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Technology / Hardware

UK government urged to use blockchain technology to improve public services

The Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Sir Mark Walport, has recommended the use of distributed ledger blockchain technology to improve a wide range of government services.

Some of the services Sir Mark sees the technology being used for are tax collection, benefits, and issuing passports.

The report says: "Distributed ledger technologies have the potential to help governments to 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."

It also says that blockchain technology could boost outcomes in the health service: "In the NHS, the technology offers the potential to improve health care by improving and authenticating the delivery of services and by sharing records securely, according to exact rules."

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Sir Mark said: "Distributed ledger technology has the potential to transform the delivery of public and private services. It has the potential to redefine the relationship between government and the citizen in terms of data sharing, transparency and trust and make a leading contribution to the government’s digital transformation plan."

The additional security provided by blockchains is part of why they could be used to handle sensitive data in the public sector, helping them resist attacks by hackers, or genuine errors.

Using the distributed technology, whereby the ledgers are shared by every computer on the network, it would mean that the government moves away from having "a high cost single point of failure," the report says.

The report recommends that the government should begin trialling the use of blockchain technology.

Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, Matt Hancock, said: "Sir Mark’s report provides a clear set of recommendations and I am delighted we are leading the way.

"Digital transformation is central to our reform of the public sector, helping deliver better services at a much lower cost and improving the relationship between the citizen and the state. With our world-class digital capability and strong research community, the UK is well placed to reap the potential benefits of distributed ledger technology."

Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy, Ed Vaizey, said: "Government wants to make sure the UK is at the forefront of using emerging technology to improve public services. The UK is well-placed to realise the full potential of this technology, and Sir Mark’s report clearly sets out how we can use these new tools to transform and streamline their delivery."

CBR understands that it will be Vaizey and Hancock who will work together on fulfilling another of the report’s recommendations that there be ministerial leadership in introducing blockchain into government.

Other recommendations include government support for the creation of distributed ledger demonstrators for local government to consolidate everything that is required to test the technology and its application, and that the UK research community should invest in the research required to make sure that distributed ledgers are scalable, secure and provide proof of correctness of their contents.

The report and its recommendations come just days after a key former Bitcoin developer Mike Hearn blasted its blockchain, describing it as "full".
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