Sir Mark Walport, the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, proposed that the government use Blockchain technology as a secure method of managing data, collecting taxes, issuing passports and registries, etc.
“Distributed ledger technology developed for the purposes of a cryptocurrency is already being applied to other disparate areas where there is need to assure provenance and assurance of ownership. Therefore the research, innovation, policy, law enforcement and commercial communities need to find better ways of ensuring the cohesion and connectedness that will enable the UK to get the biggest possible benefit from these trends.”
The latest annual report written by Sir Mark Walport recommends the use of distributed ledger technology in government departments governmental and various public services. According to him it could help “to improve healthcare by improving and authenticating the delivery of services and by sharing records securely, according to exact rules."
What does it mean if the UK government adopts Blockchain technology?
Simon Dixon, CEO BnkToTheFuture.com and Fund Manager Bitcoin Capital commented on the advice of Sir Mark Walport:
“Blockchains produce great opportunities for governments to store and manage data across many areas. I would like to see them partner with technology startups on this. One of our portfolio companies Storj has been working on providing such solutions for storing files faster, cheaper and more secure which could provide both security improvements and cost savings for governments storing files.”
Simon Dixon also mentioned Factom, that is developing an infrastructure that would help a government interact with the Blockchain, which is the most secure way to store data: “It’s really a question of shifting their mindset and recognising that storing your data on your own centralised server is more subject to hacking, identity theft and corruption than storing it encrypted, shredded into pieces and on a secure Blockchain.”
Jamie Burke, Founding Partner of OutlierVentures.io, also commented:
“The UK Govt has already been a world leader when it comes to Open Data so I think they will naturally get the value blockchains can bring from this angle.
Govts the world over are looking at efficiency drivers and blockchains represent a huge opportunity to remove paperwork and manual tasks from a number of departments inc. the DVLA, Land Reg, Health Service and Tax. However it is a very political decision to knowingly kill public sector jobs en masse. In some countries this is from 20-40% of all jobs.”
Bitcoin vs. Cash
Sir Mark Walport also points out the progress of Bitcoin against physical cash and how Blockchain technology could be used to fight criminal activity:
“The paradox of Bitcoin is that, like physical cash, it can be used for illegal purposes; but unlike physical cash, there is a highly secure ledger that records all Bitcoin transfers, though not the purpose of those transfers. The opportunity is to develop software implementations similar to a blockchain that provide highly sophisticated distributed ledgers with additional tools that can deter and prevent criminal activity.”
Step into the future of governance
Adoption of Blockchain technology would not just allow storage information in a more secure way but also, for example, could change existing voting system. Simon Dixon explained:
“The killer application would be voting - the application that could put an end to all future claims of vote rigging - something that is claimed at every election. It would be great to put an end to that once and for all and make an example to other countries.”
One of the main features of a distributed ledger is the transparency that it brings. No one can just break in and change records in the Blockchain information. This approach will be used in Odessa, Ukraine for holding online auctions starting February 2016.
“The obvious benefit for me are the opportunities for transparency and governance. Politicians expenses are the most obvious. Providing ledgers for citizens and social activist groups to hold politicians accountable in decision making from; procurement, financial interests etc,” said Jamie Burke. “The biggest and most complex social initiative I could see using the blockchain is the benefits system. If benefits could be tokenized then what recipients could spend it on could be limited: only redeemed at supermarkets on foodstuffs or with utilities and transportations companies. It would provide data to have a more informed conversation about welfare and how it is genuinely used.”
Simon Dixon concluded:
“Now is the time to start the process. The Isle of Man has already started and it would be great to watch London follow.”