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Distributed Ledger Technology: beyond the blockchain

Government Office for Science publishes report exploring potential of disributed ledger technology to transform public services.

The excitement around distributed ledger technologies (DLT) continues as the Government Office for Science recently published a report exploring the potential of the technology to transform government services: Distributed Ledger Technology: beyond the blockchain. The report touches on some of the ways in which DLT can support the government’s ability to, for example, “collect taxes, deliver benefits, issue passports, record land registries assure the supply chain of goods and generally ensure the integrity of government records and services.”

As we have explored in a number of techUK events - Beyond the Hype: Delivering on Blockchain's PotentialBlockchain and Identity and Blockchain and Securities Settlement - there is a great deal of discussion around what DLT could enable and achieve but a lot of work remains to be done both in terms of broader education around the technology, particularly, as the report, notes, in breaking the association with the bitcoin blockchain and ensuring that the wide range of DLT models are understood.

Our recent Blockchain 101 event set out to wade through some of the hype, explain the technology and explore some potential use cases across the public and private sector. The video accompanying (Video Explanation of Distributed Ledgers) the report provides a brief overview of DLT and notes some use cases whilst likening the transformative potential of the technology to that of the internet.

The report also calls for some decisive action from government to develop a clear view as to how the technology can improve the way government operates and delivers services to citizens; acting as an ‘expert customer’ to implement DLT solutions where they deliver tangible benefit.

The key recommendations for action are as follows:

  • Ministerial leadership to ensure that government provides the vision, leadership and platform for distributed ledger technology within government.
  • Investment by the UK research community to ensure that distributed ledgers are scalable, secure and provide proof of correctness of their contents.
  • Government support for the creation of distributed ledger demonstrators for local government, bringing together all the elements necessary to test the technology and its application.
  • Government consideration of the appropriate regulatory framework for distributed ledger technology, noting that regulation will need to evolve in parallel with the development of new implementations and applications of the technology. An assessment of both the legal and technical codes will be required and government will need to work with academia and industry to ensure that standards are set for the integrity, security and privacy of distributed ledgers and their contents. These standards need to be reflected in both regulatory and software code.
  • A call for collaboration between academia and industry to ensure that the most effective and usable identification and authentication protocols are implemented for both individuals and organisations. This will need to work in tandem with development and implementation of international standards.
  • Moving beyond research and using the technology for real life applications and assessable trials in the public sector.
  • A need to build capability and skills within government.

We welcome the government’s focus on DLT and exploration of the potential of the technology. The recommendations in the report are encouraging, but to be effective they must support work that is already well underway in the private sector. We support the government’s efforts around education, testing use cases for appropriate government services and encouraging collaboration where beneficial.” Lisa Moyle, Head of Financial Services, techUK.


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