Blockchain technology’s popularity has grown in recent years to full buzzword status, but government agencies are fine-tuning their use cases for the technology and picking their blockchain projects wisely, said Mark Fisk, partner in IBM Digital for Global Business Services.

“It’s gotten a lot better over the last year. I was doing probably five blockchain 101 conversations a week. Now I’m doing five ‘well I think this use case might fit, can you come in and help me to understand why that would fit or why that would not fit.’ So, I think that part has changed,” said Fisk on Dec. 4 at IBM’s Serving Citizens Better through Digital Reinvention event.

However, the boom in blockchain interest does not mean every agency is jumping on board. And not every agency needs blockchain for the project they have in mind.

“I think it’s about one in 25 where you have a great use case, you have an agency that can really get value for a tactical problem, you have a business network that’s getting that overall value, and they’re willing to move forward and look into it,” he said.

For those looking into a blockchain project, Fisk identified key questions to answer.

“In that initial discussion, usually with the sponsor, you’re asking questions like, ‘would that business network participate? What is the friction point today – what information would they not share with you, that maybe if it was on a permissioned blockchain with selective data sharing with the network, they would participate? And then … if I’m in that third stage moving from to a prototype or proof of concept, how do you actually measure the success of that initiative?”

In the government realm, blockchain initiatives also need to overcome funding and regulatory hurdles.

“In government, I think it’s unique because there’s a unique perspective about how a government agency is going to be sponsoring this,” said Fisk. “I think the second piece is, quite frankly, initiatives like FedRAMP, HIPAA, other reasons why maybe, as I start this project, I need to start it within a FedRAMP or HIPAA compliant boundary,” he added.

However, for projects that can realize the value of blockchain, there are major benefits to the technology. And while advocates may pontificate about how blockchain will transform the world, a blockchain project doesn’t have to be that big of a deal.

“One myth on blockchain is that it has to start as a digital reinvention,” Fisk said, but said in practice “it can start as solving a tactical problem with your existing process. There are blockchains out there that have gotten stood up in less than six months, for less than a million dollars, and have provided tremendous business value,” said Fisk.

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MeriTalk Staff