Technology Innovation Archives - Digital Scotland
Napier University – Blockchain Cloud Identity pioneer
Category: Digital Transformation,Technology Innovation Author: Digital Scotland Date: 2 weeks ago Comments: 0

Professor Bill Buchanan is well renowned across Scotland for his visionary blockchain expertise, and he’s not alone, indeed Napier University is demonstrating how effectively they have a handle on the latest, cutting edge developments powering the tech sector.

Liam Bell is the Research Fellow leading the ‘Blockpass Identity Lab‘, a £600k collaboration with Hong Kong based Blockpass, intended to ‘explore ways in which blockchain technology can protect personal data from online scammers and hackers.’

Blockchain Cloud Identity

This is a massive, massive growth opportunity for Scotland. In terms of identifying the hot tech growth sectors, one of the most powerful techniques is to define the intersection between individual trends, in this case the blockchain, digital identity and the Cloud.

For example Blockstack offers this proposed definition of Blockchain Identity:

A blockchain identity (or blockchain ID) is a generic term used to refer to any identity on the blockchain. Users can have one blockchain identity or many and can register them just like one would register domain names or accounts on Facebook or Twitter.

BraveNewCoin writes about the ‘Blockchain Cloud’, exploring further integration between the blockchain and the computing infrastructure of the Internet. Cloud providers like Microsoft offer ‘BaaS’ – Blockchain as a Service.

Foundations for Digital Transformation

The best way to think about this type of technology is that it plays a keystone role for all aspects of the digital economy. It’s not a point solution to one specific scenario, for example Bitcoin leverages the blockchain to facilitate a secure digital currency, but it’s only one of a myriad of potential applications.

The critical role of Identity is easy to quantify – Government programs like Gov.UK Verify are the early steps to better join up government systems via Identity as the common mechanism, so that access to online government services is much smoother and quicker, but again that’s only one small step (on a journey towards Self-Sovereign Identity).

Shocard is an example of a vendor providing this type of technology, highlighting how it can be used for a multitude of possible scenarios, from online government through exciting new FinTech scenarios.

Microsoft also wants to leverage the blockchain to secure your identity, and VentureBeat writes about how empowering users with control over their own data is another killer blockchain scenario.

Digital Economy Infrastructure

Another key perspective is to consider the technology as a wholesale ‘upgrade’ to the Internet itself, such that these powerful features are built right into it, in the same way HTTP is the common protocol for sharing web information.

For example as Namecoin describes the DNS is the current backbone identity system, it translates domain names into IP addresses. It works very effectively but it’s really quite an old technology and thus is ideal for this type of upgrade. In this article they highlight many benefits including those for democracy:

Censorship-Resistance

With standard DNS, the digital phonebook can falsely claim “there’s no website here”; this is what SOPA would have mandated in the U.S. Dot-Bit cannot easily be censored, for the same reasons that no one can easily prevent you from spending bitcoins.

In conclusion we can also identify applications that offer great value to the practical challenges that the Scottish Government faces today.

In particular sharing information between different, isolated IT systems is still by far the main impediment to delivering integrated online services, and again is a challenge that Blockchain Identity is ideal for solving. In his Linkedin blog Blair Kjenner describes a model for a ‘Blockchain Data Exchange’ for exactly this purpose.

Another blog builds on the principle for industry scenarios such as Healthcare, so it’s clear there is a goldmine of opportunity areas that can be exploited by harnessing these exciting trends.

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A Sovereign Identity for a Sovereign Scotland?
Category: Technology Innovation Author: Neil McEvoy Date: 2 weeks ago Comments: 0

Digital Identity refers to the various usernames and log-on procedures we use to interact with web sites and other digital services. The Scottish Government has defined it to be essential to their goals of building a World Class Digital Government, with key goals including:

Develop a common, single sign-in and authentication process for businesses seeking access to online support services and information;

Work with stakeholders, privacy interests and members of the public to develop a robust, secure and trustworthy mechanism by which an individual member of the public can demonstrate their identity online.

Adopting a ‘Self-Sovereign Identity’ system offers the potential for Scotland to not only meet these technical goals, but to pioneer an entirely new model of 21st century Digital Democracy.

Self-Sovereign Digital Identity

Michael Gorriz explains how Identity is a universal function, one that spans across government, banking and every other online service that we use.

Government identity programs, such as Gov.UK Verify, seek to leverage this interconnectedness through linking their authentication systems with others like banks to streamline the procedure from a users perspective, an approach known as ‘federated identity’.

As the diagram from this Tieto article describes it can be seen as the first step in a maturity journey, an improvement on from centralized model which means a duplicated identity procedure for each and every web site.

The article introduces ‘Self-Sovereign Identity’ and positions it as the ultimate conclusion to this maturity journey.

Described in detail in this ID2020 white paper as the name suggests the primary feature is an identity mechanism owned and controlled by the user themselves. Martin Kuppinger writes for Computer Weekly how the blockchain can be utilized to provide the required integrous system and how legal requirements like GPDR provide one context for its value, meeting the user controlled data obligations.

Blockchain-enabled Liquid Democracy

A key technology that could underpin digital voting is the Blockchain, what has been called ‘Block the Vote‘. The Market Mogul provides an overview of the role it could play in enabling this capability including the challenges, with Venture Beat describing how it could help tackle voter fraud, with the next major leap being defined as ‘Liquid Democracy‘.

Considerable technical research has been conducted to explore this scenario, such as this analysis from Plymouth University, this paper from Bitcoin specialist Weusecoins, as well as Tufts University, and the EU has also researched the possibility.

What is especially exciting about the trend is that the scope extends much further than just facilitating the digitization of the voting method, other experts have defined how this keystone would lead to a broader evolution of democracy itself.

Introduced in this short presentation the fundamental principles are described as:

  • Every individual human being is the original source of their own Identity.
  • Identity is not an administrative mechanism for others to control.
  • Each individual is the root of their own identity, and central to its adminstration.
  • The role of names, citizenship, licences and other credentials should be distinct.

In short it places control and ownership of identity in the hands of the users themselves, not a third party like banks or the government, setting in place the keystone foundation for an entirely citizen-centric Digital Democracy.

Via his blog tech industry luminary Phil Windley describes the launch of the Sovrin Network, the world’s first self-sovereign identity (SSI) network, intended to implement the technologies and these principles, and the scope of potential for its implementation in Scotland is quite profound.

With passions for the Scottish Independence vote still running high, and the dramatic scenes in Catalonia this weekend demonstrating just how vulnerable the paper-based ballot voting system is, these advances offer the tools to enable 21st century democracy through the use of blockchain technology for online voting, empowering the citizens directly with their own means of expressing political will.

But that’s only the tip of the iceberg, it’s the full potential for massive social and political change that will provide the fuel for the equally large Scottish appetite for pioneering progressive disruption.

This Blockchainhub presentation The Future of Democracy asks the questions that begin to probe the nature of this profound transformation, proposing in the future we won’t be citizens of nation states but of blockchains, with their underlying constitutions being defined through blockchain consensus protocols.

 

Alex Tapscott describes Blockchain Democracy as Government of the People, the CitizenLab describes how it could transform the face of democracy, and ethereum.org offers a guide for How to Build a Democracy on the Blockchain. This FastCompany article describes the background that led to the Democracy.Earth initiative.

These are questions being answered by visionaries such as Alex Tapscott. In his Forbes article Alex describes Blockchain Democracy as Government Of The People, By The People, For The People, and how the blockchain provides all the essential foundations, such as integrity and transparency of all democratic and government transactions.

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law. In other words, the right to an identity that has inherent value that can be hashed onto the blockchain at birth. We can aggregate other aspects of identity—diplomas, passport, driver’s license, social security card, voter ID—that currently exist in multiple databases into a single ledger and receive integrated services without multiple check-ins. We would own all our data and could decide how to deploy it. Our votes would have value.

 

This is a vision quickly becoming entirely realizable as blockchain technologies and thought leadership charges ahead. The CitizenLab describes how it could transform the face of democracy, ethereum.org offers a guide for How to Build a Democracy on the Blockchain, and this FastCompany article describes the background that led to the Democracy.Earth initiative.

So the opportunity for Scotland is simply one of implementation; the technological leaps have been made and the best practice blueprints documented and shared. We have talked the talk of becoming a world leading digital nation, now we need to walk the walk.

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