A distributed ledger is a database that can securely record financial, physical or electronic assets for sharing across a network through entirely transparent updates of information. Its first incarnation was ‘block chain’ in 2008, which underpinned digital cash systems such as bitcoin. The technology has now evolved into a variety of models that can be applied to different business problems and improve the sharing on information.

The UK Government’s chief scientist, Sir Mark Walport, has now published a report on distributed ledgers. The report sets out how the technology could transform the delivery of public services and boost productivity. The report is not about bitcoin. Instead it is about the algorithmic technologies that enable bitcoin and their power to transform ledgers as tools to record, enable and secure an enormous range of transactions. The basic block chain approach can be modified to incorporate rules, smart contracts, digital signatures and an array of other tools.

View Distributed ledger technology: beyond block chain, 22 January 2016