authorities to store a much larger amount of data on an individual than a traditional biometric passport which has very limited storage capacity.
This system of Dapp can be implemented in phased manner, region wise. For example, the UAE and surrounding countries can make up one cluster, while the ASEAN countries can make up another. If the blockchain passport system seems practical and feasible, it can be worked upon to prepare for a worldwide implementation.
And primarily this Dapp can cater to only travelers who travel for tourism or for a stay of less than 10 days in a foreign country.
Recently, the UAE government has initiated a Blockchain 2021 strategy where they will be issuing/processing 50% of all their government documents on blockchain network which includes passport issuance. They have estimated to save AED 11 billion (USD 3 billion) in transactions and document processing and 77 million work hours annually.
A blockchain passport system could not only boost tourism across globe and empower millions of world citizens, but could also save governments and travelers money and time.