Governments across the globe are experimenting with the blockchain, the technology behind Bitcoin, as a way to reduce costs and provide more accountability to the public. In Europe alone, the United Kingdom, Ukraine and Estonia are experimenting with blockchains to fight corruption and deliver public services.
Australia, too, is looking at what a blockchain might achieve. The recent problems with Centrelink’s automated data-matching system show precisely where a government blockchain would fit in.
Rather than siloing our data in government agencies, we could create a single source of information. This would speed up our interactions with government, while reducing errors and fraud.
For the government’s purposes, the killer feature of the blockchain is that it is a way to record transactions so that they are transparent and cannot be altered or tampered with. When used to track fish through a supply chain, for instance, it allows customers and restaurants to follow where the fish has been and have confidence in the data.
When applied to a government context, these capabilities could be useful for collecting tax, delivering benefits, or regulating business. From the public’s point of view, this could enable us to track government spending, eliminate fraudulent transactions, reduce errors in data processing and speed up service delivery to almost real time. It could be useful almost anywhere records are kept.
All the while the public could be more confident about the accuracy and integrity of the data being held.