Benefits of Blockchain for Government Agencies


Kevin Leffew is a Solution Specialist for Microsoft for US SLG with a specialization in Blockchain and the Modern Workplace.  You can find him writing about all things related to blockchain, distributed systems, and digital identity on his blog (https://medium.com/@kleffew) and on Twitter @kleffew94


In today's rapidly modernizing economy, the digital transformation of government organizations is absolutely key for improving efficiency and sustaining the overall health of each agency. At Microsoft, we view digital transformation strategy as the core driver in improvements to productivity, efficiency, and collaboration within government agencies.

When creating a roadmap for digital transformation it is important to understand that the process for developing a successful strategy is not "one-size-fits-all".  Rather, it involves a mesh of technology solutions which are highly dependent on each agency's present goals, active responsibilities, and roadmap vision. For agencies dealing with public records, mission-critical files, or otherwise vulnerable data - blockchain offers a solution which can cryptographically prove the authenticity and integrity of digital assets.

The inclusion of blockchain-based technology solutions for government agencies will drive an increase in efficiency for two prominent solution areas - (1) Strengthening the security of data hosted by government agencies; and (2) laying the foundation for a more trusted relationship between government and citizens.

At a high level, blockchains allow for the encrypted recording of a transaction or event via a distributed ledger -- which promises to vastly improve security while also reducing the cost and complexity of getting things done.

Notably, blockchains are not general-purpose databases, and should not be used to store files, but rather digital thumbprints - which are a concatenation of important cryptographic data-points like a filehash, timestamp, and signature of the creator – creating an important attestation which establishes the foundation for non-repudiation by verifying the authorship, integrity, and authenticity of file. 

This proof is valuable in a wide range of government activities - especially when used in conjunction with sensor technologies driven by adoption of Cloud, IoT, and Confidential Computing. (Achieved through secure enclaves like Intel SGX and Windows VSM) 

For example, when blockchain solutions are implemented in combination with Confidential Computing solutions, the authenticity of data can be proven by employing a schema known as encryption-in-use. 

Given the many attack vectors associated with IoT Computing, we may imagine scenarios where a cryptographically verifiable attestation adds an essential layer of security to the sensor data produced by police-body cam recordings, drone footage, public transportation telemetry, as well other IoT solution areas.

In these IoT scenarios, an enclave would generate a signed fingerprint of the recording, commit it to the blockchain as a timestamp, and push the full recording to an off-chain database like Azure SQL Database or Azure Cosmos DB – where the data is encrypted both at-rest and in-transit. 

Blockchain solutions in Azure Government provides a means for proving the integrity of public data held in registries, enabling a more secure public infrastructure where citizens and agencies may be fully certain of both the integrity and authenticity for public data records like land registries, birth certificates, or court-orders.

For example, to ensure integrity against attacks from external threats (like foreign hackers) or internal threats (like malicious employees), agencies may find it valuable to have their citizens’ property rights stored on a blockchain.  In this case, leveraging blockchain solutions may be used to eliminate security threats associated with the corruption of public record data.

Blockchain Solutions in Azure Government provide the means for government agencies to improve their security practices, increase transparency, and better adhere to regulatory compliance.  

Through the Azure GovCloud Portal, you can provision a fully-configured blockchain network in minutes, using Microsoft Azure compute, networking, and storage services to configure a globally redundant network topology.  There are no incremental charges for the solution template itself, and you are only charged for the underlying infrastructure resources consumed, such as compute, storage, and networking.  

Rather than spending hours building out and configuring the infrastructure layer, the Azure Government Marketplace Templates automates these time-consuming pieces and enables blockchain engineers to deploy in minutes – allowing you to focus on building out the scenarios and smart-contract applications.  Developers are able to easily spin up a multi-node ledger framework, using frameworks like Hyperledger Fabric, Ethereum, Quorum, and Corda.


We’ll be releasing more information on GovCloud support for upcoming Blockchain Solution Areas soon, so stay tuned to the Azure Government Blog for more information on all things blockchain.


 

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