Dubai: The Smart Dubai Office, a government body responsible for implementing innovative technologies in the emirate, has officially launched a citywide implementation of blockchain, it announced at a press conference on Tuesday.

The office also announced that it had selected IBM and Consensys, an American-based company that specialises in decentralised applications like blockchain, as partners in the programme.

“Today’s announcement marks an important step forward in our commitment to delivering Dubai’s Blockchain Strategy announced late last year by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai. We are working towards our goal of making Dubai the first blockchain-powered government in the world by 2020,” said Aisha Bin Bishr, Director General, Smart Dubai Office.

“Collaborating with IBM and Consensys will help expedite this process, attaining Smart Dubai’s overall vision of making everyday experiences more safe, seamless, efficient and impactful for all residents and visitors of the city,” she added.

A blockchain is a decentralised ledger that allows anyone to connect to the network and contribute to its effective running. It can be applied to a number of different things, including hospital records, financial transactions, and government administration. The technology is considered to be revolutionary by many because it creates a new standard of trust in transactions, relying on mathematics to underpin its records, whilst the digital signature on each transfer makes tampering with it impossible. It is a disruptive, shared technology that supporters feel reduces the risk of fraud, increases transparency and contributes to the creation of prosperity.

Bin Bishr confirmed that as part of the project, the government would begin looking at a new regulatory framework for the technology. “This is part of our plan. Certainly, our current regulatory framework does not capture such nascent technologies like blockchain, so we need to work out how to either amend existing regulations, or introduce new ones,” she said.

Wesam Lootah, CEO of Smart Dubai Government Establishment, added that a regulatory framework for ensuring the safe use of blockchain was one of the key activities the agency would be working on with its partners going forward.

Speaking at the press conference, Lootah stated that the government was “taking the lead in making Dubai the premiere hub when it comes to blockchain”, via the plan that was officially launched on Tuesday.

The programme that Lootah was referring to initially entails the conducting of workshops with key Government, semi-Government and private organisations in Dubai, in order to identify sectors and services that could most benefit from blockchain technology.