Beyond the Hype: Distributed Ledger Technology in the Field of Public Administration

Following the increasing attention the topic received over the last years, this paper is looking at the use of distributed ledger technology (DLT) in public administration and, in particular at its most prominent example: Blockchain technology. While offering a gentle introduction to the topic, the paper establishes an overview of the attributes and potential use cases of DLT in the context of public administration and bureaucracies. As a technology establishing a decentralised, high-trust data management system, DLT has potential to be used for the storage of administrative data and for increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of administrative data management. While potential uses are wide-ranging, this paper offers a simple typology of these. Furthermore, it offers a critical view of the challenges and drawbacks that the technology currently poses to public officials looking at using DLT in their processes. Ultimately, this paper takes the view that DLT can be a potentially valuable tool for public administrations to make use of, but the drawbacks and difficulties associated with this technology are often not discussed or acknowledged as often or as thoroughly as needed, giving a false picture of how easy it would be for governments to use this technology successfully.