Speaker Q&A – Marloes Pomp – Bringing Blockchain to Life for the Public Sector

As Blockchain is still a relatively young technology, how has the Dutch Blockchain Coalition built trust among citizens?

Within the Dutch Blockchain Coalition, not only do ICT questions emerge, but also issues concerning acceptation and trust from citizens and companies regarding how blockchain works.  So far blockchain applications are mainly used by organizations, but we are undergoing some tests with citizens. It’s a combination of activities – we publish most of our code open source, we have a lot of training sessions and working groups for the legal, governance and security element. We also work together with schools and universities, and the Dutch Government is on board. However, more research is also needed into the building of secure software for smart contracts, into how liabilities of poorly concluded smart contracts can be settled, and into which new markets and other roles will arise from this technology. It also concerns managing the changes that will lead to innovations of entire markets, as well as new systems and regulations that are sufficiently future-proof.

How are traditional public sector technologists and those who disagree reacting to Blockchain?

In my projects I often build a new team consisting of traditionally trained IT staff and a blockchain startup. After a while they often complement each other perfectly. You need them both to work together for real implementations. Not only the blockchain-developers.

We are really interested in how the health sector can harness Blockchain – is this something that the coalition is currently exploring?

It is one of the sectors in the Netherlands that is moving slowly, but we are seeing more and more blockchain projects in healthcare. For example, regarding declarations or recording informed consent during investigations. The combination between blockchain and AI is also interesting in healthcare. Blockchain and techniques such as Multi-party Computation can help to make sets of research data more accessible in a privacy-friendly way.

How has the Dutch Blockchain Coalition encouraged collaboration between government and the private sector to solve shared challenges?

The Dutch Blockchain Coalition is a jointly developed partnership by government, corporates and knowledge institutions. Together they have written a strategy paper about ‘Blockchain for Good’ in which they have selected several use cases to work on together at a national level. They also work together in several working groups, for example on standardization, or security aspects. So, it’s really a joint responsibility in order to achieve the success of Dutch Blockchain Coalition. It’s a membership model in which the members pay a certain fee each year. But more importantly, members must send at least one person from their own blockchain team to work on these joint use cases and working groups

Can you expand on your work and experience at the Hague Data Science Initiative – how can AI be used to support the Peace and Justice ecosystem?

The Data Science Initiative is a project of the City of The Hague. The mission of the Data Science Initiative is to harness the value of data science and Artificial Intelligence for peace, justice and security. Our hypothesis is that data science and AI can create a lot of public value. Of course, no technology is neutral, so creating this public value is not work for machines. It is the work of people, it’s our work.

To achieve this, we work together with a wide range of partners: businesses, governments, NGO’s, tech entrepreneurs, universities, knowledge institutions, etc. We are based in The Hague, but we are open to working with anyone in the world that wants to harness the power of these new technologies for a world that is fairer, more just and safer.

We do this by bringing together the worlds of humanitarian aid, law and security with the world of data science and AI. What we’ve learned so far is that there are far more questions than answers, and there are certainly no easy answers. So, our approach is to build consortia with partners to do collaborative research, run experiments, develop policies and learn in an open space. In the end the goal is simple: create scalable solutions that have a real impact on peace, justice & security, using data science.

We do like to make things practical, so all our projects have a bias towards action. Like the Hackathon for Good, the challenges we work on with partners, the ai-pilots we are working on with government agencies.

Do you think your role in Blockchain and AI has inspired other women to take up roles in tech?

I don’t feel like being a role model. But of course, it is extremely important that women are visible in tech, so that it is an option for younger girls to work in the tech industry. In my time, Neelie Kroes was really a role model for me.  I do hope that I can stimulate more women in the tech by being visible on stage and in the media.

 

You can find out more about the Dutch Blockchain Coalition from Marloes at the GovTech Conference on the 2nd October 2019.