Britain’s tax office is building a prototype to better manage coordination between different organizations responsible for border controls, Mike Potter, interim chief digital and information officer (CDIO) at HMRC said while speaking at TechUK’s PS2030 conference yesterday.
Details are sparse. It’s unclear, for example, what blockchain exactly is being used or how such coordination would work, but Potter stated his ambition to modernize and digitize the civil service after a long contract with Aspire ended.
They have now hired in-house IT staff, focusing on upgrading the way they provide services to the public, especially where taxation is concerned.
“We have now built a proof of concept based on blockchain that demonstrates that you can actually get all of the 28 organisations that act at the border to coordinate all of their risk and intervention, so we only do it once and we do it well,” he said according to ComputerWeekly.
Blockchain’s nature of operating through node software that replicates data among many computers, so ensuring it’s authenticity and immutability, can allow easier coordination between multiple parties.
A feature that has been used in diverse industries, including shipping and supply chain where the first blockchain powered shipping voyage successfully completed recently.
However, blockchain’s application in a government setting might be somewhat controversial. Speaking in an API context, Potter says:
“We can expose information and share it more widely across government, which I think is going to be the most powerful catalyst for change over the coming years.”
That may raise privacy concerns as blockchain data is usually publicly available. In a private blockchain setting access can be limited, but within those that have access all data would be available.
That may raise questions on how one ensures hackers are kept out of the system, a very difficult task as we are seeing daily. So it is probable the prototype will have to go through some considerable testing and pilots, lasting months if not years.
In that period, blockchain technology is expected to develop on the privacy aspects and on scalability with roadmaps laid out on how to achieve both in the next five years.
Then, it may be ready, but UK’s civil service is clearly signalling here that they are taking a forward looking and innovative approach towards upgrading their infrastructure.
They may have to do so if they wish to keep up with Estonia, which is currently in charge of EU’s presidency. That tiny, but rich, country had to quickly digitize its civil service in light of increased Russian aggression.
They have gone so far as to suggest the potential launch of an ethereum ICO and token, a very first for any government and potentially showing as much as, if not more, foresight than UK did in 2014.
However, the tiny country is currently somewhat under the rules of EU, which means Germany. Draghi, ECB’s president, told them they could not issue such token.
In response, Estonia called EU’s finance ministers at a meeting being held today to discuss Fintech strategy. The outcome of that meeting may soon decide how the old continent positions itself.