One of Blockchain’s key selling points is its interoperability: it is able to fully service data and encrypted information coming from parallel organizations or coming from other Blockchain-enabled systems. As the Blockchain movement is piloted by the many use cases, how real is the possibility of Blockchain disavowing interoperability by being a self-contained silo that limits processing of information within its native ecosystem?
Blockchain’s “break out” or “break in” expansion was the hot topic of discussion during the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council’s Blockchain Forum. Former CIO Tony Scott believes that agencies in the near future will leverage Blockchain’s capabilities in improving service delivery rates, but his outright concern is that Blockchain for proprietary use by each agency will create barriers to interoperability.
Scott was quoted in the forum: “While there could be tens of thousands, if not more, of really interesting use cases for Blockchain in the federal government, probably the wrong thing to do is for there to be 10,000 or more individual siloed, narrow permutations of the technology,” Scott said as quoted by fedscoop.
Tony Scott has a very valid concern and it is a fundamental aspect in sculpting Blockchain’s foundational role in linking agencies within the near future. In addressing Scott’s point, we must examine Blockchain’s design through its aspiration. Blockchain, when first envisioned as a platform for trading, servicing information and self-governing systems, had interoperability well in mind in order to allow it to communicate well with other Blockchain hybrids. As hybrid Blockchain systems are defined and designed for agency or organization us, its specific functions on distributed ledger, cryptography and user-definitions are programmed for agency requirements, interoperability is determined during the design phase.
Blockchain was designed within the concept of interoperability for agency to agency, but when it comes to governance, administration could limit its grounds for interoperability. Instead, an agency, if it chooses, can design a closed Blockchain system that processes only internal information.
Decentralized Applications or DAPPS
Blockchain’s interoperability is not fully determined in its architecture. In order for it to function across several geographies and organizations, the requirement for interoperability also lies in the design of the decentralized applications that engages mainly the users. Through intermediary programming such as APIs, secondary services and network applications, Blockchain allows interoperability by allowing collaborated processing upon the definition of identity, data sharing and financial transactions.
Mr. Tony Scott stated the importance of defining informational needs, utility of information and protocols are needed to define Blockchain’s interoperability across agencies.
“The real benefit of this, I think, is in common use across multiple agencies around common needs,” Scott was quoted in the forum. “The U.S. government could declare certain things as common-use utilities. Why not have an auction and say ‘Who wants to bid on an own Blockchain for identity or Blockchain for some other set of common uses?’ And [then] license or auction off that use case to companies that are willing to invest in the technology, platform or common layer that multiple agencies could take advantage of.”
Blockchain’s strength is in the level of collaboration. It is the same reason why many consortia were formed in order to design a fully-interoperable Blockchain across industries by designing both data and distributed use across participating shareholders.
In preventing a siloed Blockchain ecosystem future, Dcode founder and CEO Meagan Metzger stated that agencies should look at the Blockchain use cases that were rolled out to meet collaboration needs.
“I think there is some really strong use for it, I just think it’s a way off,” she said. “It’s definitely something to be very cognizant of, that we don’t want siloed Blockchains, but some of the best use cases for Blockchain are going to be the ones that are inherently trying to take down silos,” Megan Metzger was quoted by fedscoop.
Further, Metzger encouraged agencies to work together in defining a workable Blockchain concept that operates within their ideal informational requirements in collaboration.
“Allowing agencies to participate in blockchain can allow them to more easily exchange information with each other,” she said. “There are some really interesting applications for some shared service-like [solution] when it comes to public-facing services, added Metzger.
As early as today, Metzger said that agencies need to work together in defining Blockchain basing on their common needs for a platform as a way to fully harness Blockchain’s capability as early as its inception.
Defining a Blockchain for collaborative use is far more complex than designing a Blockchain for single organizational use. The challenge is the engagement and strength of collaboration within each participant in the goal of designing a Blockchain. The consortia model is ideal in both the planning stage and the later deployment stages. Blockchain platforms such as B3i and Hyperledger were designed for maximized interoperability within industry use.
Blockchain’s interoperability based on the discussions on American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council’s Blockchain also reflects the state of which several organizations are at cross-roads when it comes to defining Blockchain. Are they designing a Blockchain for only internal use or are they concept proofing a Blockchain that is designed to help solve the problems of their industry? It Is a fundamental question that needs to be answered as today’s most successful Blockchain use cases were designed for networked use across large banking organizations, global shipping and global insurance.