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.

Windsor MP welcomes Government progress on self-driving cars

The Windsor MP has discovered through a Parliamentary Question that the Government has made progress on its plans to introduce self-driving cars to UK roads.

Last year the Government announced that it was backing a pathfinder to assess the technological and societal impact of driverless pods in Milton Keynes.

The Government has supported a number of projects in the UK, including UKAutodrive, Venturer and GATEway in order to deliver more precise autonomous systems and examine the intermediate steps necessary to integrate self-driving cars into modern Britain.

The question follows a Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week in which stories about driverless cars in exhibits from Ford, Audi and even Blackberry featured heavily in the news headlines.

Adam Afriyie, Windsor’s MP, commented:

“Self-driving cars are one of the most exciting inventions of the past few decades. As the technology goes from strength to strength we can expect to see more and more self-driving cars on our roads in the coming decades which have the potential to significantly improve road safety and reduce congestion.

“A forward-looking government will embrace this kind of transformative technology and I’m delighted that the Government both recognises the need for Britain to prepare for this exciting but disruptive new technology and safely allow the private sector to lead the way.

“With the Conservatives we can look forward to a brighter future in which we prioritise backing the technologies of the future rather than propping up the technologies of the past.

“Cars were once unaffordable to most people but soon everyone will be able to enjoy the safety of relatively inexpensive driverless cars with an inbuilt “chauffeur” that lets them work or relax on route.

“The benefits to business efficiency and people’s quality of life will be life-changing.

“This is yet another example of the positive benefits technology and the free market can bring to business efficiency, people’s quality of life and safety on the road.”

ENDS

Note to editors

  1. Adam Afriyie has a strong background and interest in science, technology and innovation due to his entrepreneurial background in the IT sector and a variety of posts he has held and/or currently holds, including Shadow Minister for Science, President of the Conservative Technology Forum (CTF) and Chairman of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST).
Windsor MP welcomes growing number of apprenticeships in Windsor

Today, the Windsor MP has welcomed the Government’s steps to grow apprenticeships, following a Parliamentary Question to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The number of apprenticeships in England are expected to grow by over 10%, from 64,000 in 2013/14 to almost 73,000 in 2014/15.

In the Windsor constituency 60 apprenticeships are being provided this year in Engineering and Manufacturing technologies and 30 apprenticeships in ICT.

Adam Afriyie, Windsor’s MP, commented:

“Every apprenticeship is another individual provided with the tools to find a decent job, earn a living and participate in Britain’s increasingly optimistic economic future.

“It is good to see the growing number of apprenticeships in the technology sector, as this will be an area of increasing importance in the coming decades.

“Technology provides a vital boost to social mobility and I am glad that the Government is showing that the Conservatives are the party of social mobility in Britain.

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.

Adam Afriyie chairs vital broadband meeting

As Chair of the Parliamentary Space Committee, Adam Afriyie MP chaired an event with the Digital Policy Alliance to raise the issue of broadband. Despite the broadband rollout, the Government is still looking for solutions to reach the final 5% of properties in the UK.

The event brought together experts on satellite broadband, rural affairs and digital inclusion as well as several parliamentarians to discuss the issue.

Mr Afriyie said after the event:

“Broadband has become vital for British businesses, students and families. It’s no longer acceptable to leave some areas without a basic level of access.

“If we’re going to move ahead with life-changing technologies such as financial technology, driverless cars and the internet of things and as more public services are made available online, we need to ensure that everyone has the access to use them.