Published on 28 September 2016
- Our Work
- The Reformer Blog
25 July 2017
Digitisation is on the government’s agenda. As Reform and Accenture have recently highlighted, for example, the UK border stands to become more efficient and secure using e-gates and iris scanning. The Government backs this. One radical technology identified as contributing to this is blockchain – a highly secure, non-centralised record of transactions.
Blockchain is gaining attention in the public sector due to its potential to disrupt the way services are delivered, breaking silos and increasing efficiency. Some of the most advanced experiments and applications across government are with Estonia’s e-services and Dubai’s ambition to provide all public services via blockchain by 2020.
Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology. This means the data are not stored in one central database, like traditional technology architectures, but rather held securely across a distributed network. The blockchain validates and agrees if new transactions are recorded on the ledger providing a consensus across the network, against a set of pre-defined rules. The blockchain ledger stores a transparent and an immutable record of all transactions. (A government video is available here).
Blockchain’s characteristics make it an attractive solution to help address some of the challenges faced by public service agencies.
As a result, government is talking about and testing blockchain. However, these are not yet applied at a large scale. Lagging legislative and regulatory structures – needed to ensure appropriate standards and guidance for implementations – have halted further applications of blockchain. Whilst there is a growing interest in this technology, the expertise lies largely with a small community of technologists; government must improve its knowledge to make the most of blockchain.
These limitations reflect the embryonic nature of blockchain technology, which will change as it develops. They are a reminder, however, that there is an opportunity to collaborate across government and industry to establish policies and structures to support blockchain. As public-sector organisations continue to face funding cuts and increased demand for services, there is an opportunity to innovate and find new ways of addressing these challenges – particularly with transformational technology such as blockchain.
Making government fit for the digital age means employing today’s technology while identifying tomorrow’s. The UK Government has identified the potential of blockchain in selected areas. Applying knowledge held by a few to services used by all should be next on the agenda.
Victoria Thorpe, Manager, Health & Public Sector Technology Consulting, Accenture