One of the most impressive developments this week is the launch of the Government-backed Dubai Blockchain Platform. It is a significant step forward in the digital reinvention of Government to deliver services that are citizen-centric. Reimagining business processes to be cross-agency demands trust to build and sustain public confidence. The first application to use the platform is Dubai’s Payments Settlement and Reconciliation System. It eliminates friction from financial process, reducing the time taken to settle payments between entities from 45 days to near instantaneous.
I presented on blockchain to over a hundred delegates at digitech18 in Leeds this week. Blockchain offers opportunities to overcome the inefficiencies that arises when information crosses organizational boundaries. Processes that span multiple agencies throw up variations in reporting and costly, slow reconciliation because each has its own system of record. Typically, there is a proliferation of documents, and agencies revert back to these when disputes arise.
A single, shared system of record reduces friction and disputes
There is a single, shared system of record for all agencies when using blockchain. All have the same view of what has been agreed, and disputes don’t arise because all have agreed consensus: what constitutes a valid transaction. Only agreed transactions are posted and changes are tamper-proof. Therefore, records in the blockchain are trusted as the truth and the cost and inertia of reverting to paper records is removed.
Simply underpinning today’s processes with blockchain will not realise the benefits. Governments need to rethink how they can revolutionise service delivery end-to-end, across Government and beyond. The expectations that citizens now have in a world where commercial organisations have reinvented industries using digital platforms is now being demanded of Government.
Enabling greater trust in Government
I highlighted two examples of blockchain in Leeds:
- TradeLens is an open, neutral supply chain platform. It reduces international shipping barriers by overcoming the burden of paper-based processes, data trapped in organizational siloes, disparate perspectives on transaction states, and risk of fraud. Governments can benefits from using the platform at borders and customs to reduce friction and gain greater visibility of the supply chain which can help target inspections.
- IBM Food Trust is a platform that helps to build and sustain confidence in food, addressing provenance concerns by recording a complete history. One benefit is that stakeholders, such as supermarkets, are able to identify the exact food packages that should be removed from shelves in the event of a safety issue within minutes rather than days, or even weeks.
There are many other instances where Government can benefit from blockchain including the justice system, sovereign identity, and licensing.
Hyperledger Fabric: ready for Government
Blockchain is about enabling trust in an ecosystem through open governance. In the same vein, IBM gave its blockchain platform code to the Linux Foundation and the Hyperledger Fabric was formed. It is open source software with open management and governance, and no private control. Furthermore, IBM took the view that a permissioned approach to blockchain where the participants are known and access control is intrinsic is the right one for business and Government.
In my blog post last week in the run up to digitech18, I described how a managed implementation of the Hyperledger Fabric is ready to use on the IBM Cloud. It has enabled the Food Standards Agency to get up and running with its first iteration in three weeks, and gain the benefits of richer information to target an inspection on a suspected outbreak of liver fluke identified at an abattoir in the first week of operation.
Start with opportunities that benefit an ecosystem, not the technology
I closed my talk with three points:
- The business of Government is no longer centralized but devolved. Ecosystems are now delivering services rather than being limited to processes of a department. Each participant in the ecosystem has interests and benefits that can come together to make a case for blockchain.
- Data sharing standards enable rapid implementation of blockchain. Government should lead the way and set the rule to facilitate adoption.
- Governments should take a citizen-centric approach, and blockchain helps reduce the inertia of sharing information between parties.
Blockchain offers participants in ecosystems indelible, searchable and current views of records, with transaction visibility and transparency. These are technology enablers of trust across the ecosystem.
You can start here today!