Bulgarian e-government’s main data exchange component is storing its audit trail in LogSentinel’s SentinelTrails solution since June last year, as LogSentinel donated it to the state e-government agency.
We have recently taken the solution a step further and introduced an open data functionality which makes the audit trail transparent. Open data is the concept that any data that governments collect must be made accessible to the public in a machine-readable format so that journalists, researchers, activists and other interested citizens can look at the data and analyze it. It is mandated by an EU Directive 2019/1024 in Europe and the Open Government Data Act in the US.
In this particular instance all the requests to access data in government registers have been opened and published in JSON format (downloadable from here). While this is the most important part of open data, we didn’t stop there – we made it possible for citizens to use a public dashboard to browse the data as well, and we developed an open-source tool to visualize the downloaded JSON file.
To answer to any concerns about personal data protection and corporate data protection (as the data exchange component is used by many private companies as well), we have provided anonymization functionality that allows fine-tuning what parts of the data are made public and what should remain anonymized. It’s important, however, to publish even the anonymized placeholders in order to keep the chain. And this is where the blockchain part comes in – the audit trail forms a hash chain and a merkle tree (the core components of popular blockchain implementations), which can be verified externally.
In a more broad context, the open data functionality would allow any organization, public or private, that wants to be more transparent, to open up parts of its audit trail and prove to its customers that nothing unexpected is happening with their data or their finances. The open data functionality can currently be enabled only for our on-premise customers.
We believe in provable transparency – not only organizations should publish their data and their audit trail, but the integrity of the published data should be verifiable by anyone. Only that way citizens and customers can be sure that they see everything they are supposed to see. And we hope more public institutions strive towards that kind of transparency.
Bozhidar Bozhanov is a senior software engineer and solution architect with 15 years of experience in the software industry. Bozhidar has been a speaker at numerous conferences and is among the popular bloggers and influencers in the technical field. He’s also a former government advisor on e-government, transparency, and information security.