A foundation technology for building a Scottish digital ecosystem will be the Blockchain.
Used in conjunction with other key technologies notably Digital Identity this combination will provide the trust enabling infrastructure for a 21st century digital economy.
All documents and transactions can be certified digitally and recorded in a non-tamperable way to assure their authenticity, in the same way they may be signed and approved in the offline world by official bodies and persons.
“A blockchain, originally block chain, is a growing list of records, called blocks, that are linked using cryptography. Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp, and transaction data (generally represented as a Merkle tree).”
Blockchain for Digital Government
From smarter smart cities through verifying crime evidence and enhanced food traceability there are a multitude of possibilities, as IDC shares via this webinar and Jonathan Reichental highlights in his tweet.
Use cases include Land Registries. Given the Blockchain is fundamentally a registry system then naturally this is a very fertile area for its application, although there are of course counter views – For example on Linkedin Dominic Wilson argues they aren’t enough.
As Anglia Research describes it is specifically intended as a ledger system for enabling and recording asset transfers, and CoinDesk provides this detailed examination of the use case, highlighting how one aspect of natural disasters is the potential loss of all paper based versions of these records, avoidable through encoding them on the Blockchain.
A number of countries are already blazing a trail in this area, including the UK, Sweden and Georgia each trialing implementations at different stages; it’s estimated the Swedish adoption could save taxpayers €100m. Kenya is pioneering the use of blockchain technology to streamline land ownership.
The Scottish Common Blockchain
These best practices can be married with local expertise for Scotland’s needs, as a recipe for an implementation strategy – To build a common platform for all the nation’s needs.
Business for Scotland described the ‘Scottish Common Blockchain‘, how it would act as a public utility with many possible use case scenarios, such as enabling a new national currency and secure online voting.
Tireless advocate for Blockchain-secured voting Yesdayscotland defines how this would usher in a new era of digital democracy for Scotland, and local commercial innovators like Wallet.services are pioneering its adoption for business process automation across the public sector.
Also tireless advocates for a better future Scotland the CommonSpace team publish an amazing breadth and depth of policy innovation reports, many of which could be implemented and accelerated through these types of technology capabilities. In particular their Case for a Scottish Payments System is especially pertinent here.
Very importantly the report articulates a ‘target architecture’, an end goal for transformation efforts that realize significant benefits and cost savings for Scotland, achievable through replacing the commercial banks and credit card processors with a non-profit entity, meaning those vast profits are reinvested back into the social needs of the country.
This would be in addition to massive efficiency savings also netted across the public sector. They describe local governments making use of the service, but there are a multitude of other scenarios too. For example the plans to devolve some Social Security powers includes programs such as The Regulated Social Fund, Discretionary Housing Payments and powers to top up reserved benefits. These could all call upon a common capability.
To the point of this article it would also mean that:
“payment infrastructure was already in place in the event of a vote for independence. As the Scottish government would already have control of payments in the digital economy the switch-over from Sterling to a Scottish currency would be easier as the technology would be under the Scottish government’s control to allow this to happen.”
This article only scratches the surface of the myriad of use cases that a common Blockchain platform could enable, a multitude of others are possible, but even with only those describing a wholesale transformation of Scotland’s democracy and government service delivery infrastructure, it is clear just how breathtakingly wide and deep this transformation could be.
Action Plan: Building A Scottish National Blockchain Network
This collaboration and ecosystem would provide a foundation for the implementation of a Scottish National Blockchain Network.
An example of this is the Spanish Alastria project, a model achieved through a consortium of small and large organizations and some government agencies, who collaborate to define and implement a shared, common Blockchain infrastructure, built atop ‘Self Sovereign Identity‘.
From 7:00m it is explained how the ecosystem this makes possible, with different market entities fulfilling roles such as User, Service Provider and Attester, a system for securely sharing identity credentials to underpin integrated digital services.