UK public sector can now buy blockchain-as-a-service

Out-Law News | 05 Aug 2016 | 9:23 am | 1 min. read

Public sector organisations in the UK can now test out new uses of blockchain technology after a new cloud-based platform supporting blockchain innovations was made available through the government's online procurement portal.

Credits Blockchain-as-a-Service is "suitable for public sector distributed ledger proof of concept and large scale identity use cases", according to a description of the service on the Digital Marketplace.

Blockchain, a distributed ledger technology, is best known for underpinning trading involving the digital currency bitcoin, but it has many other potential uses. Broadly it can be likened to a type of database that, using cryptography, can be operated as a digital public ledger for recording information, such as the transfer of assets between two or more parties.

A number of banks have been experimenting with the use of blockchain technology in cross-border payments, while financial technology business R3 has been coordinating a range of other tests of asset exchange using blockchain in projects involving banks too.

A US financial regulator said earlier this year that distributed ledger technologies "may address [the] crucial need" regulators have for obtaining oversight of financial trading activities and to spot "the danger signals" before a global financial crisis arises.

In January this year a report by the UK government's Office for Science identified many potential uses beyond financial services for blockchain. It said distributed ledger technology could be used by the UK government to support access to welfare, reduce tax fraud and protect the UK's critical infrastructure, among other examples.

"Distributed ledger technologies have the potential to help governments to collect taxes, deliver benefits, issue passports, record land registries, assure the supply chain of goods and generally ensure the integrity of government records and services," Mark Walport, chief scientific adviser to the UK government, said in the report.

"In the NHS, the technology offers the potential to improve health care by improving and authenticating the delivery of services and by sharing records securely according to exact rules. For the consumer of all of these services, the technology offers the potential, according to the circumstances, for individual consumers to control access to personal records and to know who has accessed them," he said.

However, last month the Open Data Institute warned that public blockchains are "probably unsuitable" for storing personal data.