Ruli Pennington - Talking Local Government podcast producer @CLGdotPOD executive producer @CLGdotTV. Passionate about better public services, devolution, chess, malt whisky, women's football.


What is blockchain and why is it so important?


© CLGdotTV 2018

George Rhodes of KPSN and Kent Connects & Jane Hancer of CC2i talk to Joe Tibbetts about blockchain in local public services

Once upon a time all the transactions that run our lives were recorded in enormous books, ledgers, by people who made written notes of the transactions so that when needed it was possible to find a record of what we had done and what we had agreed to do.

Now, more and more, our lives are run via digital transactions. Not just the sort of digital transaction where we buy stuff on-line but transactions between us and our doctor, between us and our lawyer or accountant, the tax office, our insurers, our council, our government, our bank, our rubbish collector, and all those who enforce regulations like traffic wardens and the police and the other blue light services and our social networks, and even our family, for what else are wills and birth certificates and deeds of house ownership if not recorded transactions and these transactions are increasingly taking place in the digital space.

So now we have digital ledgers to record these digital transactions. Our bank keeps a digital ledger, our doctor keeps another, the people who sell us things keep digital ledgers of what we buy and how often, and so on over the horizon and into the future.

This is fine except for one thing the digital space is not secure and neither are the digital ledgers in which the digital transactions which make up our lives are recorded. We need secure digital platforms and we need them now.

In blockchain data and transactions are saved in a block. Every few minutes, all the recent transactions are noted, date and time stamped and stored in another block that is linked to the preceding block. This creates a chain. If you want to change or fiddle about with one piece of it you have to rewrite the entire history of that chain back to the dawn of time. This is difficult if not impossible.

Furthermore blockchain is held in a distributed ledger. Instead of one organisation or one individual holding and owning the data and the record of the transactions the blockchain is held by all who have access to it, it is literally everywhere and nowhere so there is no single database to hack, no one can control it, own it or profit by selling it or manipulating it. It lives out there in the network not on the servers of a single, powerful, institution. And we all can download it and run it on our own computer.

Now big organisations, including but not limited to banks and governments and bureaucracies, are building blockchains, revolutionising the ways that data, information and transactions are stored and operated. The result is faster, cheaper, more secure, transactions without centralised systems that can be attacked and fail.

A blockchain can be either public (for example in the case of a consultation gathering opinions) or private (for example in a procurement blockchain where only the members of the procurement process have access). And where access is restricted there can also be different levels of permissioned access for different types of users. Anyone with the right access keys can view it at any time and know that these are authenticated, trusted, transactions - between one and one or one and many or many and many - facilitated by mass collaboration and driven by the will and the interests of the group (society) not by businesses that are motivated by profit and bent upon increasing their reach and their control.

The internet of things and the smart cities built on that IoT will soon be sharing our data and our transactions, all to our advantage, protecting the environment and our health and making our lives better in a myriad ways big and small. Smart cities need the data from citizens and citizens need to trust the mechanisms that use their data and records their transactions.

Blockchain will profoundly affect the lives of all people. Consumers who want to know what they are eating, sole trader businesses reaching out to their local markets, those who want to be free of banks and banking, refugees who want to return home and claim the property or land they owned when they were forced to flee many years before, those who want to hold their political leaders to account. Someone on social media who wants to stay on social media without risking abuse or exploitation.

It is possible that soon our calendars will be divided into two epochs. BB and AB. Before Blockchain and After Blockchain. It’s that fundamental, that important, that significant

Joe Tibbetts May 2018

I have had help with this. Thank you to all those who have emailed their suggestions for improvements. More please to 


This content brought to you free of charge through the genrous support of Connected Local Government Live 2018


On 27th June sixty people, change leaders, will meet at 58 Victoria Embankment (the NESTA building) for ten, peer and expert-led sessions, looking forward to the next stage of the transformation of local government. And after the putting down of markers, the creative stimulation, the networking and the seeding of future collaborations the outcome will be ten CLGdotTV programmes made available on-demand in the following months with your voice on the sound track and your face on the marquee.

get heard, get seen, get smartbe one of #the60

Join Brett Leahy - Chief Planner at Milton Keynes Council David Wilde – Director dwilde consulting Hilary Simpson - Founder Sleuth Cooperative Ian Litton - Director Positive Attributes Jane Hancer – Director of innovation CC2i Lianne Viney - Product Director Kirklees BetterCare Marc Greenwood - Head of Business Systems Coventry City Council David Watts - Director of Adults Services City of Wolverhampton Council Mark Cridge - Chief Executive mySociety Susannah Goh founder Institute for Health and the Quality of Life Birmingham City University Mark Thompson - Strategy director Methods Group Martin Sadler - formerly director of ICT at Walsall Council Brad Smith - Web services manager Hertfordshire County Council Natasha Epstein - Contract Manager South London Waste Partnership Mark Nicholas - NHS Digital Joe Tibbetts Founder CLGdotTV Shane O'Neill – Chairman Elgin Vicky Sargent Better Connected & 43 more on June 27th



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