Tory MP says UK needs a chief blockchain officer

 
Mary McDougall
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While cryptocurrencies are still evolving, blockchain technology has been widely recognised for its other potential uses (Source: Getty)

Conservative MP Eddie Hughes calls for the government to focus its attention on using blockchain to enable social freedom, increase efficiency and rebuild societal trust.

Hughes makes a series of recommendations in his report 'Unlocking Blockchain' issued today including the appointment of a public-facing chief blockchain officer to coordinate the UK’s strategy on applying blockchain technology to public services and data.

The report, published by Tory think-tank Freer, also proposes that government departments should have a 'long-term target' of making a one per cent efficiency saving by using blockchain and other associated innovative technologies. For context, that would equate to savings of as much as £8bn on the government's 2017-18 managed expenditure expectation.

Blockchain is the technology that serves as a public ledger for all transactions on a network and was first implemented in 2009 as a core component of the cryptocurrency bitcoin. The primary benefits of blockchain are broadly accepted to be around security in terms of transparency, immutability, and decentralisation – and efficiency, particularly regarding the elimination of the need for trusted third parties.

Read more: Chinese billionaire Jack Ma warns against a potential Bitcoin bubble

Hughes also advocates an international blockchain competition in the UK to drive entrepreneurship and lure leading global players to develop technology here. This could be funded by businesses that would benefit from improved national technological standards, he suggests.

The report says embracing the opportunities of distributive ledger technology should be fit explicitly—nominally as well as substantively—into a ministerial brief.

Blockchain and associated technologies are putting pressure on the government to review and redesign the UK’s data systems. Whitehall and public services could be fundamentally rewired to empower citizens and better serve their needs, the report claims.

In Sweden, the use of blockchain technologies in land registries is predicted to save over $100 million per year, through reduced paperwork and fraud elimination, as well as faster transactions, according to the consultancy firm Kairos Future.

At the London Blockchain Conference earlier this year the secretary of state for culture, media and sport, Matt Hancock, emphasised that ‘blockchain technology holds real potential to make government services more efficient.’

While blockchain investigations to date have largely been focussed on its underpinning of bitcoin and potential impact in financial matters, it is clear that its role in public administration is now coming under the spotlight.

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