This report addresses the most discussed digital technologies of the last few years. There has been considerable debate about the potential benefits and threats that arise from the use of Distributed Ledger Technologies. What is clear from these debates is that blockchain is an important technology that has the potential to transform a range of sectors. The importance of Distributed Ledger Technology was identified and discussed in a 2016 report produced by Sir Mark Walport, the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser at the time.
The report provided recommendations for the use of blockchain to meet national needs, and to ensure the UK’s competitiveness in the global arena. The report outlined the need for a broad response that spanned the public and private sector, whilst also recognising the need for leadership in the development and deployment of blockchain technologies.
This report provides an update and reflection on the use of blockchain technologies by Governments and Public Sector bodies around the world. Much has happened since 2016 and this report provides a reminder of the importance of Distributed Ledger Technologies for the public sector, and the various orientations of blockchains adopted across the globe. The team have mapped the various regulatory and policy responses to blockchain, and cryptocurrencies more broadly. This mapping not only reveals a varying degree of friendliness towards blockchain, it also highlights the challenges involved in implementing Distributed Ledger Technology systems in the public sector.
Distributed Ledger Technologies are an important technology for the public sector, albeit there exists a number of policy implications. If we are to show leadership in the use of blockchain and its application it is imperative that we are aware of both its benefits and limitations; and the issues that need to be addressed to ensure we gain value from the use of Distributed Ledger Technologies. This report captures the public sector experiences of blockchain technologies across the globe, and also documents the issues raised and the various responses. This is a hugely informative and useful document for those who seek to make use of blockchains in the public sector.
Chief Scientific Adviser, UK Government Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
What is the current state of implementation of blockchain by governments and public sector bodies around the world? And what are the factors holding back further progress?
The GovChain project began as an attempt to answer these questions. Our research team mapped the regulatory and policy environments of 20 countries around the world (spread across Europe, USA, Asia, Australia, Africa, the Caribbean and South America) to assess their degree of friendliness towards blockchain – and cryptocurrencies more broadly. We also wanted to speak to policymakers, and other intrapreneurs within public sector organisations, who had attempted to implement blockchain directly. What were the key drivers that allowed them to make a change – was it funding, political leadership, policy environment, cultural factors or something else? What could other countries learn from successful approaches to help them accelerate change?
The result is a body of work which we believe is the first project of its kind to gather together such detailed information about the progress of blockchain in the public sector around the world. We ranked countries in a traffic light system where jurisdictions are awarded a traffic light colour of red, amber or green according to their progress:
- Green: Adoption stage. Country has applied blockchain to a variety of use cases and is likely to become a thriving ecosystem;
- Amber: Investigation stage. Country has made some steps in fostering innovation, but the work remains preliminary and may be focused on only one sector;
- Red: Sceptical stage. Country has taken a sceptical approach, is not currently willing to test or investigate, and may even be alienating blockchain-based initiatives.
While these categories are necessarily subjective to some degree, the aim was to provide an ‘at a glance’ reference point for how countries are doing – as well as to stimulate debate and knowledge sharing on what needs to change, what can be improved and how we can learn from one another’s efforts and approaches.
On the Recommendations page of this website you will find a set of 5 key policy recommendations drawn from the common themes which emerged from our research. We encourage debate and dialogue on these recommendations and additional suggestions for ideas we may have overlooked. The GovChain project is by its nature a ‘live’ process. Policies and regulations change frequently, there will be interviews we would have liked to do but couldn’t fit into the timeframe of the project and public sector implementations no doubt exist we have not been able to track. Our website is intended to be a resource for continuing updates and revisions to this body of work. If you have comments or we missed your project, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The process of implementing blockchain in the public sector is still a work in progress and can perhaps best be summed up by our interview from Bahrain who said: “We ask ourselves: does blockchain really add value here? How does it add value and, if it does, is the item mission critical? If it is, then do we have a fallback strategy in case of failure? This thinking has enabled us to approach policymakers, regulators, and institutional leaders, and speak to them about the benefits of the blockchain as a tool, on their own terms”.
Helen Disney, Co-Founder
Lavan Thasarasakumar, Co-Founder
Victor Chatenay – Research Associate
Lucie Munier – Advisory Council member
The GovChain research team would like to thank the following people for their inspiration, support and inputs into the creation of this report.
- Genevieve Leveille, Vice-Chair, techUK DLT working group
- Ruth Milligan, Head of Financial services and payments, techUK
- Jill Richmond, Co-Founder and COO, DATA
- Jeremy Wilson, Whitechapel think tank
- Ismail Malik, Founder & CEO, BlockchainLab
- Nuno Reis, UX Developer, Qadre
Tom Grogan, Associate and Co-Lead of the Blockchain group, Mischon de Reya
- Imogen Bunyard, COO, Qadre
- Chuta Chimezie, Blockchain Nigeria User Group (BNUG)
- Alice Namuli, Partner, Katende, Ssempebwa & Co. Advocates