A new report by the UK Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Mark Walport, suggests that it should start using blockchain technology with the services it offers to help reduce fraud and increase security.
Blockchain has risen to fame thanks to its usage by the crypto-currency Bitcoin. Blockchain is used by Bitcoin to record all the transactions made. Each transaction gets added to a block, and once the block is full a new block is filled with transactions, hence the name blockchain. Many governments and banks have given a mixed response to the digital currency Bitcoin, but there is a wide consensus that the underlying blockchain is useful and is now being applied for various tasks.
Blockchain acts as a ledger which can record information as a transaction, and blockchain is distributed among different computers so there are multiple copies. Multiple copies of a blockchain helps to prevent tampering and therefore has been recommended by the report as a way to better manage public money.
The report says that blockchain has many potential uses, some of which include:
- Collecting taxes
- Delivering benefits
- Issuing passports
- Recording land registries
- Assuring the supply chain of goods and generally ensure the integrity of government records and services
- Aiding the NHS in delivering services and allowing staff to share records securely according to exact rules
The report goes on to say, "for the consumer of all of these services, the technology offers the potential, according to the circumstances, for individual consumers to control access to personal records and to know who have accessed them."
Regarding security, the report points out that performing a cyber attack against a distributed ledger system is very hard and more difficult to perform than against existing systems. However, it also notes that if an attacker can legitimately modify one copy of the ledgers then the change will be made across the others.
The British Government is not the only governmental body seeking to use blockchains. Last month it was reported that the Estonian Government was working with BITNATION to introduce a public notary service for Estonian e-residents. The services will allow e-residents to notarise their marriages, birth certificates, and business contracts, among other things. Many banks, too, are looking into utilising Blockchains.