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Will blockchain transform the public sector?  

Blockchain basics for Governments  

Blockchain’s influence in the public sector will be mostly behind the scenes. But the technology has the potential to bring security, efficiency, and speed to a wide range of services and processes. How should government agencies look to incorporate blockchain into the way they function today?

Value creation for all kinds of transactions

Back in 1995, Bill Gates attended a conference at which tech visionaries touted the potential of an emerging technology of which many people around the world hadn’t yet even heard: the World Wide Web. At the time, people couldn’t do much online—there was virtually no shopping, no entertainment, no news, very little traffic—but Gates returned to Microsoft headquarters and dramatically shifted the company’s strategic plan to focus on the possibilities. He recognised the Internet’s potential power as a platform for disrupting business—and society—as usual. Not even Gates could foresee all the ways it would be used, but he understood information technology well enough to recognise the emerging value proposition and resulting innovation that the first generation of the Internet could enable.

Blockchain technology is unlikely to capture the public imagination in the same way as the colorful initial wave of online innovation did; its impact will be largely behind the scenes. Yet the potential is enormous: Some see blockchain “bringing us the Internet of value: a new, distributed platform that can help us reshape the world of business and transform the old order of human affairs for the better.”

Blockchain’s benefits—of security, efficiency, and speed—are readily applicable to public sector organisations, and the technology’s potential helps explain why so many government leaders are actively exploring its uses in government. Indeed, blockchain experiments in the public sector are accelerating globally. (See image below.)

From almost none three years ago, agencies in more than a dozen countries—including Canada, the United Kingdom, Brazil, China, and India—are running pilots, tests, and trials examining both the architecture’s broad utility as a basis for government service provision and procurement and developing individual blockchain-based applications for internal use. These applications, often unique to the particular circumstances of a country, state, or municipality, are in development around the world across an expanding range of use cases and asset classes.

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Blockchain in the public sector, as of March 2017

Blockchain experiements in the public sector are accelerating globally, with concentration in the US and Europe.

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