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1 Million for research into transparent blockchain applications in government

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A group of researchers of Tilburg Law School and Jheronimus Academy of Data Science (JADS) has been awarded 1 million euros for research into transparent and legitimate applications of blockchain technology by the Dutch government in the complex network society. The project will be financed by the Dutch Research Council (NWO) as well as a consortium of public and private parties.
The government is developing blockchain applications together with companies to improve its services. This might lead to complexity and uncertainty about government responsibilities or the optimal design of rules. The project The Role and Responsibilities of Public Actors in Distributed Networks. Transparency, Trust and Legitimacy by Design investigates how blockchain can be designed in a transparent and legitimate way, so that citizens can trust the government.

Public values
Which public value conflicts arise when public authority is exercised through distributed technologies such as blockchain, in which case hyper-connectivity of public and private actors results in complexity? And what are the rule of law conditions necessary to steer the role and responsibilities of public actors using distributed technologies? These are the central question of the research project. The project takes an interdisciplinary design approach combining expertise from philosophy, law, and computer science, and analyses two case studies: the Financial Emergency Brake blockchain pilot of CJIB and granting government subsidies through blockchain. The research results will empower partners and stakeholders to develop and use blockchain applications in a legally and socially acceptable way. Special attention will be given to the perspective of the end user, civilians, and to the operationalization of rule of law safeguards.

The project will be led by main applicant Dr. Jurgen Goossens (PLG: Public Law and Governance Department, Tilburg Law School). Dr. Esther Keymolen (TILT: Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society) is co-applicant and co-leader of the project, and Dr. Damian Tamburri (JADS: Jheronimus Academy of Data Science) is the third co-applicant.

Apart from the awarded grant by the NWO-MVI program ‘Responsible Innovation. Designing for public values in a digital world’ (worth 750,000 euros), a unique cooperation between NWO, the municipality of The Hague and the Dutch ministries of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Foreign Affairs,  Defense, and Security and Justice, the project will be financed by the active cooperation of six private partners (blockchain platform provider Ledger Leopard, law firm CMS, Dutch Blockchain Coalition, ECP Platform voor de InformatieSamenleving, consultancy firm Berenschot, Privacy First, ICT company Smals) and five public partners (Centraal Justitieel Incassobureau (CJIB), Vereniging van Nederlandse Gemeenten, Municipality of Tilburg, Blockchain Projects Dutch Government, Vereniging Juridische Kwaliteitszorg lokaal bestuur). The establishment of this consortium will provide unique opportunities for the research to have real impact.

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