The UK government could make efficiency savings of £8bn by embracing blockchain technology, according to a report by the Conservative MP Eddie Hughes.
Hughes says that the distributed digital ledger technology, which underpins crypto-currencies such as bitcoin, could also help to restore trust in the government by giving citizens’ greater control over their data.
“Trust in public services grows as they become more transparent,” writes Hughes. “Citizens should be able to own, see, hold, and control the use of their own data—the data that others are so keen to access, and that our security and wellbeing increasingly depends upon.”
The report was published by FREER, a “new political initiative bringing economically and socially liberal thinking back into British politics”. Hughes argues that “extensive state regulation” has not deterred public scandals in the past, and that instead “we should begin, with urgency, to explore how new technologies might help us to establish ligher-touch, yet more effective, ways of preventing institutions exploiting their power”.
The government has already started experimenting with blockchain. In 2016, the Department for Work and Pensions began testing the technology as a means to managing benefits spending. But the trial came under scrutiny from some politicians. The Labour MP Chi Onwurah told Public Technology at the time: “I’m concerned that the government’s main objective with technology is to reduce costs and control people.”