The U.K. government is currently considering whether to extend a benefits payment trial that’s utilizing the blockchain by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that it started last summer.
The trial, which was undertaken by London-based blockchain and fintech startup GovCoin Systems Ltd., now known as Disc, during 2016, was developed to produce a more effective and tamper-proof technology to help benefits recipients without bank accounts to manage their money electronically.
The 20 to 30 participants who took part were paid their benefits through an app using the blockchain. They were then able to spend their benefits payments with the trial’s partners RWE npower and Barclays.
Now, in an announcement from Public Technology, the government is considering the extension of the trial after experiencing ‘positive’ results from those taking part.
When questioned about the trial’s future, Conservative peer Lord Henley, the parliamentary under-secretary for the DWP, said that ‘the initial independent assessment of the small-scale trial has been positive’ and that the participants have found it ‘very useful.’
Yet, he added by saying that:
We have not yet decided to move on to a fuller and larger trial.
He further explained that any plans to produce a fuller and larger trial would mean that the government would need to ensure that there were ‘appropriate checks and balances’ in place first.
Last year, when the trial was first proposed it was met with negativity regarding how claimant data would be handled and whether the government would have excess control over the claimant’s funds.
However, Henley recently said that the government would not have access to the data or control over how and where the claimants spent their money.
[We] will have no access to it in any further trials we look at. We want to continue to keep it like that. Obviously, information will be [available] to Disc, but that will be protected by data protection principles.
Fellow Conservative peer Chris Holmes, however, expressed some concerns.
He is reported as saying that use of the blockchain ‘provides an opportunity for the individual to have far more control and empowerment through the data and information that’s right there, in their hand.’
Nevertheless, he added that the government required a ‘clear, well thought through and evidenced pathway for moving from pilot to scale.’ In order to achieve this, it requires attitudes and behaviors across the government to change.
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