April 29, 2016

Blockchain offer targets Whitehall take-up

by Neil Merrett

Supplier partnership will look at building on existing work in the Isle of Man to target UK government demand for distributed ledger technologies

Skyscape has entered into an agreement with infrastructure provider Credits to jointly try and meet potential public sector demand for blockchain technology solutions. This will build on Credits' ongoing work with authorities in the Isle of Man.

According to the companies, the partnership will focus on the provision of a cloud-hosted "Blockchain as a Service" function that can be accessed by government departments and other organisations.

The announcement comes the same week that Cabinet Office minister Matt Hancock noted work was underway to explore how blockchain may help Whitehall better manage grants through distributed ledger technologies (DLTs) such as those used to support the Bitcoin digital currency.

Credits chief executive Nick Williamson said the company has not announced any specific projects with the UK government, but had been following Whitehall's stated interest in blockchain.

"We're actively assembling several projects which would expand our public sector footprint, which started with our work with the Isle of Man government, into the UK as well as other jurisdictions," he said.

Williamson said that the addition of the "as a service" term to the blockchain offering means software would be sold as a subscription rather than as a larger fixed cost model.

"For integration and projects that require outside development, we will be working with solutions providers, many of whom already work quite closely with government," he added.

Credits noted that it had been partnering with authorities in the Isle of Man on initiatives including what it believed to the first known government service to be run using the technology.

This service is claimed to be a registry of blockchain and blockchain-adjacent companies domiciled on the Isle of Man and is intended to demonstrate the potential of the technology in injecting transparency and accountability for providing government services online. The company said the service was maintained by the Department of Economic Development.

In working with Skyscape, which is among a number of suppliers to have provided specialist cloud services through the G-Cloud framework, Credits expects the blockchain services will be accessed in a similar manner.

Despite the potential afforded by the emerging technology, some organisations have urged caution moving forward and called for further research about how the public sector may best utilise blockchain.

Earlier this year, government chief scientist Sir Mark Walport published findings on how DLTs could be used to transform future public service delivery.

"If applied properly -- and issues of privacy, security, identity and trust are addressed thoroughly - distributed ledgers create genuine opportunities for the government and other local and regional authorities," said the findings.

Responding to the report at the time, the Open Data Institute (ODI) said that its own research around distributed ledgers had shown exciting potential for the technology, but urged caution over any future developments.

The ODI noted concerns that there was too little consideration around risks and how blockchain technology may best help realise operational benefits.

"New technologies go through a hype cycle. The challenge near the beginning of that cycle is to identify the uses and applications that will stand the test of time. Like most new technologies, blockchains could cause significant damage if used indiscriminately," said the institute.