Tag Archives: blockchain

One of the most respected financial journals is Investors Business Daily (IBD). www.investors.com   I have read this off-and-on for ten years or so, and they justifiably maintain a top rating for analysis of markets (financial, stocks, mutual funds and commodities).  The serious financial adviser and stock-selection practitioner consults this newspaper (actually, website) daily.

When IBD whispers… I try to listen.  Their recent headline article (week of July 31, 2017) provided an analysis of the payment processing industry and its leaders in North America.  The mega trend worth paying attention to… is this:

  • Payment processing is increasingly convenient, competitive and frictionless;
  • Multi-billion-dollar players continue to innovate and reshape offerings for consumers;
  • Be on the lookout for changes as these mega companies (Amazon, VISA, PayPal, etc.) look for marketplace advantages;
  • Consumers are the beneficiaries as this market evolves.
  • There is vast opportunity and this exists at multiple levels.

This is interesting to the GBA when you consider an estimated 260,000 US Federal employees spend roughly US$19B annually, according to the Daily Caller newspaper.  Where it gets even more interesting is that a major portion of this is not very well accounted for or audited.  Hmmmmm….

“Hey, General Services Administration… would you like to create a secure audit trail for each of those 19 billion dollars so Americans can rest assured that our tax dollars are being well spent?  Why not a blockchain-based federal credit card?”

 

This does not have to be a can of worms.  At a high level, it is strait forward:  public monies are auditable via a blockchain transaction network that does not belong to the proprietary data centers of VISA or MasterCard, etc. and can be scrutinized by those who have authorization to know about the transactions… such as inspectors general (IG), or an agency ombudsmen.

Am I asking for the moon here?  I don’t think so.  Who would have thought, just ten years ago, you could stream virtually any sporting event to your smart phone and conduct any conceivable financial transaction from the middle of a field in most rural locations in North America?   And this is true to an even greater extend in other portions of the globe.  The citizens of Africa know this well.  The ability to bring about this kind of change exists in the will to do so.  The technology is here.  Yes, it takes time to permeate but the change is happening.

 

Ran into Stacy B. at Cogent Law Group (Washington DC) (http://www.cogentlaw.co/ ) recently and we were wondering if government contracts would be a reasonable use case for applying blockchain.

Let’s see…

  • Voluntary and distributed electronic participants … check.
  • Transfer of some sort of high value assets, ownership, or monetary units … check.
  • A process intensive flow of data (back and forth) that must have an audit trail … check.
  • Encryption desired… check.
  • Identity of participants matters to the transaction…check.
  • Eventual placement of contractual award of some sort with deliverables fully tracked through a detailed life cycle… check.

Yes… this is a fantastic use case.  In fact, Cogent Law Group, as a member of GBA will be leading our working group that tackles this topic.

For a full discussion on this, browse here:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/government-contracting-community-ready-next-tech-stacey

If you’d enjoy getting involved (i.e., contribute to the working group), please message [email protected]

 

Question:  what are the top criteria for a blockchain implementation—or smart contact that could serve the contracting officers in a governmental organization?  Please comment below.

What do beer, blockchain and Boulder (Colorado) …all have in common?  Well, this past Thursday, Congressman Jared Polis (Democrat), of Colorado’s 2nd District, spent some valuable time with us at a biergarten in his home district, discussing blockchain.  As host, I was able to lead a discussion, and decided to focus my questions on broader issues and keep the discussion leaning towards the high-level themes.

      

This event is important for several reasons.  First, getting forty-five minutes of a Congressman’s time and attention, anywhere, is a huge statement of what’s important to this particular legislator.   As co-founder of the Congressional Blockchain Caucus, back in 2016, it was important then and must still be now.  Second, I thought his answers to the questions and issues were well rounded.  Given his entrepreneurial and technology background, he sees the potential of blockchain and the list of solutions that it could well support.  Third, he wants bipartisan support and mentioned his colleague David Schweikert from Arizona’s 6th district, a Republican, as co-chair of the Blockchain Caucus.  Fourth, among other things, he stated that he’s committed to staying current and informed on the technology’s progress especially as it becomes a potential solution for stymied bureaucracy across the federal agency portfolio.  If elected governor of Colorado, I expect he will take this interest to Denver (i.e., Colorado’s capital) in 2018.

We at the Government Blockchain Association were thrilled to support this kind of leadership as it pertains to using this technology for a better government; the fact that he was willing to have the discussion over beer tells me that he does not take himself too seriously.  This is a good sign for a Congressman!  Also discussed were the limits of what Congress can do at the agency level, and the fact that funding packages and other legislation typically does not reach into agencies and direct chief information officers (CIOs) to use one particular technology over another.  However, if—as a community, we see things headed in the wrong direction, we have a friend in the Blockchain Caucus and Jared Polis.  He has a friend in the GBA including our 760+ members.  Be on the lookout for other GBA progress in talking with national leadership related to blockchain.

Thank you to Congressman Polis’ staff for working with us on the details and Kevin Owocki (https://twitter.com/owocki ) for video capture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUgDpcmTdCA&t=2s

Clifford May is a commentator and political analyst; he is not a blockchain technologist, but he may have discovered a great application for this new technology.  In his May 17th article (Washington Times) he suggested that the challenge associated with a foreign national/worker program, that allows non-citizens to come to the United States and work … may not be that difficult to solve.  Of course, the challenge is much more than creating a list (or centralized database) and matching foreign workers to a job, and the original idea was not his own—it was credited back to a ranch owner/operator who desperately needed reliable ranch workers.

Government at work

My idea is to use a chain of linked data (via a permissioned blockchain) as the primary core of the program vice a chain-linked fence; this solution has characteristics of a perfect blockchain use-case scenario.  Let’s call it the Guest Worker Enablement Blockchain, or GWEB.   Consider that…

  1. Identity of a worker is a major part of the use case;
  2. Their identity could be tied to a red ID card, with the convenience of a credit card; (see article);
  3. This will be issued by the US Federal Government;
  4. It will be used at various and sundry border crossing locations;
  5. It would be hacker proof, or as secure as distributed ledger technology can be;
  6. Once a worker has been granted “worker status” he or she would need to be able to prove this if his card is lost, stolen or challenged, by simply having the local authority check the applicable blockchain.
  7. Border crossing is already slow; any solution here would need high speed networking;
  8. The Customs and Immigration Service in the US is in sore need for modernization with a technology based solution that is both simple and elegant.
  9. The card does not even need to be used if the foreign worker has a smart phone and the correct app downloaded from the “DHS App Store”.
  10. Using smart contracts and other blockchain-based technology, each worker’s profile would trigger the correct downstream actions and reactions with regard to monitoring the program and even charging fees to applicable intermediaries and those businesses which leverage the program.

What do you think?  Why is this good or not so good?

Government adoption of cutting-edge technologies (such as blockchain) is sometimes oxymoronic; I can recall times in my own career when as soon as a federal IT program was declared “finished” it was also declared “legacy”.  Ouch.   Estonia, however, although the size of only one North Americna large city, say…about the size of Dallas, Texas, can still show us how to git ‘r done, in spite of their relatively small population:

http://fortune.com/2017/04/27/estonia-digital-life-tech-startups/

This article gives some great ideas; the progress made in Estonia should rightly earn their national government some top credibility.  Most importantly, they are using blockchain in ways that can be scaled to citizen populations of much larger sizes. This is key for the rest of us and I believe we can learn from their deployments, over the coming months.

Also, consider that in 2014, about one third of the US federal payroll would become eligible for retirement before the end of 2017.  One may wonder how many of these retirements may not be re-filled.  This means that at least the US federal government (among others, no doubt) will need to do “more with less”… perhaps much more.

Blockchain is perfectly fit for this task.

 

Introduction

This posting is for those outside of government organizations as well as those who are on the inside, and who desire to be a change agent.  The role of driving change and exerting leadership (as anyone who has tried it can attest) is only for the brave-hearted and thick-skinned.  These courageous individuals often are the first to take-on direct fire from an outside enemy and even “friendly fire” from others who should be assisting them.

We all know that government organizations are often the slowest of entities to adopt change; however, there is good news: citizens across the world are going to demand… and essentially force change as the digital clock keeps ticking.  When one considers that there are almost as many cell phone subscriptions (6.8 billion) as there are people on this earth (seven billion), it is not difficult to imagine a pent-up demand for government services that are more convenient, less expensive, faster and more secure.  Two of the drivers behind this are that machines talking to machines like never before in the history of mankind (e.g., the Internet of Things (IoT)), and the younger generation can and often do adopt these new digital appliances very rapidly.

Blockchain does—in fact, have much to offer.  But this kind of change will take time because blockchain is essentially an infrastructure level system.  This was pointed out by a Jan-Feb. (2017) edition of Harvard Business Review article; Iansiti and Lakhani opine that

“Blockchain is not a “disruptive” technology, which can attack a traditional business model with a lower-cost solution and overtake incumbent firms quickly.  Blockchain is a foundational technology: it has the potential to create new foundations for our economic and social systems.”

Much like it took the national and international telecom network providers four generations of network infrastructure in order to offer fiber-to-the-home and streaming video to the smartphone, it will take time for government entities to swap out the 1980s era software and networks (or pen and ink processes still used in some government agencies) and replace them with a blockchain centric one.

This is especially true for Western nations; it’s not too much of a risk to predict that nations where there were not deep investments made in telecom and networking infrastructure will actually leap frog over the United States and others, by continuing to erect cell towers and be able to adopt blockchain infrastructure very rapidly.

I prefer to keep a balanced view by reminding folks that many who are in the role of forecasting business and society trends, often overestimate what can happen in two years and underestimate what can happen in ten (attributed to Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft).

Thus, the rational posture is to acknowledge the journey and its challenges, while focusing on the desire of citizens to readily adopt almost any change that will improve their quality of life, even in small ways.  This trait is basic to human nature and it is undoubtedly on the side of blockchain.

So, there is no time like the present!  Why not begin now, informing your government officials at the local, state/provincial and federal level, that today is the best time to adopt positive solutions that improve your quality of life?

Let’s Get Started

Step 1 – Find a motivation for yourself that is both inspiring and “others-centric”.

It takes courage to want to help others to affect even a minor change, let alone to wade into unfamiliar waters where sharks, snakes, and other sharp objects may lurk.  However, change is not only necessary, it is imperative to survival—even for government entities!  Nothing of consequence in our world ever remains static, if for no other reason that humans are constantly seeking new experiences, efficiencies and benefits and their expectations getting higher each year.  Therefore, you and I as leaders must adopt an attitude of “I am here to help guide others into the future… and support the inevitable”.    You and I need to find a motivation that is “for the benefits of others, not ourselves”.

In America, we use the term “motherhood and apple pie” to refer to our American way of life and the value system that is now aproximately 200 years old (i.e., family, freedom, prosperity, quality of life, leisure time, etc.).   However, no matter where you live on Earth, there is plenty of motivation to improve the lives of citizens–even at very basic levels.  Let this be your motivation when selling blockchain.  Serving others is ultimately why we get out of bed in the morning.

Part 2 – coming soon.