Blockchain technologies (the technical foundation for Bitcoin) hold great potential to solve government’s long-term challenge of establishing clear rules about who has control over specific types of information.
Additional governmental obstacles blockchain technologies can assist with include confirming data accuracy and validating who retains long-term authority over a piece of data when it comes to updating or modifying that information.
According to a new report from IDC Government Insights, it’s possible that blockchain technologies could be a key tool for confirming data origin and accuracy, tracking updates, and establishing true data authority for millions of different data fields.
“At a time when IT security, information accuracy, and reliability are of paramount importance to government, blockchain is seen by many as a potentially powerful tool for IT managers. It can help create a structure for government to reduce fraud and boost security, especially when it comes to data tampering,” said Shawn McCarthy, IDC Government Insights research director. “It can also help to establish new relationships between government and citizens regarding the way data is collected and shared in a transparent manner.”
Blockchain: Foundation for improving authenticity and accuracy
According to the new report, blockchain is a solid model for establishing an audit trail, in addition to transferring and monitoring distinct entities that represent items of value. As a result, blockchain can serve as a foundation for improving the authenticity and accuracy of government records. It can track activities related to those entities via a shared record that is resistant to hacking and unauthorized changes.
Once this shared version of the “truth” is established, via a peer-to-peer network, multiple nodes ensure the integrity remains intact even as new records are added. There is a consensus protocol to check whether new activities are valid and qualified to be added to the chain of blocks. And this authoritative copy can be checked against other collected information, which is particularly useful for federal data fusion centers as they work to gather counterterrorism intelligence from multiple resources.
While IDC asserts that blockchain capabilities could lead to significant advances in the realms of digital voting, land registries, patent, copyright and trademark issues, and even smart contracts associated with Internet of Things solutions, the predominant focus of the report is centered on the following:
Data authority – Such authority not only where each piece of data comes from, but also who has authority over it (related to accuracy, changes, and lifecycle management), and where the ultimate authoritative copy of that data resides.
Data accuracy – Accuracy is a key component of data quality. Accuracy means that data values stored for any object are correct, that they represent the right value, and that they are consistent in form and content.
Access control – Blockchain solutions can help keep track of what information is pubic versus private. This can include details on the data itself, the transaction related to the data, and who is allowed to make updates to data records.
Today, government agencies are just beginning to experiment with the data protection and authority capabilities of blockchain solutions. According to IDC research, government agencies will be running a series of tests over the next few years to prove the worth of blockchain as a concept, and to find applications within their systems that are capable of leveraging blockchain’s capabilities. However, IDC Government Insights anticipates system integrators to be key drivers behind building prototype solutions, showing government agencies how they operate, and how they can help establish data authority and boost data accuracy.
“We recommend that both vendors and government agencies investigate the opportunity and value of blockchain solutions as part of their broader third platform strategies. This may include developing internal strategy documents that cover what blockchain could entail to them, and what sort of implementation path they want to follow,” concluded McCarthy.