Why Blockchain Promises More Than Bitcoin for Feds

Presented by FedTech FedTech's logo

Agencies may use the shared ledger technology to save time, improve efficiency and even strengthen security.

Most people associate the virtual shared ledger known as blockchain with bitcoin, a trendy digital currency built on the technology. Federal agencies, however, are thinking about blockchain applications that have nothing to do with trading money.

Those in the federal sector who monitor emerging innovations believe blockchain could revolutionize the way the government operates in nearly every arena, including health information, federal grants, personnel files, procurement and identification.

“There is a high degree of interest across the U.S. government,” says Tomicah Tillemann, who co-founded the Blockchain Trust Accelerator, a partnership of government, industry and investors trying to encourage blockchain development. “But there’s less familiarity with the technology among policymakers.”

Blockchain is an architecture that records transactions on a distributed public ledger. These transactions can be the exchange of documents, information or data.

There is no central location for these records — they reside on every computer (or “node”) engaged in the system. The decentralized structure makes it more difficult to tamper with information; if one participant in the chain alters a record, everyone else in the chain can immediately see.

The transparency of the system makes it more secure, since all actions are visible to everyone. Further, the fact that everyone on the chain can see changes and updates within seconds speeds up processes and cuts costs. Fewer intermediaries are involved in the process, and there’s less duplication of effort.

HHS, State Department Explore Blackchain Use Cases

Federal agencies are fascinated by the possibilities of improving the way they currently handle operations and paperwork, but know that this concept is still in its early phases.

“We still need a lot of information about how it’s going to be done,” says Debbie Bucci, lead IT architect in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT in the Department of Health and Human Services.

To get that grounding, her office issued a challenge two years ago requesting white papers on health-related blockchain proposals and received 77 submissions. The 15 winning ideas, whose creators won cash prizes, included using blockchain to verify Medicaid eligibility; to allow patients to easily transfer medical records among providers; and to make the insurance claims process more transparent.

Bucci’s office is also monitoring the progress of an Illinois pilot program that would create a blockchain-based registry to share medical credentials and license information across states or within the state.

The State Department is also showing interest. In October, its Blockchain@State working group gathered experts from nongovernmental organizations, tech incubators, universities, the private sector and global initiatives such as the World Bank and World Food Program for a forum on the topic.

We really see that as the beginning of our exploratory phase,” says Silvana Rodriguez, an adviser in the department’s Office of Global Partnerships.

Asset tracking is a key area of interest, Rodriguez says. The Government Accountability Office audited federal spending in fiscal 2016 and issued findings in January 2017 that the government had made more than $144 billion in improper payments, mostly because of administrative errors and insufficient documentation. Blockchain would improve transparency, security and efficiency, Tillemann says.

From the State Department’s perspective, blockchain could strengthen the supply chain oversight, protecting shipments to overseas embassies and combating counterfeit goods, Rodriguez says. It could also safeguard and speed up payment of U.S. aid to foreign countries and cut the risk of election fraud.

Public trust in institutions from government to the banking system has plummeted, which is “one of the most critical problems of our time,” Tillemann says.

With blockchain, Tillemann says, people wouldn’t need to have faith in one another — only in the technology.

This content is made possible by FedTech. The editorial staff of Nextgov was not involved in its preparation.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.