The British government is exploring cryptocurrency options, namely Bitcoin and underlying blockchain technologies, as possible solutions to government inefficiency and accountability issues. One such application could include tracking and administrating research grants funded by taxpayers.
Minister for Cabinet Office, Matt Hancock, delivered a speech on April 26, 2016, discussing the potential for blockchain technology to transform the ways that government works. As part of this same speech, the government announced that it would begin integrating blockchain technology into managing research grants, and branch out from there.
We’re exploring the use of a blockchain to manage the distribution of grants. Monitoring and controlling the use of grants is incredibly complex. A blockchain, accessible to all the parties involved, might be a better way of solving that problem.
The British government has a history of striving for innovation in a digital world, including when they transformed hundreds of government websites into GOV.UK with the Government Digital Service. The next step to building “government as a platform,” as they call it, includes looking at the blockchain and its possible implications.
Bitcoin proved that distributed ledgers can be used to track currency as it is passed from one entity to another. Where else could we use that? Think about the Student Loans Company tracking money all the way from Treasury to a student’s bank account. Or the Department for International Development tracking money all the way to the aid organisation spending the money in country.
The government has already committed £10 million to the Alan Turing Institute as part of a research initiative between the Research Councils, the Institute, and Digital Catapult “in order to address the research opportunities and challenges for digital currency technology.” The government is keen on any and all possible usage scenarios of blockchain and distributed ledger technologies in a government setting.
While there has been much discussion and research on this topic, the speech did not discuss any specific government projects utilizing blockchain technologies at this time.
In January of 2016, Guardtime announced its intention to use its own blockchain to secure the U.K.’s energy infrastructure, including nuclear power plants and electricity distribution grids, as well as national flood defences, in partnership with Future Cities Catapult.