Comms + policy. Author of #digitaldiplomacy (2015), Twitter for Diplomats (2013). My views here.
It’s not the first time I write about how governments around the world are looking at blockchain technology to improve services, secure transactions, and enhance security and trust. This trend is growing and is showing a great deal of attention from agencies around the world, both national and local, including at city level.
Blockchain is now a topic of discussion for politics with government officials interested in better understanding the dynamics of blockchain beyond Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. And indeed, blockchain “has many applications for the public sector that can improve the quality of government services, safeguard property rights, prevent fraud, cut red tape and waste while improving transparency,” as Mohit Mamoria explained to Jorge Barba here on Medium.
According to Deloitte Gov, “blockchain’s influence in the public sector will be mostly behind the scenes. But the technology has the potential to bring security, efficiency, and speed to a wide range of services and processes.”
The study — titled Building Trust in Government: Exploring the Potential of Blockchain — concluded that this technology offers the opportunity to tackle the trust and bureaucracy challenges head on. It found that a significant percentage of what they identified as ‘trailblazer’governments “are launching projects that apply blockchain to transform regulatory compliance, contract management, identity management and citizen services.” According to IBM, “Blockchain offers a new approach to enhancing transparency and collaboration between governments, business and citizens.”
Recently, the U.S. Department of State has launched the Global Engagement Center’s (GEC) Technology Series to look at different technologies and solutions, including blockchain-enabled content authentication, to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation. Last year, they convened the first blockchain event on diplomacy and foreign policy, with participants like Jerry Brito of the Coin Center; Jamie Smith of the Global Blockchain Business Council; Jamie Smith and Rachel Pipan of the The Bitfury Group; John Wolpert of ConsenSys; Tomicah Tillemann of Blockchain Trust Accelerator; and many others. Also, a few months back, they announced a new partnership with Coca Cola, The Bitfury Group, and Emercoin to launch a project that uses blockchain to help fight the use of forced labor worldwide. Also involved in the project, the Blockchain Trust Accelerator, a non-profit created by New America, NDI, and Bitfury.
Also in the US, the Department of Homeland Security’s DHS S&T unit is engaging with private and public partners to explore and test blockchain-based solutions that revolve around contracts, identity, and transactions, as explained by DHS’s Anil John and ConsenSys’ Victoria Adams at a recent Digital Diplomacy Series event at the Embassy of Italy in Washington DC.
In France, President Emmanuel Macron and his government are ready to invest in artificial intelligence, blockchain, and data mining to “transform” its sprawling bureaucracy instead of simply trimming budgets and jobs, according to Reuters. A 700 million euro fund will help invest in IT projects over the next five years.
In India, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has recently said that the country would “explore use of blockchain technology proactively,” as reported by CNN. The country’s tech industry association NASSCOM is also partnering with Canada’s Blockchain Research Institute (BRI) to to explore the use of blockchain in government and academic institutions, as well as businesses. The partnership was announced during CanadianPM Justin Trudeau’s visit to India.
The European Commission has also shown interest in blockchain technology and has recently launched the EU Blockchain Observatory & Forum, in partnership with ConsenSys, The initiative aims to “highlight key developments of the blockchain technology, promote European actors, and reinforce European engagement with multiple stakeholders involved in blockchain activities.”
And more examples are coming from Finland, as explains Matteo Gianpietro Zago of the Internet of Blockchain Foundation and founder of Essentia; Georgia as per the Bitfury Group; the UK, as per a Nile post; the city of Tokyo, as per Dominik Schiener of IOTA Foundation; and many more.
Even the Chinese government is looking at the future of blockchain. “A new generation of technology represented by artificial intelligence, quantum information, mobile communications, internet of things, and blockchain is accelerating breakthrough applications,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said recently, according to a translation of his remarks published by CNBC.
The article explains that despite China’s official ban on sales of new digital tokens and halt on Bitcoin trading, the country remains a hub of activity for blockchain development and several start-ups are partnering with the local Chinese government to research or implement the technology. Blockchain is also mentioned twice in the Chinese State Council’s 13th five-year economic plan that was released in 2016.
While the number of governments around the world experimenting with blockchain is growing, the trend seems to focus on ethereum mostly. In a recent post here on Medium titled The State of the Ethereum Network, ConsenSys explains that “countries around the world have found ways to implement blockchain technology — specifically, Ethereum — to benefit their citizens.”
They list a few examples:
“Though blockchain technology has been cited as an opportunity to re-define the current global political structure with digital borders and citizenships, current systems are not wary of using its immutable, secure ledger to augment their services,” ConsenSys writes. “We will continue to see government adoption of the Ethereum blockchain as its utility is proven in current examples.”