In a new major report submitted by the Chief Scientific Adviser of the UK today, the government’s Chief Scientist Sir Mark Walport explained the innovation has the potential to help governance to politicians and leaders of authority.
The report, titled ‘Distributed Ledger Technology: Beyond Block chain’ sees Sir Mark Walport explain how distributed ledger technology or the blockchain can help governments collect taxes, issue passports, deliver benefits and “ensure the integrity of government records and services.
The freely available report can be downloaded here. [PDF]
An official video that accompanies the report is shown below:
The Bitcoin Blockchain
The introduction is clear in pinning the origins of the blockchain, which it states “was invented to create the peer-to-peer digital cash Bitcoin, in 2008.”
Bitcoin gets its due share of prominence in the report, enough that an excerpt reads: “this report isn’t about Bitcoin. It is about the algorithmic technologies that enable Bitcoin and their power to transform ledgers as tools to record, enable and secure an enormous range of transactions.”
Still, Bitcoin is mentioned no less than over a hundred times in the report. The report also opined different take of the cryptocurrency compared to the stigma it usually receives.
An excerpt from the official report submitted by the Chief Scientist and Advisor of the UK to the government red:
Many clichés and misconceptions have grown up around the digital currency and its underlying principles. Its associations with Silk Road, the digital black market have left some people with the impression that Bitcoin is intrinsically linked to money laundering and terrorists.
That misconception, continues to affect how people think about blockchain technology.
Detailing the Differences
The report summarizes existing methods of data management which are typically “located within a single institution” and consist of legacy systems. “Highly centralized systems present a high-cost single point of failure,” the report explains, adding that these legacy centralized systems are highly susceptible and vulnerable to cyberattacks.
The UK has seen an increase in high-profile cyberattacks and such statements are certain to catch the eye of decision makers.
The report immediately sets to explain the contrasting technology of distributed ledgers which are harder to infiltrate and attack because of the multitude of copies of the same database, which means “a cyberattack would have to attack all copies simultaneously to be successful,” the report explains.
The report also notes that the technology is resistant to “unauthorized change or malicious tampering,” by explaining network participants will immediately spot a change in any part of the ledger.
Governments Are Signing Up
In a further nod to blockchain’s acceptance by governments, Sir Mark Walport pointed to a distributed ledger technology that is experimented by the Estonian government and developed by an Estonian company. The technology, known as Keyless Signature Infrastructure (KSI), allows citizens to look up and verify the integrity of their documented records on government databases.
The initiative is seen as one to successfully curb corruption and illegal government intervention. Adoption and awareness of the technology among the government and its citizens has also launched new digital services such as e-Tax and e-Business Register. These initiatives, the Chief Scientist explains, help reduce the administrative burden on the everyday citizen and the government.
The report makes a number of recommendations. They include:
- The UK government should provide ministerial leadership to establish a platform for blockchain technology within the government. The report highlights the Government Digital Service as the agency that should develop a vision and a road map, taking inferences and recommendations form this report to implement blockchain within the government.
- The UK research community should invest in research fundamental to ensure that distributed ledgers are secure, scalable and can provide proof of correctness of their contents. The blockchains used should be high-performance, low-latency and energy efficient.
- The UK government should support the creation of ‘distributed ledger demonstrators’ for smaller, local branches of government to help bring together an foundational structure necessary to test blockchain technology even at the smallest levels of government.
- The UK government needs to consider how to put together a “regulatory framework for distributed ledger technology.” Furthermore, the recommendation makes the pointed suggestion that regulation “will need to evolve in parallel with the development of new implementations and applications” of blockchain technology.
- The UK government, crucially, needs to also work with academia and industry to ensure the right standards for the “integrity, security and privacy of distributed ledgers and their contents.” These standards encompass regulatory requirements as well as software code.
- The UK government should establish trials of distributed ledgers to see first-hand the usability of the technology within the public sector. This endeavor, Sir Mark Walport contends, will help understand the true potential for distributed ledgers.
The UK has a proven track record in being a welcoming and fostering destination for Fintech innovation and research. The influential Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne has notably spoken about digital currencies which he has been quoted as saying “may now well play a big part in our financial future.”
The comments were made during the recently concluded Open Forum conference held at the Bank of England.
Altogether, the official report offers a neutral, unbiased take on Bitcoin and is clear in its recommendations for the UK government to start experimenting and even implementing blockchain technology solutions within the public sector.
Images from Shutterstock.