OTTAWA—Blockchain has the potential to transform how governments deliver digital services. According to a new Conference Board of Canada report, potential benefits include reduction of overhead costs, improved citizen services and improved data-sharing.
“Government plays a leading role in keeping public records and funds. In this regard, blockchain’s distributed trust model could support governments’ efforts to ensure accountability and transparency, and simplify the management of information in a secure way,” said Andrew Pender, Associate Director, Privacy and Corporate Security, The Conference Board of Canada.
Blockchain is an independent and universal digital ledger that tracks and records all transactions or digital events executed by participating parties. Each data record or block has a unique identifier linked to the previous block that, once validated and added to the ledger, form a chain.
The report, Cautious Optimism: Adopting Blockchain to Improve Canadian Government Digital Services, suggests the public sector could use blockchain applications to handle or manage public documents, permits and licences. Blockchain technologies could be used for commercial and property related matters, such as the transfer of land, real estate, lease contracts, and land registries. Personal applications include registration of births and marriage certificates, degrees, visas, and credentials.
Blockchain can also be implemented to deliver core government activities such as tax administration and the secure transfer of funds to welfare and pensioner recipients. The technology could also be beneficial in consumer product regulation, where it can be applied to tracking or tracing regulated consumer products.
However, the adoption of blockchain in the public sector faces numerous challenges, including privacy, regulatory standards, interoperability, and implications on business processes.
Widespread adoption of blockchain will require proof of the technology’s capabilities and growing maturity through cases, prototypes and experiments. The report recommends the federal government:
- align its digital transformation efforts;
- improve data linkages across jurisdictions and government departments;
- determine the next prototypes to further grow blockchain maturity; and
- develop a pan-Canadian blockchain vision to provide direction to users, service providers and Canadians.
The Conference Board of Canada will host the Blockchain Summit 2018: Seizing the Opportunity of “The Internet of Value” in Toronto, May 2-3, 2018.