A ‘Scottish vision’ for distributed ledgers, the technology popularised by blockchain, should be developed in conjunction with universities and businesses, an interim report commissioned by the Scottish Government has recommended.

The report, unveiled at FutureScot’s Digital Scotland 2018 conference, is based on a study of international best practice, and interviews with practitioners and experts.

“Digital life relies on the exchange of information. When data is shared, it may be infinitely duplicated, modified and used in ways unintended by its originator,” says the report. “Identify theft, cybercrime, fake news, and misuse of intellectual property are commonplace because we have a limited toolset to govern contemporary models of data use.”

The report identifies a number of processes in Scottish public services which continue to rely on the use of paper, or web-based substitutes for paper. It also highlights “the importance of effective and appropriate information sharing in enabling cross-government collaboration to improve services for citizens.

“DLT makes it possible to register and record, share and transfer value or valuable information in a secure and tamper-proof way, to only the intended recipients. It represents a new opportunity for the creation of natively digital public services.”

Report’s recommendations

Envision: Commission an expert group representing the Scottish DLTcommunity, and including views of SMEs, industry, public services, academia, financial services and the 3rd sector, to develop a vision for a future DLT enabled Scottish economy.
Plan: Building on this vision, enable leadership and a plan with specific actions and measurable goals for digital transformation in Public Services. Take steps to embed deeper knowledge and skills around fundamental disruptive technologies in Scottish public services.
Engage: Undertake proactive and co-ordinated engagement with other nations’ governments on DLT. Smaller nations are forging ahead. Engagement across central, local government, companies and academia should be co-ordinated with these nations to share DLT experiences and learnings.
Educate: Adopt a holistic approach to drive a DLT ecosystem across industrial sectors by educating leaders on DLT. Work collaboratively with Innovation Centres, local and international SMEs, to ensure that Scotland is able to maximise the benefits of this technology through innovative approaches, such as the CivTech® Programme, CodeClan and the University of Edinburgh’s new AI and blockchain accelerator.
Deliver: Appoint a group of progressive leaders from across the public sector to identify common threads of opportunity to deploy DLT to solve common problems. Provide them with a budget to invest in knowledge and undertake practical steps including proof of concept activities. They should actively scan the horizon, share their experiences in the international network, and accept that though some initiatives will fail this is better than doing nothing and being left behind.

The report, which was commissioned by the Scottish Government’s Digital Directorate, recommends that Scotland should “join the international ecosystem [of DLT] as an active participant.

“This would involve developing a Scottish vision for DLT together with universities and businesses, initiating small-scale projects in the Scottish public sector, and sharing findings with the international network”.

It has identified areas in which DLT could be applied, covering “people, process and place.”

The reports authors – Rab Campbell, Peter Ferry, Dr Hannah Rudman, and Gillian Thompson, of blockchain firm Wallet.Services – add that “DLT may represent the future of how citizens, consumers, and industries interact in a transparent, secure and streamlined manner to form the highest performing economies.”

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