Blockchain-Enabled Digital Government: A National Blueprint

Defining it as an emerging technology to harness, the Scottish Government describe initial ideas for the adoption of Blockchain here:

The Chief Digital Officers, or equivalents, in Scottish Government, local government, NHS Scotland and the third sector will be encouraged to develop and implement joint action plans and we will share our ideas and experiences internationally with other progressive digital governments. This will include work to explore the potential of new and emerging technologies such as blockchain.

Blockchain-Enabled Services Architecture

A keystone foundation for modern Digital Government services will be the definition of a Blockchain-based design model for enabling secure data sharing between government agencies, as Professor Bill Buchanan introduces in his guest article.

The fabric for integrating multiple legacy systems into a Single Citizen Account will be formed through Identity-centric data exchanges, transactions made up of ‘attestations’ of identity data fragments that validate certain requirements as ‘proofs’, for example ‘This person is over 18’. This segments off privacy – Their age or date of birth isn’t revealed, but the reason for asking is provided with a positive response so the process can continue.

The different roles that government agencies will play in this ecosystem is evident when you consider the role critical documents play in our lives and how we interact with organizations: Our passports, driving licences and birth certificates are all documents used in validation procedures, the trust in that document setting that trust level for the remainder of the process that relys on that proof.

As this validation is increasingly digitized so other systems of trust can be built atop them, leveraging technologies like Smart Contracts to instantiate these various granular permission-enabling dynamics.

Identity Assurance programs like Gov.uk Verify already go some way to catering for the Identity attribute data exchange, and the introduction of Blockchain methods and technologies will add an expanded dimension of capability to the mix, with a particular emphasis on where the strengths of the technology most apply, notably contracting and ledger keeping.

eGov Innovation explores how governments are using the Blockchain for a variety of their digital services, such as welfare and bank payments, land registries, eHealth records and more. MIT describes more details on these implementations and how they will enable better public services, with Government Technology defining it as the next transformational technology, for the public sector, a scenario that TechCrunch also explores.

As a ledger system the Blockchain is particularly ideal for all scenarios requiring integrous record keeping, for example the ScotGov plan defines use cases such as:

Enable the digital recording of evidence, reports, decisions and judgements throughout our justice system and a digital platform to store all information relevant to a case or individual in one secure location.

Blockchain Cloud Identity

A super-hot innovation space is the intersection between these protocols and the Blockchain, which caters for additional functionality pertaining to the integrity of associated transactions, like ‘smart contracts’.

For example Blockstack offers this proposed definition of Blockchain Identity:

A blockchain identity (or blockchain ID) is a generic term used to refer to any identity on the blockchain. Users can have one blockchain identity or many and can register them just like one would register domain names or accounts on Facebook or Twitter.

Leveraging the blockchain for identifier functions is a very powerful dynamic, and is already being pioneered by ventures like Shocard.

In their excellent laymans explanation A Framework for Identity, Dan Elitzer of the IDEO coLAB summarizes their recent work with Boston universities like MIT and Harvard, focused on exploring the key dynamics of the emergent blockchain, especially it’s generalized role as a new Identity infrastructure.

The fusion of the Blockchain and Digital Identity, will play a keystone role in enabling advanced Digital Government features like a unique Blockchain Identity, as is described in this video, where they propose they’re implementing the first Blockchain ID.

It’s further explored in this CCN article where they highlight its relationship to E-Estonia digital citizenship, describing it as a Blockchain passport function.

The potential for this technology is vast, entirely transforming how Government IT is implemented, eliminating $ trillions in unnecessary IT and process expense and bringing great benefit to citizens across the globe.

Inside Bitcoins writes how Blockchain Identity Could Solve the Global Identification Crisis, describing how

“the globe has roughly over 232 million undocumented migrants and continues to rise annually. Because many of these refugees have no identification, quite a lot of them are regularly victimized — especially women and children.”

A major development towards these goals has been the launch of the ID2020 initiative:

ID2020, which supports the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 16.9 to enable an officially recognized identity for all, is focused on an open, human-centric approach to identity, one that draws on recent advances in biometrics and innovative technologies.

A National Blueprint

The overall system should be defined as a national blueprint. This would enable concentration of industry resources and output an enabling framework that key groups such as software developers can utilize to build software in the form government needs and wants – Adherence to keynote security principles, reuse of common components, etc.

A similar reference example includes the Microsoft Bletchley project, defining a framework that includes roles for partners, industry solutions and the required technology components to enable their collaboration. Where this defines an ecosystem model for an enterprise organization our goal will be to repeat the exercise but for a national framework.

Use Cases

As we move from the hype to early adopter phase for blockchain, a key activity will be to showcase the early prototypes and idea thinking taking shape across Scotland’s public sector, for potential use case scenarios.

For example Registers of Scotland recently held an ‘innovation month’ to introduce and brainstorm the potential.

Blueprint List

A More Trusted World: Distributed, Reactive and Holistic

A Sovereign Identity for a Sovereign Scotland?

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