How to create a blockchain-powered digital nation

Written by Neil McEvoy on 23 November 2018 in Opinion
Opinion

Adopting the blockchain will help Scotland achieve its vision of becoming a fully digital nation and usher in an unprecedented era of economic growth, believes Neil McEvoy of DigitalScot.net

The Scotsman recently asked what our country can do to attract more inward investment. The answer is executing the action plan needed to achieve the Scottish Government’s vision and goal of becoming one of the world’s leading digital nations by 2020, and the key to that is the blockchain.

For a sense of the massive scale this represents, an example of just one tiny drop in this ocean of opportunity is a single start-up venture – Swiss firm SEBA – raising $104m.

This is a venture to set up a regulated cryptocurrency bank, and they are also an example of the ‘Zug Crypto Valley‘ effect, a purposely created initiative to establish the region as a specialist in the field. Onlookers have claimed that a banking-centric, wealthy hot spot like Zug has a natural alliance with the cryptocurrency industry.

This highlights the essential role of another critical economic accelerator, legislation. For example the French parliament recently accepted a proposal to become a hub for ‘ICOs’ – initial coin offerings. Malta, meanwhile, is setting itself up as a ‘blockchain island’, passing three laws towards this goal.


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With Scotland also having a world-class banking industry and a thriving tech sector, we have some of the ingredients to replicate our own crypto valley and enjoy the same economic boost, but we are lacking this legislative vision, so we’re falling behind. Like every market opportunity it’s a window that will soon close – we have to act now or be left behind.

Natively digital government
As we start to define the technical architecture required to achieve this we can first set the context through considering the concept of entirely ‘natively digital’ government services, and also the distinction between digital government services versus the framework for a digital nation.

Like all industries, the public sector has been undergoing transformation efforts to move their own services online, but additionally they also uniquely play a keystone role in facilitating and regulating all other industries.

A simple example to explain the key dynamics involved is to consider the scenario of setting up a new bank account, especially so using Revolut, the ‘unicorn challenger bank‘. Yes, it is an entirely digital bank, but to complete the setup process you must validate your identity through scanning and uploading your paper-based ID documents like passport or driving licence!

So, yes, an entirely digital bank – but one still dependent on our Olde Worlde paper-based economy. To fully embrace and enable a digital nation, we must first digitise these foundations and establish entirely new institutions and legislation to make that possible.

Emerging technologies like self-sovereign blockchain identity will make these building blocks possible, harnessing and applying the decentralising web trend to how we are identified and authenticated on the future internet, enabling our virtualised ‘digital passports’ and thus entirely native digital services that are built upon them.

Combined with the appropriate legislation and service innovations, we can bring about an entirely digital economy, literally. For example, vendors like Stampery, Poex and Blocknotary, utilise the Blockchain’s core record integrity features like time-stamping to replicate the online equivalent of the offline Notary Public role, to define the legal assurance of the authenticity of official documents.

Each of these individual services is itself another billion-pound unicorn opportunity, offering Scotland a multi-dimensional, accelerating net effect: massive economic growth as a consequential by-product of much more efficient online government services.

 

About the author

Neil McEvoy is the founder of DigitalScot.net, Scotland’s digital business community acting to realise the vision of the country becoming a world-leading digital nation. He tweets as @DigitalscotNews.  ​

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