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Harnessing the Decentralized Web for Digital Government

Featured Digital Scots / Hot Trends / Technology Innovation
The ‘Decentralized Web’ is the emerging concept describing the next major technological leap forward for the Internet as we know it today, as described by Wired, TechCrunch, and MIT among many others.

Blockchain Hub summarizes the essence very effectively through their idea of the shift from “Data Monarchy to Data Democracy”:

P2P data architectures have existed since the 1990’s where they rose to fame with file sharing programs like BitTorrent and Tor browser. In combination with cryptography and game theoretic incentive mechanisms, Blockchain has taken P2P architectures to a new level. We can now start to move from centralized data structures where all data is stored on a central computer to more decentralized or fully distributed data architectures.

Blockchain Digital Government – Blockchain Data Exchanges and Personal Data Stores

While the Blockchain has first given rise to digital currencies like Bitcoin that are based on these principles it’s the generalized nature of the trend that is important to sectors like Government.

In particular the keystone foundation is the intersection with Digital Identity, aka ‘Blockchain Cloud Identity‘, highlighting how Scotland has their own home grown expert innovators active in this field, in this case Napier University.

Problem Statement

As the scope of this trend expands to encompass all the aspects of what Identity is used for – Authentication initially but more importantly, data sharing, thus it will come to be the best solution for the principle technology challenge governments have never been able to solve effectively: Systems integration.

The difficulty in getting “this system to talk to that system” has forever been the thorn in the foot of Government indeed all Enterprise IT applications; furthermore the duplication and mistakes that arise, with John Smith on one system being the same person on another but recorded as John Smythe, causes untold errors and thus costs to Government processes.

Consider also the hassle for users: When you change address, how many different systems need updated with this information? How many different times are you duplicated across countless SAP, Oracle databases et al? How many times does an important Government communication go to an old address? And on and on.

Therefore we can identify the flaw central to all enterprise IT to date being this duplication: There is only one YOU, but each organization wants to create a copy of your data profile, creating this sprawled mess.

Personal Data Ecosystem

Hence the best solution is to deal with the problem at that same central level, in short an overall IT design where there is only one copy of YOUR data, and YOU control it.

Visionaries from the Identity community like Kaliya Young have been foretelling the emergence of the concept of ‘Personal Data Stores’ for over a decade; exactly that, your own personal ‘vault’ for storing and enabling access to this single source of truth.

Drummond Reed, in my view the Tim Berners-Lee of this era, also described the concept in 2009, and has since developed the reality through Evernym and the SovrinID foundation, which sets in place the keystone foundation of Decentralized Identity aka ‘Self-Sovereign Identity‘.

Blockchain Wallets and Data Exchanges

Where these concepts are accelerated into overdrive is through the emergence of the Blockchain, in two key ways:

  • The adoption of personal wallets, initially for storing Bitcoins but evolving to become Personal Data Stores.
  • A corresponding emergence of a systems integration model that is based on this new paradigm. In his Linkedin blog Blair Kjenner describes an approach for building a ‘Blockchain Data Exchange’ and ventures like are preparing to be central to it.

This combination of technologies will yield a ‘perfect storm’ of solution mix: A Decentralized Identity-centric approach to data exchange, combined with the transaction integrity of the Blockchain.

MaidSafe – Scotland’s Ultimate Unicorn in Making

This is a tech trend of a scale that will dwarf every other that has ever come before it, from the first data centres, enterprise applications and even the first Internet itself, so consider that as the economic opportunity context for Scotland, and thus the potential for startups in this space, notably MaidSafe.

A simple example: Think of all that Government IT spending with Oracle, SAP, IBM et al – All gone: Poof! $ BILLIONs of savings for the public sector AND a better systems model for citizens.

Recognized by TechCrunch as one of the upcoming major players, this is a startup that will grow to play the same role in this next generation of the Internet that giants like Cisco played in the first.

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