Brazil Could Call Upon Blockchain to Combat Corruption

Blockchain might be the ideal solution for Brazil’s land registry system and other fields where corruption and fraud are commonly found.

Brazil could rely on blockchain to fight corruption and fraud, allowing the technology to help a country hit by the world’s biggest bribery and corruption investigation. At the end of 2017, state-owned tech firm Serpro launched a blockchain platform, and now it wants to promote it to different industries and niches in Brazil.

Gloria Guimaraes, director-president of Serpro, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation:

 “It is a good tool to reduce corruption and fraud. I see it as one more way for us to help citizens, businesses (and) the government to improve their controls, reduce their fraud and improve their records.”

Many people hope that Serpro’s platform can curb corruption and fraud in Brazil’s outdated land titling system. The fraudulent schemes have a direct impact on the Amazon rainforest, parts of which are cut down for beef and soy farming.

Guimaraes revealed hopes that her company could sell the blockchain platform to several enterprises, including land registration agents.

“It is for any businesses that require the obtaining of reliable, valid, credible information. It is a reliable network with the safest protocols possible and with the lowest risk of fraud and hacking,” she said.

Currently, about 3,400 of the so-called cartorios (privately-owned agents) register and check land ownership in Brazil. Given the lack of a single, centralized network at a national level, the system is often abused. Things might change if blockchain were to be implemented by these agencies as the technology guarantees data transparency and security.

A cartorio in the city of Pelotas is among the first in the country to test a blockchain system. US-based tech firm Ubitquity is part of the project. Company partner Marina Reznik said they wanted to produce trusted records with the help of blockchain.

Ubitquity intends to grow its business to other cities in Brazil, Chile, and the US.

A Canadian study showed that the greater part of Brazil’s land is still untitled, with indigenous people trying to claim their land based on ancestral rights. However, they often lose the race against the wealthy elite and farmers. In 2016, there were about five million landless families in the country.

Brazil launched a land demarcation process, giving state-owned plots to small farmers. To become legal, allocations have to be recorded by cartorios, which often favor the rich ones who pay bribes. This common fraud leads to many conflicts over land, with Global Witness naming Brazil the deadliest country for land rights activists.

Besides corruption in the area of land titles, Brazil has been shaken by an investigation into bribery from contractors to politicians and executives of state-owned companies in exchange for getting public projects. So far, the inquiry has dragged in two ex-presidents, sent dozens of officials to jail, and ordered state-run Petrobras to pay around $3 billion in fines.

Blockchain could transform many of the country’s systems and operations. Earlier, we reported that Brazil intended to use Ethereum for popular petitions.