The Government’s chief scientific adviser, Professor Sir Mark Walport, has recommended the adoption of the technology that powers crypto-currency Bitcoin to improve various public services.
The distributed ledger blockchain technology, which effectively creates a perpetual chain of data ‘blocks’ that record all transactions in a permanent digital distributed ledger, could be used to boost productivity and improve the delivery of public services.
Some of the services Walport sees the technology being used for are tax collection, benefits, and issuing passports.
In a report he suggests that the technology could boost outcomes in the health service by improving and authenticating the delivery of services and by sharing records securely, according to exact rules.
The additional security provided by blockchains is part of why they could be used to handle sensitive data in the public sector, helping them resist attacks by hackers, or genuine errors.
Using the distributed technology, whereby the ledgers are shared by every computer on the network, Walport says it would mean that the government moves away from having “a high cost single point of failure”.
The report recommends that the government should begin trialling the use of blockchain technology and references Estonia, which already uses the technology to allow citizens to check the integrity of their records on government databases.
Other recommendations include government support for the creation of distributed ledger demonstrators for local government to consolidate everything that is required to test the technology and its application, and that the UK research community should invest in the research required to make sure that distributed ledgers are scalable, secure and provide proof of correctness of their contents.
Walport’s suggestions were welcomed by Matt Hancock, minister for the Cabinet Office and paymaster general, who said that it would tie in with the government’s goal of adopting more digital technology.