Mexico Tests Blockchain to Track Public Contract Bids

The government of Mexico has been quietly working on a project to track bids for public contracts using blockchain, a government official revealed Tuesday.

Speaking at a tech conference in Jalisco, Mexico's national digital strategy coordinator Yolanda Martinez detailed Blockchain HACKMX, a project she said has been in production since last September. The system was initially developed by a team of university graduates whose design won a contest calling for blockchain solutions that can help improve public services.

"With blockchain applied to public contracts we'll be able to know whether a company that provides services to the government is trustworthy," Martinez tweeted.

According to Mexican news outlet Debate, Martinez told attendees that the technology would eliminate the "easily corruptible" human element and introduce transparency to the public tender process. Martinez also pointed out that the blockchain would store records of the bidding process, allowing for audits after the fact.

Technical details about the project are not available, but Debate's report suggests the project will eventually be rolled out to the public, with the government eyeing it as a solution for state and local governments in particular.

A presentation entitled Blockchain HACKMX, which is available on the UN's website and appears to date from July, weighs the benefits of various platforms that could potentially host the network: Hyperledger Fabric, bitcoin, ethereum, Chain and NEM. The presentation suggests that computers participating in the network would be run by a mix of government offices, universities, civil society groups and private companies.

The issue of public contract corruption is a sensitive one in Mexico, given a recent high-profile scandal that involved a major South American construction firm and allegations that bribes were funneled to the political campaign of President Enrique Pena Nieto.

Transparency International, an anti-corruption non-governmental organization (NGO), rates the country 135th out of 180 in its Corruption Perceptions Index.

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