From red tape to digital disruption: How governments are becoming tech-savvy

John Oswald

TechRadar: Governments are beginning to realise IT’s transformative potential.

There are other examples of governments experimenting with the blockchain – the Honduran government began recording land title records in partnership with blockchain-powered record verification and auditing infrastructure firm Factom – a project currently on pause – while some are saying that blockchain tech could kill off middlemen industries including energy companies and banks.

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The latter is a classic example of an industry ripe for blockchain being left behind by tech-savvy governments. The UK government is considering using the blockchain to make international aid payments more secure, but banks aren’t so keen.

“The metadata associated with a financial transaction lies in that used for tax calculations,” says John Oswald, ‎Business Design Director at design and innovation consultancy Fjord.

“That changes everything when it comes to the overheads of delivering tax, benefits and welfare,” he adds, suggesting that blockchains for identity could be used to ensure that a simple change of address cascades to all government departments, not just the one you’re talking to. “Blockchain could be one of those legendary technologies – like the internet – that turns into a way of reinventing the world,” he observes.

Digital planning

While national governments are taking the lead on some tech issues, the real engines of innovation and experimentation are municipalities and big cities. The NYC Open Data Plan sees New York State make well over a thousand data sets from government agencies available to browse and download, while Chicago’s UI Labs’ CityWorks is encouraging the development an Internet of Things urban infrastructure.

Both are great examples of large-scale digital planning that the commercial world isn’t going to work out on its own. Ditto the government-mandated switch to smart meters and the spread of IoT sensors, smart city technology and driverless cars, all of which will need safe critical infrastructure to ensure that all data can be trusted – and across national borders, too.

For all that, think blockchain, though having a secure and thoroughly innovative cloud would be handy, too – and we can thank US government agency NASA for taking that concept way beyond even international borders.

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John Oswald

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