The government has approved the first Blockchain-technology supplier, paving the way for the use of distributed ledger services to be used across the public sector.
Blockchain technology can be used for secure transactions – Photo credit: Flickr, BTC Keychain
The latest list of suppliers whose services are available to public sector bodies through the G-Cloud framework includes the financial technology start-up Credits, which provides a platform on which organisations can build apps that use the technology behind Bitcoin.
A Blockchain – or distributed ledger – is an asset database that can be shared across several networks, sites or institutions. All participants have their own copy of the ledger and changes made in one site are reflected across all copies.
Credits is the first supplier of distributed ledger technologies to be approved by the Crown Commercial Service through the government’s Digital Marketplace, which lists companies public sector bodies can procure services from.
The move paves the way for services to be built using distributed ledgers – something recommended by government chief scientific adviser Mark Walport in April this year, who said it could help collect tax, issue passports and improve the integrity of government records.
The professional body for IT leaders in local government, Socitm, has also recognised the potential for blockchain, with a briefing issued this week saying it could be “enormously disruptive” to many public sector services and greatly encourage innovation.
However, the briefing also set out some potential issues, including the speed of transactions – some Bitcoin transactions can be 10 minutes – and the large amounts of computing and electrical power the process requires.
In addition, it said that, although the technology’s robustness and high levels of security could inspire trust, it needs to be communicated properly.
As an example, it cited concerns raised about a Department for Work and Pensions trial using blockchain to distribute benefits, which was slammed by critics who said it could be used to monitor and control recipients’ spending.
G-Cloud 8 newcomers
Meanwhile, the eighth iteration of the G-Cloud framework also lists a number of other first-time companies, including Preservica, which is offering a cloud-based system that combines access and preservation in on system to simplify secure access to records.
In a statement, the chief executive of Preservica, Jon Tilbury, said that there was a particular interest in the Preservica Cloud Edition within local government, adding that it could save money and future-proof permanent government records.
Another service to make it on to the G-Cloud 8 list is Covata’s file sharing platform Safe Share Gov+ Premium, which the company said was the only file sharing application that has received the ‘Top Secret’ security classification.
Its predecessor Safe Share Gov+ was available on G-Cloud 7, but the next iteration has been updated to increase the security specifications. The Service as a Solution platform can be used via the Public Services Network or the a range of Internet-based devices, with ongoing service management conducted by security cleared experts.
The company’s chief executive office Trent Telford said that, in response to reports about a lack of relevant digital skills within the public sector, the product had been developed “with simplicity as a priority. Agencies can begin using it straightaway with minimal training”.
The successful suppliers for G-Cloud 8 were informed on 18 July, but full details of the list have yet to be released.