May 2, 2016

Credits AND Skyscape partner

Credits and Skyscape partner to provide Blockchain-as-a-Service 

to the UK Public Sector

by Luke Parker - original article here

Founded in November 2014, by Nick Williamson and Eric Benz, Credits is a Blockchain Software as a Service (SaaS) initiative from the Isle of Man, with an office in London. Williamson also founded Manx startup Pythia, the parent company building Credits.

Credits began offering the Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) tools, for building secure and scalable blockchains, on April 6. The Level39 member launched the public beta version of their PaaS at Money 20/20.

“Credits’ PaaS is specifically designed for developers, allowing them to launch a ‘Blockchain in 3-steps’ without the need to learn a new programming language, Credits CEO and founder Williamson said at the time. “Any developer with basic coding skills will immediately be able to start creating their own robust blockchains.”

“We’re seeing a growing number of organisations across industries beginning to explore how blockchain technology can help to streamline or modernise operations, or allow them to offer new, compelling services, and are thrilled to bring Blockchain-as-a-Service technology to the UK public sector in collaboration with Skyscape.”

- Nick Williamson, Credits CEO and founder

Credits recently announced a strategic partnership to deliver Blockchain-as-a-Service to UK public sector organizations, with the UK Public Sector cloud service provider, Skyscape Cloud Services Limited.

Skyscape is Small and Medium sized Enterprise (SME), that specializes in providing assured cloud services to the UK public sector, including the central government, local government, and various government departments.

Since its launch in 2012, the company has been a supplier to the Crown Commercial Service, an executive agency of the Cabinet Office. The company supplies Infrastructure-as-a-Service, SaaS, and PaaS cloud services,  through the government Digital Marketplace, and was the first cloud hosting provider to work with the UK government.

Through G-Cloud frameworks, agreements between the government and suppliers who provide cloud-based services, Skyscape has been awarded numerous high-profile contracts, and now works with Government Digital Services, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, and the UK Ministry of Defence.

Skyscape's full range of services has been awarded Pan Government Accredited (PGA) status from The National Technical Authority for Information Assurance (CESG), up to and including Impact Levels 3 (IL3).

IL3 is suitable for most of the government's data, classified as OFFICIAL by the Government Security Classifications Policy (GSCP), but nothing higher, namely SECRET and TOP SECRET.

“The OFFICIAL classification covers up to 90% of Public Sector business, including most policy development, service delivery, legal advice, personal data, contracts, statistics, case files, and administrative data.”

– UK Cabinet Office

Public sector customers can benefit from Credits blockchain technology as well as Skyscape’s assurance and security credentials. Skyscape not only has PGA status, but the company is also a certified Public Services Network (PSN) service provider. PSN is the government’s high-performance network, and helps public sector organizations work together, reduce duplication, and share resources.

Skyscape is also one of the only three British companies to be awarded N3 aggregator status, by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) in January 2015. N3 is the National Health Service (NHS) network, providing hospitals, medical centers, and GP practices with access to broadband, collaboration, and voice services.

The NHS is Europe’s largest employer, and the world’s fifth largest, with 1.7 million employees. According to the UK Office of National Statistics, total UK public sector employment was 5.347 million at December 2015 or 17% of total UK employment.

“As a business that exclusively focuses on the UK public sector, we are fully committed to continuously re-evaluating and developing our service options, in order to ensure we’re meeting the evolving demands of the 30,000 public sector organisations in Britain.”

-  Simon Hansford, Skyscape Cloud Services CEO

The British Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) reported that public sector net borrowing was £74.0 billion in 2015-16, £17.7 billion lower than the previous year. However, they forecast that the public finances will deliver a surplus of £10.4 billion in 2019-20 and £11.0 billion in 2020-21. Meanwhile, public sector net debt is forecast to fall to 74.7% of GDP in 2020-21.

The UK government has repeatedly demonstrated its eagerness to work with cutting-edge private sector fintech companies and academics, to see where it can encourage the sector’s growth. "We’ve been exploring how the government can use the blockchain as a basis for delivering tomorrow’s services," Rosie Jessop, wrote in a government post. Jessop is Head of Security for the Office of the Chief Technology Officer in the Government Digital Service.

The government hosted its first Blockchain Partnership event last week, bringing together industry, academia and government to discuss how blockchain technology can be used for public services.

“It’s important that we’re not insular and that we don’t just have conversations amongst ourselves to discuss how this technology could impact government. In the UK we’re lucky to have some of the best people working on blockchain technology in the world, and we want to take advantage of that.”

-  Rosie Jessop, Head of Security for the Office of the Chief Technology Officer in the Government Digital Service

The government also committed £10 million to the Alan Turing Institute in 2015, to investigate digital currencies and distributed ledger technologies, and are currently looking for case studies showing how blockchains can be used in government.

The Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Mark Walport, published a landmark report in January,  urging the UK government to start using blockchain technology immediately. “Government should establish trials of distributed ledgers in order to assess the technology’s usability within the public sector,” was one of eight recommendations in Sir Mark's report.

“If government waits for ‘perfect’ solutions, it will miss the opportunity to shape and procure implementations of the technology that will provide maximum benefit to the public sector, and the UK may lose opportunities for economic benefit as well.”

-  Sir Mark Walport, Government Chief Scientific Adviser

Following his report, Sir Mark wrote an article in March, further exploring how distributed ledgers can change the way government does business. “My expert group has scoped some potential uses by the UK Government,” he wrote. “The best way to develop a technology is to put it into practice.”

Sir Mark believes that distributed ledger technologies could enable the Government to create trusted archives of digital public records with greater transparency and accountability.

“Applying distributed ledger technologies in the registration and payment processes for government grants and benefits could prevent financial losses through fraud and error and support the most vulnerable citizens through full financial inclusion.”

- Walport

Following Sir Mark's suggestion, Minister for the Cabinet Office Matthew Hancock announced that government will begin looking at blockchain technology “as a practical way to improve the efficiency of taxpayer money distributed as grants to agencies and partners for research and innovation.”

“If a government doesn’t keep up with new and innovative technology, it falls behind on the ability to provide services for its citizens. We want to stay at the forefront. I believe as technology becomes part of the fabric of the nation, it must become part of the fabric of government.”

- The Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, Minister for the Cabinet

While the government has not announced how they are planning to integrate distributed ledger technologies into their infrastructures, Credits plans to make an easy-to-use BaaS available to them.

Meanwhile, there are other BaaS services, including one offered by Microsoft Azure. However, Azure's system is not specifically tailored for the public sector.

Prior to this partnership, Credits has been working with the Isle of Man Government on several initiatives, including the first known government service to be run on a blockchain. “We’re also working with the Isle of Man on a federated KYC project that we will be tested in the Isle of Man and later expand to larger jurisdictions as we prove out the technology in a real world environment,” Williamson said in an interview.

Pythia provides off-the-shelf software that customers can use to create and run their own customized blockchains. In addition, Credits has been working with “two of the three large European Central Securities Depositories (CSDs) on projects involving both clearing and settlement and securities reference data,” Williamson added.

“We’re pleased to be working with Credits to bring new and innovative blockchain solutions to support the digital transformation of public services. The partnership will further benefit our extensive community of partners serving the UK public sector who will now also be able to quickly and easily build robust blockchains.”