Publication - Progress report

Distributed Ledger Technologies in Public Services

Published: 26 Sep 2018
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Business, industry and innovation

Report detailing Distributed Ledger Technologies in Public Services.

82 page PDF

3.3 MB

82 page PDF

3.3 MB

Distributed Ledger Technologies in Public Services
5. Industry Insights

82 page PDF

3.3 MB

5. Industry Insights

During the process of conducting this research, and the discovery of scenarios and priorities in Scottish public-sector agencies, we correlated these ideas with developments in the DLT/blockchain industry and technology. Several areas discussed below were felt to either illuminate, or have pertinence to the discussion of DLT in Scotland.

5.1 Identity

In November 2017 Scottish Government initiated an Online Identity Assurance programme, to develop a "common public-sector approach to online identity assurance" as part of Scottish Government Digital strategy (Scottish Government, 2017). At the time of writing, this programme has just concluded its Discovery phase. It is being conducted on the basis of Open Government principles and we suggest that the observations in this report should be considered as a contribution to its considerations:

Robust online identification is an important foundation in streamlined access to digital services for individuals, government and commerce. It is a critical component in confidence and integrity for digital public services where sensitive or valuable information pertaining to citizens is involved.

Much global DLT activity to date has focussed on digital identity. An evaluation of DLT identity solutions is beyond the scope of this report. However, an exposition of its role in the field of identity, and some context of its current application is presented below.

DLT identity application spans not only identity assurance, but also identity verification use cases such as financial services Know Your Customer (KYC) checks, and verifications of entitlement, certification and qualification. The related topic of secure sharing of personal data is discussed in section 5.2 below.

There has been recent significant capital investment in "blockchain identity" technology start-ups[8], and attention from global tech and NGO consortia such as the ID2020 project (ID 2020 Alliance, 2018):

ID2020's goal is to deliver inclusion and empowerment to 1.1 billion people unable to prove identity hence unable to access critical services and benefits. It is committed to piloting decentralised, user-owned, blockchain digital identity solutions working across national and institutional borders to address the challenge at scale. ID2020 members include the United Nations, Microsoft, Accenture, the Rockefeller Foundation and Hyperledger blockchain alliance.

This attention and investment is informed by several factors:

Firstly, in technology it has been driven by thinking and open standards since the early 1990s, spanning the evolution of decentralised OpenID protocols[9] which has resulted in the "self-sovereign identity" narrative in the 2010s. Much of the blockchain community subscribes to self-sovereign identity principles, and concepts of distributed identity. This vision for digital identity enabling trust whilst preserving individual privacy is articulated in "The Path to Self-Sovereign Identity" (Allen, 2017).

Secondly for the non-specialist it is driven by the "Equifax effect"[10]; the awareness that personal data can be vulnerable when stored in online databases, and a perception that the balance of control over personal data should shift away from institutions, to the user.

The following interviewees contributed to the research for this study:

  • Christopher Allen, the architect of SSL and TLS, the protocols which underpin all off global Ecommerce;
  • Bill Buchanan OBE, Professor of the Centre for Distributed Computing;
  • Stuart Fraser, Founder and CEO of Wallet.Services, who has a long track record in digital identity, including as the CTO of start-up MiiCard, now the Identity Company.

5.2 Sensitive Information Sharing

Sharing information about citizens is fundamental to efficiency and effectiveness of public services. This by no means novel insight was confirmed in the public-sector leader interviews conducted during this research.

Sharing of sensitive information and citizen personal data is closely aligned to notions of digital identity. Industry representatives identified examples of services where some sensitive information such as the date of birth or mother's maiden name is used to verify identity through "proof of knowledge before extended sensitive information (like personal preferences, bank account records or salary information) can be accessed"[11]. To grossly oversimplify the fields of regulation, cybersecurity and civil rights, it is retention of this sensitive information that can lead to loss and misuse of the information, the concerns of citizens, and the necessity of data protection regulations.

Blockchain tools provide a means to avoid this sensitive data retention. It allows data owners (such as those agencies responsible for records and registers), to confirm and corroborate proofs of age, education, and entitlement to vote. This "attestation" approach is used by many blockchain based "identity" schemes which build up public-facing verifiable claims over time.

However, even with such shared identity schemes in place, the problems of sharing sensitive information remain. Sensitive information sharing in this context, refers to the sharing of extended personal data between government agencies to allow them to interact to fulfil other governmental service or process.

Blockchain tools fit in here by providing a means to send sensitive data and maintaining tight control over who can decrypt it, whilst in a manner publicly verifiable and regulatory auditable.

Moreover, blockchain can enable "disclosure without exposure" by supporting those cryptographic techniques which can verify certain aspects of sensitive information without giving access to it (like knowing someone is over 18 without having access to their date of birth).

This is one of the bases of much current investigation into blockchain in healthcare patient data sharing work. Professor Bill Buchanan OBE of Napier University, is engaged in preparing a "Trust Architecture for Scotland", building on some of the principles above.

In the Scottish start-up ecosystem, this report's authors, Wallet.Services, are addressing such challenges with their SICCAR platform, an inter-organisation workflow and information sharing platform.

5.3 Health

In early 2017 the North of England Connected Health Cities conducted a proof of concept project with the aim of sharing patient data but with granular patient permissions.

Such projects have the potential to enable patients to give fine-grained consent around which parties can use their data and for what purpose, across the NHS, research functions and pharmaceutical companies.

The project was based on a private Ethereum blockchain used to store preferences and consent, rather than the actual patient data, and confirmed the technical feasibility of this approach.

Subsequently 2017 saw an explosion in blockchain innovation activity targeting healthcare applications. This spans such use cases as the Patient Health Record, device and pharmaceutical supply chain, care delivery, telemedicine, and into every corner of the $27Billion market for health IT solutions.

Much of this has been from start-up companies, evangelical about their technology and its disruptive and positive impact on the industry. Many such organisations have raised funding for software and solution development through Initial CryptoAsset Offerings (ICOs). This approach has driven rapid access to significant capital for idea and solution development but is criticised by many as avoiding the governance and scrutiny of more traditional investment approaches.

By the beginning of 2018 the authors have found 42 Initial CryptoAsset Offerings (ICOs) had been conducted in the health care market, raising $100 of millions across US, UK, Russia, Hong Kong, Switzerland, and Estonia.

By any measure significant investment is being expended on building blockchain use cases in health.

In Scotland one such company is Spiritus Partners, whose founders received £500,000 in Regional Selective Assistance from Scottish Enterprise to establish the company's software development and operations in Edinburgh. Spiritus apply blockchain to multi-party service record scenarios, and are involved in a proof of concept in collaboration with NHS National Services Scotland and academic support funded by the Data Lab.

In the process of this investigation, the authors established contact with London-based MedicalChain, and Dubai based GlobalHealth. In keeping with normal start-up behaviours, many of these initiatives will fail before delivering any application capable of delivering a production service in a live environment. But the significant investment seems likely to deliver a good learning opportunity and some useful innovation.

Taking the widest possible view, the most concentrated efforts emerging in the blockchain healthcare application space are in patient health data governance, specifically in storage and integrity, record sharing and exchange, and the associated trust and permissioning of data.

One company, Guardtime, based in Tallinn Estonia, use DLT to record all updates to Estonian healthcare records. To citizens, this gives comfort that their data is being used appropriately. They can see its use through the eHealth portal, which professionals are also accessing for their personal or their children's health data, and their reasons for doing so. In this scheme, the actual data is stored in a conventional database. Guardtime's solution integrates at the database engine to create a cryptographic hash each time it is accessed or changed, to deliver a forensic-quality audit and integrity trail, based on a DLT patented by Guardtime (Keyless Signature Exchange). Guardtime are a start-up who partnered closely with the Estonian eHealth Foundation around this solution. The use of DLT in the Estonian model is specifically around audit of healthcare record access—storage, access control and any patient consent is delivered using conventional means.

The following interviewees contributed to the research for this study:

  • George Crooks OBE, CEO of the Digital Health and Care Institute Scotland
  • Chaloner Chute, CTO of the Digital Health and Care Institute Scotland
  • Clinicians from NHS Tayside, including Mr Rodney Mountain, ENT surgeon and lead for healthcare Design and Innovation
  • Artur Novek, Implementation manager and IT architect at the Estonian eHealth Foundation

Here in Scotland, the Digital Health and Care Institute (DHI) plans activity around using new technologies to give people easy access to and ownership over their health and care data through a "personal data store" or "personal health record". A 'Connectathon' was delivered in March where the DHI Demonstration and Simulation Environment was launched. We understand that this will provide a "sandbox" in which services and technology can be integrated to develop and demonstrate next generation infrastructure. The DHI has personal connections and ongoing knowledge-sharing exchanges and with Estonian Government and, in particular, its eHealth Foundation, including mutual interactions through Scotland and Estonia based Digital Health conferences, and a 2017 DHI-driven group fact-finding mission to Tallinn.

A workshop was conducted by the consultants on 27th November 2017 with a cross-disciplinary group led by Mr. Jonathan Cameron (Head of Service—Strategic Development) of NHS National Services Scotland. This group included clinicians, software professionals, and NSS Senior Management, with the objective of (a) sufficiently exploring the role, current application areas, and potential impact of DLT and (b) prioritising potential applications across Scottish NHS.

A shortlist of high-potential healthcare application areas were identified by attendees.

  • Asset lifecycle and transparency (medical devices)
  • Visibility of prescription across health provision
  • Collaborative service provision (in crises management involving health, social care and police, and in cross-health-board scenarios)
  • Linking patient data for safety and efficiency, with appropriate confidentiality

Phil Couser, Director of NSS Strategic Business Unit, identified issues of information governance, data storage and access, as fundamental issues behind these application observations. He further suggested that the establishment of a new Scottish public health body would present both a growing challenge and opportunity in addressing these issues.

Several strands of DLT activity exist across Scotland within Health institutions which, based on the information available to the authors, could be considered as now entering the discovery phase.

Opportunities exist to better empower this discovery through:

  • increased involvement of stakeholders from across the Scottish Healthcare ecosystem and interested parties from academia and the technology industry
  • capitalising on the learnings from global investment in commercial and government sectors, who have moved beyond the discovery phase

5.4 Digital Currency

Digital currency is digital money.

Bitcoin is a decentralised cryptocurrency, and a form of digital money which allows payments to be sent between users without passing through a central authority, such as a bank or payment gateway. It is arguably the first cryptocurrency, which established popular participation in, and views of, digital currencies.

We consider Bitcoin here as a useful starting point to consider investigating digital currencies relevance to Scottish Government. However, we note that the scope of this report necessarily only touches on the larger topic of cryptocurrencies disruptive potential in Scotland's Financial Services industry and the monetary economy.

But Bitcoin is only one of many cryptocurrencies. Each has been devised with different purposes and is created and held electronically. Bitcoins aren't printed, like dollars or euros—they're produced by computers all around the world, using free software. Bitcoin can be considered "decentralised" as it can be created and traded without a central bank, a bank account, an intermediary financial institution, and with lower cash handling and banking transfer fees.

Bitcoin is different from traditional currencies. It is decentralised so that no single institution controls it, and it has a limited supply, based on a set of rules baked in to its underlying algorithm. It is difficult to tie the owner of a Bitcoin to a real-world person (unlike the conventional money, where in most jurisdictions regulation dictates that people should be identified through KYC checks).

We use a "wallet" to manage the cryptographic keys used to secure access to Bitcoins. Exchanges in Bitcoin between parties, (or Bitcoin transactions), are addressed between wallets. Despite its reputation for anonymity, every Bitcoin transaction ever made can be traced back in time between wallet addresses, so it cannot be considered a confidential medium. So, although Bitcoin is often accused of being anonymous, its more strictly correct to say that it is pseudonymous.

These characteristics have made Bitcoin popular with two communities: firstly, with those who want to make financial services more transparent inclusive and accessible, and secondly with people who don't wish to be identified in criminal activities or in avoiding capital controls. The International Monetary Fund explanation of the role of Virtual Currencies (International Monetary Fund, 2016) is summarised by

"Virtual currencies and their underlying technologies can provide faster and cheaper financial services and can become a powerful tool for deepening financial inclusion in the developing world. The challenge will be how to reap all these benefits and at the same time prevent illegal uses, such as money laundering, terror financing, fraud, and even circumvention of capital controls."

IMF managing director Christine Lagarde

Much innovation in the monetary cryptocurrency arena since Bitcoin has focussed on addressing issues such as identification, confidentiality and privacy of transactions. This work continues, but that blockchain-based cryptocurrencies have an important role in providing more inclusive financial services seems beyond doubt.

However, cryptocurrencies' monetary role as a store of value is more difficult to conclude. In the year to the time of writing, a Bitcoin has grown from $1,000 to $8,000 in value and was briefly as high as $20,000.

"Bitcoin is a fascinating example of how human beings create value, or estimate and judge value. You cannot tell me that you can create out of nothing a medium of exchange value. It is not a rational currency in that sense. But that does not mean it will not trade, because so long as people believe they can sell it to someone else that's all you need to create a market. Human beings buy all sorts of things that aren't worth anything but they do it anyway. People gamble in casinos when the odds are against them. It has never stopped anybody".

—Alan Greenspan, former US Federal Reserve Chairman.

Clearly popularity and speculation on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has driven large swings in its value against traditional currencies, leading to accusations of a "hype bubble" and "tulip mania"[12].

Despite this interest, Bitcoin remains of limited utility as a transaction medium. Although it is accepted within the blockchain industry, and by a tiny minority of retailers, using Bitcoin for payment is largely inconvenient and unintuitive. Other cryptocurrencies typically each have their own wallets, apps or arrangements. In terms of the consumer and business "utility banking", cryptocurrencies are challenging to manage and use, and do not yet offer the full range of services we are used to receiving from banks. Moreover, increased popularity and speculation has driven much higher transaction fees, and accusations that its consensus algorithm, running on computers around the globe, incurs excessive electricity costs and consequent emissions. These complications have so far prevented widespread popular adoption beyond the growing Bitcoin/blockchain community.

However, across governments, the third sector and thought leaders, there is enthusiasm around the role of blockchain in enabling alternative "currencies" in the wider sense (i.e. to include local currencies, time banks and token and incentive schemes, and alternative payment systems), in growing economic activity. Several have been proposed in Scotland, including proposals such as "ScotPound" and "ScotPay" (New Economics Foundation, 2015), the Glasgow Pound and People's Bank of Govanhill, citing established examples such as the Bristol Pound.

One interesting local case study which enjoys popular support is the ScotCoin project. ScotCoin originated in 2015 as an "alternative national currency" implemented as an extension of Bitcoin[13]. Today the currency trades on popular cryptocurrency exchanges and is accepted for payment at a handful of businesses. A Community Interest Company (CIC) markets ScotCoin and holds its unissued supply of cryptocurrency. We understand that the remainder is held by existing consumers and individuals or businesses involved in its developing ecosystem. In 2018 the project is revising its technology platform to address currency volatility, regulatory concerns, and transaction costs noted above.

The writers of this report have no insight into ScotCoin project governance nor current distribution of cryptocurrency ownership, but would observe that the project's leaders have articulated community benefit goals, and that the IP underpinning the ScotCoin cryptocurrency has been offered free of charge to the Scottish Government.

5.5 Tokens

Distribute Ledger Technology's utility in enabling digital currency through cryptocurrency is well known.

This utility is based on characteristics which make a digital asset or token unique, enforce rules around its ownership (e.g. the "double spend" problem in Bitcoin), and make the token programmable and able to be automated.

Beyond digital currency such tokens are useful wherever a digital asset, or phyisical asset which has been '"tokenised", moves between parties.

Figure 5-1 below summarises three overlapping forms of token:

Figure 5-1 Forms of tokens

Figure 5-1 Forms of tokens

In Financial Services, organisations have undertaken much DLT innovation work around tokenised securities. In such schemes financial products, such as ownership of equities, debt and real estate, are represented as unique digital tokens.

This reduces transaction friction in the complex supply chain of these assets, reducing costs, paperwork, and improving transparency. Many feel this will bring productivity to markets. The consensus view is that increased transparency and automation will significantly change the role of intermediary actors and market makers in this financial services supply chain.

In such schemes, where a market and its transactions are represented entirely in the digital realm, Smart Contracts—or programs which trigger when conditions are met to complete a transaction—engender further automation and trust that binding agreements will be fulfilled by all parties.

A detailed exposition of the Financial Services industry use of DLT is beyond the scope of this report.

However, Utility Tokens may be more broadly relevant to the delivery of Public Services—representing services which may be granted to, or purchased by, citizens and consumers to create a liquid and efficient market for that service.

Utility tokens' objectives may be a "public good", societal change, or an open-source software project. Such schemes take advantage of peer to peer incentives and market economics to achieve their objective.

The Ethereum network, usually the No.2 crypto asset by market value, is powered by the Ether utility token. The token is required by anyone wishing to execute transactions on the Ethereum network.

Ayr-based Maidsafe is a commercial company whose objective is to create a "sharing economy" for computing storage and compute power. Their MaidsafeCoin token is granted to anyone who supplies computing power and is purchased by anyone who needs access to computing power.

Moving away from the technology and blockchain engineering space, one well-publicised scheme since 2012 is New York's Brooklyn Microgrid whose aim is to support local distributed generation and use of clean energy. Peer to peer transactions between generator and consumer are managed with a smartphone app underpinned by blockchain, to create a "virtual" microgrid. In 2017 several global energy utilities, including Po are in trials to identify the challenges and benefits of P2P energy trading across regulated power networks.

The positive economic impact of conventional "collaborative economy" platforms such as Uber and Airbnb were noted by the Scottish Expert Advisory Panel on the Collaborative Economy (Scottish Government, 2017). Such platforms are run by organisations which aggregate the resources of "the crowd", to provide their service. Criticisms that such "gig economy" operators do not distribute their value equably are well documented, and the Scottish Government report noted their challenges in enabling "fair work, social value and inclusive economic growth".

Distributed Ledgers are held by some to be an enabler for such "sharing economy" or collaborative models, where the crowd can be both a contributor and shareholder. This is summarised by the Harvard Business Review (Filippi, 2017) which positions distributed, bottom-up co-operative crowdsourcing alternatives to eBay, Amazon, Uber and Facebook, which make use of blockchain technology to facilitate decentralised platforms which run for the benefit of their members.

As of beginning 2018 there are several such platforms operating, such as OpenBazaar (eBay, Amazon), ArcadeCity (Uber), and several Facebook alternative social platforms such as Steemit. However, their impact and user base are so far minor compared to conventional commercial collaborative platforms.

Scottish public sector collaborative models, enabled by Distributed Ledger, might contribute to improved public services by taking advantage of the best of the "gig economy" (or flexible labour) whilst delivering fair work and value to participants.

This could, for example, be considered in areas such as the provision of childcare, where this requires an effective collaboration between parents/ guardians, local authorities and 3rd party providers.

5.6 A Note on ICOs

An Initial Cryptocurrency Offering, or Initial Coin Offering, is a fundraising process whereby projects sell new cryptographic tokens in exchange for established cryptocurrency like Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Most ICOs work by having investors send funds to a "smart contract" that distributes an equivalent value in a new token at a later point in time. ICOs can be considered a parallel of the Initial Public Offering (IPO) where investors purchase new shares in a company.

Though their history dates to 2013, in 2017 ICOs became a big part of the blockchain and venture capital industries. Although estimates vary, it seems that around $4Billion was raised globally in 2017, with half in Europe, and nearly $1Billion attributed to the Swiss town of Zug.

Increasingly financial regulators view ICOs as unregulated securities allowing the raising of unjustified capital. Some have started to react to the phenomenon, with the UK FCA, Germany's BaFin issuing guidance, the Japanese FSA moving to accommodate ICOs within their regulatory framework, and Chinese government administrations ruling them an illegal fundraising activity. With some evidence of fraud and bogus ICOs, Lord Holmes observed that "Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) are controversial and risk reputational damage to DLT" (Richmond, 2017). This is because ICOs often raise money before any product or even business plan has been developed, sometimes raising $250M in a few hours, with no apparent governance.

However, many argue it is an innovative crowdfunded alternative to venture funding for start-up businesses, foundational technical projects operating at the blockchain protocol level, and non-commercial projects which enable mass investment or incentivisation in a project which has a "common good" objective.

Certainly, when viewed as an investment proposition, ICOs should be viewed as highly speculative and risky, with limited consumer protection in most jurisdictions.

5.7 Online Voting

In online voting schemes, online means are used to support those tasks involved in casting and counting votes, usually dispensing with a traditional ballot paper[14].

Both online and traditional voting systems must meet the requirements of being secure (so it can't be tampered with), anonymous (so a vote cast can't be tracked back to the individual) and verifiable (so it can be shown that one person cast only one vote).

Online voting, or Internet voting, or iVoting, has been proposed as means to address several issues with elections. It can increase convenience to address flagging levels of electoral participation in the smartphone age, improve the efficiency of remote voting scenarios by replacing postal ballots, and in the case of public elections reduce disruption of closure of schools and libraries for polling stations.

Many also believe that it can improve the security and transparency of voting systems which are dependent on paper ballots tipped out onto a table and counted by hand. However, others maintain a conflicting viewpoint that online voting is insecure, open to hacking and threats of voter intimidation.

This report does not attempt to argue the case for online voting systems. Rather it discusses in brief where there may be a place for DLT in an online voting scheme in Scotland, in terms of its value in the key qualities of "secure, anonymous and verifiable".

The Estonian i-Voting system is distinguished in its long-standing (since 2005) and high participation in binding elections (with 31% of the vote case online in the last national parliamentary election in 2015). In the Estonian system citizens can cast votes online using a PC or smartphone leveraging the national ID card infrastructure. This card infrastructure has already addressed issues important in the election: voter eligibility, and the distribution of signing and encryption keys. Citizens may repeatedly re-vote during the voting period with their last vote before the deadline counted. Finally, any paper ballot submitted overrides any internet vote that has been cast. The Estonian system makes use of an election committee encryption key, and personal voter signing keys and, to the best of our knowledge, makes no use of DLT. This system has been criticised, specifically at 2013 municipal elections where election observers identified that officials failed to observe appropriate procedures required to protect keys PINS and passwords. We note that the company behind the current Estonian iVoting system, Cybernetica OÜ, is currently working on a next generation DLT based iVoting solution.

The Digital Strategy for Scotland (Scottish Government, 2017) committed to actions to re-design Scotland's digital Public Services. One of these is to "trial electronic voting solutions to increase democratic participation".

Throughout the research process, voting scenarios were raised as a potential DLT user case by interviewees. This included ideas relating to participatory budgeting and youth elections.

At the Scottish Government/Edinburgh University "Exploring Electronic Voting" event in November 2017, the academic attendees agreed that DLT should be a key component of future online voting solutions. Several blockchain enabled internet voting start-ups consulted with also concurred with this view.

If the Estonian system might be considered the foremost "tried and tested" internet voting scheme, what voting issues can DLT address to improve on its approach?

Firstly, before the actual casting of a vote, in the workflow of voter eligibility: an immutable and verifiable shared ledger can be used to bring benefits of improved transparency, convenience and integrity. DLT could bring increased transparency to the processes of voter and postal voter registration. This could make the registration process and checks demonstrably valid and compliant, to improve confidence in election outcomes. Further, some process steps such as change of address or death might be automated, and the identification of anomalies more obvious to maintain vigilance against electoral fraud. We note there are very few recorded instances of electoral fraud in Scotland.

The most obvious potential benefit is from the immutable characteristic of a blockchain—votes cast cannot be removed and so an individual voter can verify that his or her vote has been included in the final tally.

In the linearity of voting: In the "Exploring Online Voting" event, re-voting by casting another internet ballot, or casting a paper ballot, was seen as a desirable feature. DLT and blockchain's linear timestamping could be used to demonstrate the order in which events have taken place, preventing a possible attack vector where attackers could be retaining earlier events and replaying them closer to the election deadline.

To best support anonymity, cryptographic tools might be used as part of a DLT based voting scheme such that cast votes could be counted, without any privileged party having access to an individual's vote, i.e. the votes could be processed without election officials ever seeing the data. Such tools are recent innovations, and are the subject of much academic research and commercial innovation, but have thus far found few "engineered", tried and tested real world applications.

However, there is not yet consensus on how such a system should be designed and implemented. Blockchain voting technology start-ups use many different approaches and platforms. With public blockchain platforms questions remain of their ultimate control in terms of individual core developers and mining consortia, and how this might be leveraged to impact elections.

In common with commercial (non-DLT) iVoting solutions, not all of the technology involved is open to inspection and scrutiny—and citizens and election authorities may not be comfortable with a "trust us we're secure" approach.

Discussing the use of DLT in voting inspired considerable passion in the academic, blockchain, and political/policy sectors. Certain policy groups maintain deeply held views that technology has no role whatsoever in voting. Other political groups see it as a route to achieve a specific political objective. Members of the global blockchain community see it as the route to "fluid democracy", libertarianism and maximum representation. Clearly it is important that any steps towards iVoting in Scotland should be carried out in an open and verifiable manner. DLT could underpin a collaborative and transparent approach which could satisfy or mitigate the resistance of highly vocal groups.

It is possible to use DLT to better support secure, transparent electoral process, whilst preserving voter privacy. Such systems seem likely to form the basis of the next generation of iVoting systems to deliver improved secure, anonymous and verifiable qualities compared to the current generation of commercial iVoting solutions.

A specific international discovery of DLT use in iVoting, could be explored in less critical scenarios such as community engagement.

For this study:

  • Election Unit representatives were interviewed.
  • The Scottish Government "Exploring Electronic Voting" event was participated in, which included academic, returning officer, and e-voting supplier communities.
  • Matthew Rice, Scotland Director of the Open Rights Group was interviewed.
  • The international landscape of blockchain technology as applied to voting was reviewed, including Switzerland's Boulé, Australia's MiVote, and US's FollowMyVote platforms.
  • Publicly available information on the Estonian internet voting system was examined.


Email: Alexander Holt