Today [Tuesday 15th September] I am delighted to publish a new Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) report on “Reducing Friction in International Trade” (RFIT).

Using a combination of distributed ledger technologies and Internet of Things (IoT) devices the RFIT project demonstrates a comprehensive supply chain data management system for Australia/UK wine imports in which all the required trade information is generated at the point of commercial contract and all actors involved (from producers to importers via regulators, customs etc) have safe assured and controlled access to the same data.

Building on the principles and approach set out in my 2017 “Distributed Ledger Technology for public good: leadership, collaboration and innovation” this proof of concept does exactly that, proves the concept that with leadership, collaboration and innovation we can achieve ground breaking, economy generating, technology transforming results.
It was clear to me, long before my original report that with the right mix of leadership and collaboration DLT had the potential to transform service delivery in both the public and private sectors. Through reducing data fragmentation and enhancing traceability and accountability, I believed that this technology could deliver cost‐savings and efficiencies on a scale that could not only improve services but impact national finances.

The RFIT project grew out of a meeting I convened in September 2018 involving participants from government, industry and academia. The project was intended to provide a digital innovation sandbox in which UK government departments could develop their requirements in a “safe environment.” The RFIT project applies DLT and internet of things technologies to Australia/UK wine imports transforming the efficiency and security of supply chain data management and the visibility and utility of every element of the data.

The RFIT platform:
• Collects data upstream (from the Wine Producers) relevant to Food Standards Agency (VI-1 and Label details), Port Health Authorities, Customs/Borders and distributes it to authorised parties downstream in a secure manner.
• Builds data consent, stewardship and security into the RFIT platform from the start.
• Reduces the ‘paperwork’ processing required at the borders, with the potential of creating a “smart contract” to further automate processing. There is already a single stream of data relating to that contract, accessible at any point by parties with the appropriate access rights. The platform provides varying levels of tracking capabilities using:
IOT tracking devices that can capture multiple parameters – location, temperature, humidity etc. or
Tracking QR codes uniquely based on the submitted data.
• Enables different participants including importers, exporters, IoT providers, legal services providers and other relevant parties to become part of an efficient system that will meet the objectives of the project.
• Is built in an ‘open’ way allowing for extension to include for example, data from shipping/courier agents directly.
• Integrates with the HMRC and FSA requirements and other relevant processes and systems.

The project was pro bono, everyone giving their time and expertise in order to test the potential benefits of this technology and demonstrate the opportunities inherent in these 4IR deployments. If such positive results can be achieved through the goodwill of all participants, imagine what potential we could realise with the full support of government and the accompanying resources to boot. In short, a 21st century global trading nation, delivering opportunities, economic growth and a transformation of international trade and those trading relationships.

I urge the Government to use the RFIT proof of concept as a blue print for 4IR experimentation and deployment across every element of state activity, partnering with private and third sector organisations to drive and deliver economic benefit to citizen, business, third sector and the state alike. The opportunity is in our hands, it is down to everyone in a leadership position: if not now, when?

Harpers Wine and Spirit Trade Association, Lord Holmes calls for government backing on blockchain

Previous DLT reports: Distributed Ledger Technology: beyond block chain, Sir Mark Walport, 2016

Distributed Ledger Technologies for Public Good: leadership, collaboration and innovation, 2017

Distributed Ledger Technologies for Public Good; A progress update, 2018

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