By Stephen Marshall, Financial Services Technology lead, Deloitte
With apologies to Benjamin Franklin, in today’s world, nothing can be said to be certain, except perhaps the blockchain. I’m sure that if he were still alive today, he would argue that this statement is an apt description of the inevitability of distributed ledger technology, if one were only to believe the hype currently surrounding it.
Some commentators have even suggested that the development of the blockchain is as important – and potentially as transformative – as the invention of the Internet. Little wonder then that businesses, regulators and governments are all now expending considerable effort to understand and experiment with blockchain-based applications.
But there’s something about death and taxes… and births and marriages, or television, car and house purchases, and myriad other disparate registration and licensing requirements placed upon us by the authorities that suggest we shouldn’t lose sight of the more individual, citizen-centric applications of the blockchain.
Wouldn’t it be fantastic to be the first person ‘married on the blockchain’? Or to be the baby whose birth certificate was timestamped and stored forever in an immutable distributed ledger?
Sometimes the complexity of a technology needs to be matched by the simplicity of its application. This is especially true with the blockchain because the functionality offered by peer-to-peer networks depends on the number of people – or organisations – engaged in them. And, although not everyone wants to be as revolutionary as the founders of the bitcoin blockchain, say, it is still vital to the long-term survival of the technology that individuals and not just businesses and governments want to get involved.
The key to more widespread citizen engagement in the blockchain, therefore, is simple use cases, where the benefits can be more easily perceived and returned to individuals. To achieve this, the organisations responsible for designing applications should perhaps approach their blockchain experiments from the end-user perspective – and consider the ways in which identity management, privacy, security, speed, efficiency and other benefits can be achieved.
What would you like to be able to do on the blockchain?