The Core of Government Blockchain & 4 Major Challenges

The state of Illinois is pioneering government blockchain, but the efforts reveal the challenges that lay ahead before the technology changes the way governments operate and services are delivered.

The Illinois Blockchain Initiative, which is testing several use cases of government blockchain, announced last year it was contracting with Evernym to launch a birth registration pilot. It's part of the state's effort to build a "hyperconnected government," and identity is at the core of integrating government services.

"Government has an important role to play in the development of any digital identity ecosystem. Identity is not only foundational to nearly every government service, but is the basis for trust and legitimacy in the public sector," according to the Initiative's report released in January.

The Initiative announced in 2017 it would potentially pilot the following use cases, according to a LinkedIn post by Illinois Blockchain Task Force member Marian Cook, a digital transformation consultant:

  • Vital records
  • Healthcare provider registries
  • Academic credentials
  • Property deed records
  • Energy credits

"Blockchain and [Distributed Ledger Technologies] will be used to connect disparate entities within and across regional, municipal and state entities around citizens, businesses and assets," Cook wrote.

How Government Blockchain Works

According to the Initiative's Medium post, the developing framework cryptographically assigns identity attributes -- like name, date of birth and blood type -- to create what are known as “verifiable claims.” The permissions to view or share the verifiable claims are stored on the blockchain ledger.

Both businesses and governments could authenticate identity by requesting encrypted access to these verifiable claims. That means the need for additional identity databases would fall away.

This digital identity system is extensible, inter-operable and at the same time ensures the utmost security, privacy and user-agency,” said Cab Morris, the Initiative's former blockchain strategy lead.

According to the Initiative, this citizen-centric digital identity model is secure because it's components are divided -- living in the cloud, on citizen devices and in the ledgers:

"Protecting personal data in this manner makes it increasingly difficult and economically disadvantageous to hack because each citizen’s data stored in encrypted in the cloud with the only keys to unlock the data stored on each citizen’s personal device. An attack on this model would require hackers to simultaneously gain access to person data in the cloud, blockchain and a majority of the citizen’s devices."

4 Challenges to Government Blockchain

According to State Tech, after reviewing the Initiative report, Illinois' blockchain task force revealed the following challenges to government blockchain:

  1. Blockchain requires lots of energy to operate
  2. Government blockchain networks could becomes so large they are no longer cost-effective
  3. Interoperability would require standardization of blockchain technologies
  4. Private or illegal information can't be removed

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