By Sorin CRISTESCU, Blockchain Competence Centre Leader, European Commission.The European Commission is very much aware of the impact that new technologies have and will continue to have on the lives of the European Citizens in the future. One of the most important strategic drives of the Juncker Commission is fostering a European Digital Single Market, along with promoting and supporting innovation in the area of new technologies.
While the Commission is best known for working to create favourable legislative frameworks and providing grants for research and innovation, it should be noted that the Commission also takes up, adapts and deploys advanced technologies inside its organisation in order to modernize the European administration. It also coordinates the work on the interoperability of the public administrations of the Member States.
Thus last year, the Directorate General for Informatics of the Commission (DIGIT) set up a "Blockchain Competence Centre" (BLKCC) in order to be able to track the evolution of this exciting new technology and be ready to leverage some of its benefits.
Although the list of potential use cases is long, we wanted to start with something simple in order to learn and evolve. We chose a "notarisation" use case. Through an Administrative Arrangement, we joined forces to start building a private Blockchain network with the Luxembourg CTIE which had come up with the proposal.
The reasoning behind is that when some data records are being challenged by a third party, if two or more independent legal entities confirm their authenticity through the presence of a hash on a common Blockchain system, it adds credibility over a confirmation coming exclusively from the IT systems of the challenged entity.
We set out to design this system to be as reusable as possible. We wanted to avoid tight coupling between the "notarisation engine" that would allow hashes to be stored on the Blockchain and later verified the actual data sources. When considering how to integrate data sources, the classical designs opt most often for Service Buses or for Data Integration using ETL platforms. In our case, we decided to take advantage of a newer technology which also holds a lot of promise, Data Virtualisation (DV). Thanks to the use of a DV product, the business logic of our Blockchain engine was insulated from the physical data sources which increased its reusability.
How to best connect a straddling system to internal data sources was one of the issues we had to address and we were happy to get confirmation that DV offers the necessary security, flexibility and speed of development and deployment.
We were very impressed when our DV specialists were able to set up the connections to the data sources, the data hashing, as well as the services exposed as an API for our Blockchain engine, all with tight security and in much less time than we thought would be needed.
In conclusion, Blockchain systems allow the extension of the "trust domain" outside the boundaries of a single organisation. In the continuous effort for the modernization of public administration, it can provide the vector for moving from "exchanging data" to the much more desirable "sharing data". Last but not least, it can be the foundation upon which new and better ways of crafting legislation and awarding grants can be built.
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