What we’ve learned about Blockchain: 10 lessons from the BLING Partnership

BLING Final Book article
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Blockchain architecture, Business Need, Data handling, Legal Requirements, Mandate


Here are 10 of the most important lessons BLING has learned about how blockchain will – and will not – change government services – including the importance of collaboration, the shift to co-delivery of serivces, changes in partnership working, and giving citizens control of their data.

Blockchain will enable the next generation of government services

Over the last 5 years BLING and our partners have learned a huge amount about what you have to do to build blockchain-enabled services and the challenges and risks you’ll have to deal with on the way.

Here are 10 of the most important lessons we’ve learned about how blockchain will – and will not – change government services.

1 It is not about the technology. It is about the collaboration that is enabled by the technology – that’s what matters

By providing new ways for organisations to collaborate, by providing platforms that build trust between organisations and between organisations and users, by enabling individuals and organisations to share verified information in verifiable ways – it is the new forms of collaboration that blockchain enables that are the real changes that will be delivered by blockchain-enabled services.

2 From co-design and co-production to co-delivery of services

Over the last 20 years we have seen significant changes in how government services are planned, organised and delivered. We have seen the shift from centralised top-down services towards the co-design and co-production of services with citizens and communities. Blockchain enables a further shift to co-delivery of services, where different organisations – even non-governmental ones – can be better integrated into service delivery.

3 Talk about blockchain

Despite the hype around blockchain, there are not enough projects, enough pilots, and enough proof of concepts out there. Because of this, many organisations that want to explore or test blockchain-enabled services don’t know where to start.

4 Don’t talk about blockchain

More people have heard about blockchain than actually understand blockchain. The lack of understanding of the technology, and the fear of its environmental costs are significant barriers to acceptance. Focus first on the benefits or the change in services or the collaboration that you want to deliver, rather than on the enabling technology.

5 It is the strength of your partners that will actually determine the success of your blockchain-enabled service

The organisational and technical abilities of a partnership will determine the scope and success of blockchain-enabled services. Smaller organisations may wish to participate in blockchain projects but may lack the technical ability to do so – in which case you will have to find ways to support them. Larger organisations can have an outsized impact by enabling integration with existing regional/national IT systems/services.

6 Rethinking service delivery and enabling decentralised service delivery at scale/volume

A key feature of blockchain is the ability to enable decentralisation. By allowing organisations to create new tools to collaboratively deliver services with clear, auditable records and data flows, blockchain-enabled services can enable new forms of collaboration with other service organisations, with communities, and for people.

7 Delivering efficient partnership working – at scale

Blockchain facilitates new forms of systemic collaboration between organisations and people. The technology collaboration can make complicated services simpler to organise and simpler to deliver.

8 Give citizens control over information sharing and services

By enabling formal ways of sharing information across and between organisations, blockchain can enable new and more efficient services. We can see a future where citizens are automatically given services and support that they are entitled to – without making citizens ask for this first. Tools like self-sovereign-identity will be used to give citizens close control over how and where their personal data is used, and by who.

9 Build re-usable tools

Across government we see many examples of stand-alone, non-integrated service delivery, where different services may use very different approaches and tools – even in the same organisation.

10 Blockchain will change how services are delivered. Except when it won’t

We live in a multi-channel environment where services are delivered in a range of ways that are appropriate to the audience and which should reflect how the audience needs to be served. The need (if not the requirement) to continue providing multi-channel approaches – online, face to face and so on – will affect the speed in which governments adopt new technologies.

While blockchain-enabled solutions can transform some types of service design and delivery they will not remove the need to support different audiences through different service channels.