TG raises questions over Govt’s blockchain plan for eGov platform
Together Gibraltar has raised a number of concerns following the Gibraltar Government’s announcement of plans to integrate blockchain technology into its eGov system.
The government said it would work with two major players in the Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) sector, who will fund a pilot project valued at over $1m.
The pilot project will be delivered by the Government of Gibraltar working closely in partnership with Bitso, a Gibraltar-licensed crypto currency platform prominent in Latin America, and IOVlabs, the team behind the RSK blockchain and a leader in smart contract technology.
The costs of the project will be covered by both firms, which the government says have “long supported and deeply contributed” to Gibraltar’s work in the DLT sector.
In a statement, TG said that something as central to Gibraltar’s public services as a blockchain solution for e-government services should be carried out transparently and with maximum benefit to the taxpayer.
“We are concerned about the viability of the project from a financial, environmental and security perspective,” the party said in the statement.
“How can we be sure that this was the most viable solution for our public services, given the already exorbitant fees spent on incomplete e-government solutions so far?”
“Were the public servants whose roles will be affected consulted?”
“In the interests of transparency, Together Gibraltar is keen to know whether either Bitso or IOVlabs have pre-existing relationships with any Gibraltar based law firms and whether any deals have been struck by either these law firms or by the Government of Gibraltar which facilitated their donation towards the project.”
“Together Gibraltar would also like to query which law firm will be providing legal advice to Bitso/IOVlabs and acting for the Government in this matter.”
TG said it had looked at the RSK blockchain and found that transaction fees will need to be paid for even simple data entry.
“Given the availability of solutions which can process 6,000 times more transactions with no or minimal transaction fees, this feels a wasteful choice, especially given that these fees will be paid to miners, often burning coal and other fossil fuels and some of whom are located in sanctioned countries,” it added.
The party also noted the security and privacy concerns around blockchain solutions and asked how these would be mitigated.
It asked too whether the government had considered building this solution in Gibraltar, investing in the local workforce and avoiding “the potential of a trojan horse of consultant fees.”
“When asked about what this scheme meant for the civil service, the Minister for Digital & Financial Services merely ‘hoped’ that this scheme would ‘develop some experience internally’ but confirmed there was no plan for civil servants’ roles in this new system,” TG said.
“This kind of disregard is yet another example of just how out of touch this administration has become.”
TG said it hoped the Government would reconsider and developing a programme which prioritised jobs and training over private interests.
“While the party is excited to see Gibraltar being recognised for its forward-thinking approach to new technologies, we question whether the current government is rushing to chase the latest trends without considering the best interests of our public services or the taxpayer,” TG’s statement said.
“Most importantly Together Gibraltar is concerned that these buzzwords are being pursued at the cost of investing in our services and our people.”
“Technology is now at the centre of our economy and we cannot afford to be outsourcing essential services to the whims of foreign companies.”
“We are certain that it is possible to build sustainable and innovative e-government solutions right here in Gibraltar which respect our values and guarantee high-quality jobs in the public sector.”