Governments around the world are looking into the adoption of blockchain, the online, distributed database which forms the basis of bitcoin, said to be the first decentralised digital currency.
Millions of people are now using bitcoin for online, peer-to-peer transactions, and an increasing number of merchants have been accepting it as payment for goods and services.
The growing popularity of the digital currency has led traditional banks in Europe to speculate that blockchain could save their operations billions of dollars a year.
However, not everyone is converted, with many banks and governments warning that anyone using blockchain and bitcoin does so at his or her own risk.
Traditional currencies are technically backed by the governmental institutions, such as the relevant country’s central bank, which acts the guarantor of the value of the currency the nation issues.
No such infrastructure exists for blockchain or bitcoin, which relies on its supposed technological security for its guarantees.
Nonetheless, governments are having to turn their attention to the digital currency to see what it’s worth, and whether it can be used.
In the US, the National Science Foundation is funding research to establish whether blockchain technology can improve the resilience of digital infrastructure.
The NSF is looking to fund research projects worth around $8.5 million, according to a report on CoinDesk.com, which notes that the central US government is also looking to fund similar research projects.
The US government’s Departments of Health, Homeland Security, and Defense are all looking into the possible applications of blockchain technology, and by extension, bitcoin.
In Japan, too, there is money being made available to research programmes which aim to establish the advantages or otherwise of blockchain.
“2017 is going to be the year when operationalizing of blockchain really starts to move from the hype and the headlines to a real business solution for early adopters in many industries,” says Laura Crozier, global industry director at Software AG, in comments reported on Pymnts.com.
And Paul Brody, blockchain leader at EY Global Innovation, says: “Blockchains and federal, state and local government are a great fit. The US tradition of open and accountable government goes nicely with blockchain technology.”
Moreover, a globally co-ordinated series of blockchain events is kicking off in the coming days under the banner of Blockchain Week, with the first events in London acting as forerunners to the many Blockchain Expo events, scheduled for later in the year.
Co-located with IoT Tech Expo Global, Blockchain Expo will showcase the latest developments in the blockchain sector, in both emerging and more established markets.
The events will look at a variety of platforms and services from startups to cloud providers, including developer networks, applications and APIs as well as the impact on legal, finance and government sectors with smart contracts.
They will also focus on the evolution of blockchain and its applications, exploring the many launches and trials being conducted, the different uses of blockchain technology in these verticals, and the “vast opportunities” in these sectors.