Transparency through blockchain: an opportunity or threat for the government?

July 13, 2021 - 3 minutes reading time
Article by Leen Blom

In 2020, the accountancy and consultancy organization BDO published a research report (performed by Publicum) with data on the state of affairs worldwide regarding the blockchain in the public sector. This report provides a good insight into how this topic is at the top of the agenda, but is not yet really taking off. Half of the organizations surveyed have taken steps, but only 6% actually invest money in projects. It is therefore remarkable that, in response to this publication, BDO Netherlands reports that, according to the VNG (Association of Dutch Municipalities), 100 municipalities are conducting pilots with blockchain.

However, I found the most striking outcome on page 41, when processing the answers to the questions about blockchain threats. According to the respondents, “governments have little incentive to propose such a transparent, non-mutable and secure technology as a solution; in addition, it is also crucial to understand that the foundations of this technology are based on the principle of decentralization. If decentralization and openness are not preferred, then of course these are never prerequisites for a glorious technological future.”


It is good to explain the aspect of decentralization in relation to blockchain. This is what is also called a distributed ledger, a shared ledger. This means that there are exact copies in all kinds of places. With public blockchains it is not possible to shield the entire content, it is even the intention that everyone can check whether the blocks contain the correct content (immutability). Incidentally, the transactions themselves can of course be encrypted.

Questions that occurred to me were: does this also apply to the Netherlands? What would a government lose from transparency through decentralization? And isn't decentralization the ultimate form of the Wet Openheid Overheid (previously known as the WOB)? Then I thought: no, that cannot apply to the Netherlands. Don't we have an open and transparent government? Surely there can be nothing against decentralization of data?

The opposite of transparent?

However, in a background article by Utrecht University, public administration expert Stephan Grimelikhuijsen states: “Transparency is often less good for trust in political or otherwise sensitive subjects. The less political an organization is, the more trust you create by coming out with transparency.” This article has taught me that there must be temporary non-transparency in decision-making processes in order to be able to freely discuss the options and that disclosure afterwards does help in trust.

If the data is shared, it is more difficult to be disrupted by cyber attacks

Increase trust

How do we now apply an in itself decentralized application, the blockchain, to government organizations? I believe that for recording facts and transactions, a blockchain application can help build trust in the foundation upon which decisions are made. The facts are fixed and cannot be adjusted afterwards and can be checked or recalculated by anyone who wishes. It can also make government systems more robust. If the data is shared, it is more difficult to be disrupted by cyber attacks.

As far as accessibility is concerned, we see that centralization has its downside: when the CoronaCheck app was launched, everyone wanted access at the same time and it was not possible to register for hours. If the data had been available in more places, this could have been prevented. Blockchain applications can thus become Common Ground compliant, without the necessary centralization of data.


BDO Global Survey “Blockchain in the public sector”, Publicum, Publication date unknown, 2020
BDO_Blockchain_08 - mena.indd (

Transparantie niet zaligmakend voor vertrouwen in politiek, bestuur en wetenschap, UU, 22 april 2012
Transparantie niet zaligmakend voor vertrouwen in politiek, bestuur en wetenschap - Achtergrond - Universiteit Utrecht

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