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Blockchain ‘not transformative for public services’

Written by Peter Walker

Blockchain is not yet transformative or disruptive for public services, but in its current form can provide some benefits, according to a new report.

The European Commission’s ISA² interoperability group proposed a framework of policy steps to exploit the potential of distributed ledger technologies (DLT), stating that the priority is for the ecosystem to become more mature.

The work is based on a series of case studies across European countries, looking at what activities can be supported by DLT, the benefits for digital government, which ongoing services can be scaled up and what policy actions are required.

It highlighted the three main functions within blockchain that are the most mature and can be the most useful in digital public services: notarisation, the provision of a shared database and workflow automation.

The report concluded that the main benefits for public services are increases in data security and efficiency gains, as the technology can improve the reliability of record keeping. Blockchain also has the scope to support new models for public service delivery and interactions, as it can make data more consistent within an ecosystem of organisations.

But the research also revealed barriers in the forms of legal and organisational frameworks, with the report’s authors noting that so far they have not seen blockchain used for any new business models in public services.

Therefore, the proposed policy framework included efforts to support knowledge sharing between EU member states, with a focus on pilot projects, the definition of standards for security, privacy, governance and interoperability, the creation of blockchain foundational components to link and connect services, and the building of a dedicated infrastructure for uses such as taxation and customs declarations.