Adam Afriyie
MP for Windsor
Blockchains: The most important thing you’ve never heard of

You could be forgiven for having never heard of a “blockchain”. When I raised the issue of blockchains in Parliament it was the first time the word had been recorded in the Hansard record of parliamentary debate. It hasn’t been mentioned again.

Yet at tech events and forums discussion is ablaze with the seemingly limitless possibilities of blockchains, with some claiming they will transform the internet in the same way that the combustion engine revolutionized road travel. But what is this revolutionary new technology?

At its most basic: blockchains are a method of storing data. The advantage of doing so in a blockchain is that it is more secure, almost impossible to hack and cheaper to operate than a conventional database.

Traditionally data has been stored on a single central computer and people can alter that data only by going through a third party who has the power to change it. The data on a blockchain, however, is stored on every computer connected to the service and gets updated automatically without a central arbiter.

When someone wants to update or input new data, they first alter the record on their own computer and subsequently that amendment is verified by the other computers connected to the blockchain. The update is only confirmed and locked into the blockchain when 51% of the computers have verified it. Thus it is almost impossible for someone to counterfeit a record unless they controlled 51% of the computers on the blockchain.

Even if the technology behind blockchains is prohibitively complex and nerdy, its’ potential is not. Blockchains dissolve bureaucracy and shred red tape, a perennial problem in the public sector.

Virtually all of today’s digital infrastructure could be improved in theory with a secure blockchain whether it’s cataloguing business records, registering car ownership or, an idea that recently won an award from the Bank of England, allocating blood in the NHS Blood Supply Chain System more effectively.  Indeed if something is not currently undertaken because it is considered too complicated, such as interoperable electronic health records, a secure blockchain would have the power to enable it.

The question is whether they can be used without compromising security. I believe we would do well to have a parliamentary debate on blockchains because the Government needs to recognise the power of blockchains to, not only, improve public services at a reduced cost to taxpayers but to create more powerful citizens in a smaller and more decentralised state.

The commercial opportunities of embracing the power of blockchain technology would not only give a big boost to Britain’s vibrant technology sector but our exports would also lay the foundations to aid developing nations’ digital infrastructure.

Let’s embrace encryption, not ban it

With the publication of new Investigatory Powers legislation due this week, Adam Afriyie MP, a former technology entrepreneur and Chair of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology has said that a crackdown on encryption technology would be economically irresponsible and ultimately futile.

In an article, published on the Telegraph, Adam Afriyie writes:

“The Government is rightly concerned about the risks of digital encryption technology, in the same way that it was concerned about invisible ink, encoded letters and faxes in the past. If there is substance to rumours of a crackdown on encryption in the publication of new Investigatory Powers legislation, it would be as mistaken as it would be ineffective.

Banning technology does not get rid of it. It either makes criminals of millions of normal internet users, or designates it the reserve of established criminals like drug dealers and terrorists.”

To read the article in full on the Telegraph website, click here.

Digital currencies and the future of financial innovation

Among financial and techie communities, digital currencies (DC), such as bitcoin, have become the exciting development to watch.

It’s exciting because it could transform the way we transfer money in the UK. Bitcoin payments are approved via a network of other users, who verify them. Payments are instantaneous and completely transparent because a record of every single transaction is stored on users’ computers in something called the “blockchain ledger”. There is no central bank involved, no credit card fees and no lengthy waits for the money to be wired through.

Many people recognise the huge benefits and implications of this technology. Remittances, online payments, contract clearing, multi-person derivatives and crowdfunding could all be made significantly cheaper, more transparent and more efficient using digital currencies. Not to mention the wider applications for the technology such as electronic voting.

And yet, it is not being widely discussed by politicians in the UK. That’s why I was delighted to be invited to participate in a ResPublica debate entitled “Digital Currencies: Will regulation stifle innovation?” along with Steve Baker, Conservative MP for Wycombe.

The UK should be open-minded about alternative currencies, says Adam Afriyie

Adam Afriyie today reacted to George Osborne’s plans to make Britain a “global centre of financial innovation”.

Yesterday the Chancellor announced that he’d commission a review to explore the potential role that cryptocurrencies could play in the UK.

Adam Afriyie, MP for Windsor, said:

“The UK must remain a global centre for financial innovation and I very much welcome the jobs and prosperity these plans can bring.

“There is a large global market for cryptocurrencies, and this is something we must consider taking advantage of. Having pioneered “sukuk” Islamic bonds, we have a good track record in bringing innovative and flexible financial services to market.