There is something deeply ironic about the fact that blockchain, a technology that has been nurtured and fostered by an anarchic and anti-government community, has become something so sought after by government. This is happening all around the world – the US state Vermont published a comprehensive report earlier this year [PDF] – but it is the UK that has continued to lead the way.
In essence blockchain is simply a record of transactions, like a double-entry book keeping system or ledger, which can be universally shared and uses encryption as a means to validate correct, unchangeable entries.
Despite being in its early days it has already seen enormous inroads in fintech and has also been tipped as a massive – perhaps over-hyped – game changer elsewhere.
Today the UK government’s lead in the field was solidified with news that Credits – which has previous form with the Isle of Man government – has been awarded a contract to supply its Blockchain-as-a-Service offering to the UK public sector. This will come via the Government Digital Services' Digital Marketplace and sees distributed ledger technology (DLT) gain a formal place on the G-Cloud 8 framework agreement.
Nick Williamson, Credits’ CEO – a former a professional poker player [interesting interview here] and unlikely British government conduit – believes this lead stems from the UK’s strong desire to remain the fintech hub of the world and expand its international reputation.
Credits does not run on Bitcoin or Ethereum, explains Williamson, but has been built from scratch based on the needs of a regulated market and identity driven use cases. “This has been in the works for six months now and is building on our previous ground in the public sector.”
It is, of course, uncertain how all this will pan out in practice. When it was revealed that the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) had been trialling blockchain technology for Benefits payments last month it received a fanfare of criticism. Yet the hope is that other departments and agencies – such as the National Health Service, DVLA and HM Passport Office – will use blockchain technology to improve digital services and increase taxpayer value.
“It is so new that the industry hasn’t really figured out the nuts and bolts of how [blockchain] will work in practice,” says Williamson.
In the initial phase he sees interaction with government bodies as being two-fold. Firstly this will centre on hosting options and secondly it will look at the logistics of implementation. There could be a “consulting element” which could might be strategic or technical, he says.
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