During a speech earlier this week at a London blockchain event, a senior UK official said that the government is looking to blockchain applications as it rethinks how public funds are being tracked.
Matt Hancock, Minister of the UK Cabinet Office and a member of Parliament, told attendees of the event – organized by the nonprofit group Digital Catapult and the cryptocurrency research effort ran by Imperial College London – that the British government is in the midst of reimagining public services in the digital age, and that blockchain will likely play a role in the changes to come.
Specifically, Hancock suggested that the transparent nature of blockchains could be leveraged to exert better control and accountability over funds disbursed to research centers, aid organizations or individual students.
"We’re exploring the use of a blockchain to manage the distribution of grants. Monitoring and controlling the use of grants is incredibly complex. A blockchain, accessible to all the parties involved, might be a better way of solving that problem.”
Blockchain has been on the agenda of the Cabinet Office for some time. Last year, the agency suggested that it could use a blockchain-based system to support internal record keeping efforts. At the time, technical architect Paul Downey of the Government Digital Service said that a blockchain was one of several solutions being weighed.
During his speech, Hancock suggested that the technology could provide the government with the means to monitor the movement of funds in a publicly verifiable way, pointing to bitcoin as an inspiration.
“Bitcoin proved that distributed ledgers can be used to track currency as it is passed from one entity to another,” said Hancock. “Where else could we use that? Think about the Student Loans Company tracking money all the way from Treasury to a student’s bank account. Or the Department for International Development tracking money all the way to the aid organization spending the money in country.”
Hancock also highlighted the government’s commitment last year to invest £10m to fund research into digital currencies and blockchain, and went on to issue a call to action to attendees to help “reshape the state to make the best of modern technology”.
"And how in doing so, each one of us can, through each step forward, play a small part in a much bigger mission: the mission to improve the lives of the citizens who we serve."
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