Digital Nation

Building the Scottish Common Blockchain

A community-owned Blockchain platform for Scotland, enabling online voting and a digital currency.

A foundation technology for building a Scottish digital nation will be the Blockchain.

Used in conjunction with other key technologies notably Digital Identity this combination will provide the trust enabling infrastructure for a 21st century digital economy.

Led by Martin Docherty-Hughes the All Party Parliamentary Group on Blockchain published this report which provides an excellent, detailed overview of the potential of the technology: Blockchain for Local Government.

With inputs from Peter Ferry and Rab Campbell of local Scottish blockchain pioneer Wallet.services, the report details how Blockchain adoption would enable the public sector to enjoy efficiency gains in any inter-governmental and public-private information exchanges and monetary transaction, and reduction of bureaucracy and associated improvement in transparency and accountability in civic services.

The Scottish Common Blockchain

One key objective of the new Digital Scotland strategy should be innovative approaches to how technology is acquired for the benefit of the public sector, not just innovation through the technology itself. Government procurement methods are notoriously slow moving and resistant to change and this can be the cause of why Scotland’s ambitions to be a digital leader are not progressing as fast as they should.

Business for Scotland offers one example of a very interesting approach exemplifying exactly this. Describing the ‘Scottish Common Blockchain‘ they articulate how a Blockchain could be deployed as a community-owned infrastructure and how it would act as a public utility with many possible use case scenarios, such as enabling a new national currency and secure online voting.

“The Scottish Government should launch its own digital currency running alongside Sterling and facilitate local digital currencies. Blockchain-based security is almost impervious to hacking and identity theft and reduces cost by eliminating transaction fees. This digital currency would not replace a sovereign currency, but access to a safe and Government-guaranteed form of electronic money without the need for high street banks would be highly beneficial to the Scottish economy.”

They outline a compelling business case for this scenario, using an example of dealing with late payments to small to medium sized businesses, describing how the Scottish government could generate additional 1-2% GDP growth in a year rising to 3% in year two, and at the same time create a more entrepreneurial economy, rapidly increasing new business start ups whilst halving small business insolvencies and business related personal bankruptcies.

“Solving cash flow problems for these businesses is the single largest opportunity for economic growth and employment open to Scotland, and it’s really not that hard to do.”

Alastria

An example of this approach is the Spanish Alastria project, a model achieved through a consortium of small and large organizations and some government agencies, who collaborate to define and implement a shared, common Blockchain infrastructure, built atop ‘Self Sovereign Identity‘.

In this video presentation, with supporting slides, they explain how this non-profit organization and multi-organization member forum acts together to form a “National Blockchain Network”.

From 7:00m it is explained how the ecosystem this makes possible, with different market entities fulfilling roles such as User, Service Provider and Attester, a system for securely sharing identity credentials to underpin integrated digital services.

Conclusion – Action Plan

This cross-industry community approach is especially powerful when you consider the recommendations described in the All Party Parliamentary group report:

  • “Build knowledge sharing consortium: Organisations like Scotim, Government Digital Services (GDS), Local Government Association (LGA) should encourage councils and have sustainable discussions that will keep local councils updated. This will build awareness and might spark innovative ideas too.
  • Stimulate public-private interaction: The private sector must interact more with the public sector to understand needs. Currently, the private sector – as evident from our survey – feels they know what solutions might be needed by the public sector but they are not completely aware of the diversity of needs of the local government and their citizens.
  • Pilots and Sandbox approaches are the way forward: The study demonstrates the usefulness of unlocking blockchain ecosystems and piloting what can be achieved via Sandbox approaches. This supports implementation,testing, and risk management.”
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