You’ve surely heard of blockchain by now, the emerging technology which promises to change the way the world works. What you may not know is that Malta recently low-key made history, becoming the first ever country to decide to shift its national business registry to a blockchain-based system.
This is undoubtedly part of a national strategy to popularise blockchain in everything from education certificates to rent contracts, but what exactly will it mean for the Malta Business Registry?
First off, what is the Malta Business Registry?
You may know it as the Malta Registry of Companies, the agency responsible for collecting and storing data on every Maltese company, such as their annual returns and shareholder information, and releasing this information to the public.
It was until recently part of the MFSA, but it is now an independent agency in its own right, complete with its own offices in Żejtun, and it’s name changed to reflect this move.
So what about the blockchain then?
Blockchain assigns users with unique and incorruptible digital signatures, allowing them to permanently store their records and transactions across a distributed space without a central node for hackers to tap into.
While blockchain technology was originally used for public cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, private blockchains have since emerged to satisfy the needs of businesses.
Indeed, the Malta Business Registry will make use of Hyperledger Fabric, a popular private, or permissioned, distributed ledger, which will restrict access to verified users. Once companies are verified and approved by the MBR, they will be able to submit documentation through the distributed ledger, which of course will also be accessible for Registry employees to manage company records.
What are the advantages?
One of the main attractions of blockchain is that data stored on them is immutable. Once documents have been submitted to the MBR, they’re there to stay and cannot be manipulated or replaced by hackers, companies or anyone with access to the blockchain. The audit trail will become transparent and the auditing process more efficient, less time-consuming and more trustworthy, with the public safe in the knowledge that only valid data is being assessed.
The MBR’s system will also come with a new identity management system, which will authenticate companies by their unique registration numbers. This will allow the MBR to verify company information provided to them in a more efficient manner, clamping down on bureaucracy in the process.
It will also contain a document management system, which will facilitate the storage and tracking of documents and reduce paperwork in the process.
Will there be other technological bonuses?
While the benefits of the new blockchain system will mostly be visible behind the scenes, users will also notice some changes in the MBR’s website itself. In particular, a live chat will be set up between practitioners, customers and desk officers, allowing them to communicate with each other at the click of the button, another move that is expected to reduce bureaucracy.
Employees of the MBR will also benefit from a live dashboard system, which will allow them to easily track processes online.
And, while nothing has been confirmed yet, the new system will also make it easier for Artificial Intelligence to eventually be introduced into the system, rendering submission and verification processes even more efficient.
Blockchain is becoming more and more popular worldwide and, at this rate, it probably won’t be long before it becomes as ubiquitous as the internet. With Malta pushing forward with ambitious plans to become a global centre for the development of these technologies, this pioneering move by the Malta Business Registry can only be welcome.