What GAO Identified

Blockchain combines many technologies to offer a reliable, tamper-resistant history of transactions by numerous parties without the need of a central authority these kinds of as a financial institution. Blockchain can be applied for a assortment of economical and non-fiscal purposes, like cryptocurrency, supply chain administration, and legal information. GAO identified that blockchain is useful for some programs but minimal or even problematic for other folks. For illustration, mainly because of its tamper resistance, it may perhaps be valuable for apps involving many members who do not always rely on each individual other. But it may be overly sophisticated for a number of dependable people, wherever standard spreadsheets and databases may possibly be extra useful. Blockchain may possibly also existing protection and privateness issues and can be electricity-intensive.

Blockchain has a huge range of opportunity non-fiscal takes advantage of (see figure).

Blockchain has a lot of opportunity non-monetary purposes

For example, it could be utilised to organize supply chains, develop considerably less hierarchical organizations, and doc title registries for actual estate. However, most these kinds of attempts are not still over and above the pilot phase and experience troubles. For instance, most blockchain networks are not created to be interoperable and can not communicate with other blockchains. Companies that want to use blockchain also deal with legal and regulatory uncertainties, and have uncovered it difficult to come across experienced staff to carry out blockchain.

Money programs of blockchain have the probable to lower expenditures and make improvements to entry to the financial method, but they also facial area a number of difficulties. Cryptocurrencies, most likely the most widely recognized software, are a digital representation of benefit guarded by cryptographic mechanisms, which facilitates payments. Some are recognised for volatility (i.e., regular or fast improvements in value), but a type regarded as stablecoins may possibly assistance reduce this risk. In the same way, an emerging area acknowledged as decentralized finance delivers services these kinds of as blockchain-based lending and borrowing, which also facial area quite a few worries. For case in point, blockchain-dependent economic apps can aid illicit activity, may possibly minimize customer and investor protections when compared to standard finance, and, in some instances, are topic to unclear and sophisticated policies.

GAO produced four coverage possibilities that could enable enhance rewards or mitigate challenges of blockchain technologies. The coverage alternatives determine possible actions by policymakers, which might involve Congress, federal companies, point out and nearby governments, educational and research institutions, and sector. In addition, policymakers could pick out to manage the status quo, whereby they would not get supplemental motion outside of any present-day initiatives. See down below for aspects of the plan possibilities and pertinent options and criteria.

Coverage Possibilities That Could Enable Boost Added benefits or Mitigate Troubles of Blockchain Technologies

  Prospects Factors

Benchmarks (report p. 38)

Policymakers could collaborate to unify specifications that aim on the improvement, implementation, and use of blockchain technologies.

  • Could simplify fragmented expectations and help determine gaps and reduce overlap in common-placing attempts.
  • Could establish the spots in which criteria would be most beneficial throughout distinct sectors of the overall economy or apps of blockchain.
  • Could assist tackle worries about interoperability and facts security.
  • Could have to have consensus from many public- and personal-sector stakeholders, which can be time- and source-intense.
  • May well not be apparent which entities should just take the direct in establishing internationally recognized requirements for diverse systems and application places.
  • May perhaps have to have new funding or reallocation of present methods to help new initiatives.

Oversight (report p. 39)

Policymakers could explain existing oversight mechanisms, such as restrictions, or develop new mechanisms to make certain appropriate oversight of blockchain purposes.

  • Very clear, field-precise U.S. oversight frameworks could supply the clarity needed for individuals and firms to a lot more correctly have interaction in blockchain-connected commerce in the U.S.
  • Policymakers, together with regulatory entities and developers, could use equipment to develop oversight mechanisms in addition to screening ground breaking products and providers.
  • Could supply coordinated and timely clarity to boost basic safety and soundness, client safety, and compliance with relevant legislation and regulations to overcome illicit exercise in blockchain-related commerce.
  • Policymakers will have to have to identify the acceptable amount of oversight. Aggressive oversight could hamper innovation and levels of competition as the technological innovation matures, whereas too small oversight could go away shoppers and enterprises unprotected.
  • Soliciting enter across a selection of stakeholders in a variety of sectors might be time consuming and complicated.
  • Could demand new funding or reallocation of existing methods.

Educational resources (report p. 40)

Policymakers could assistance the advancement of educational elements to help users and regulators better realize blockchain systems past current monetary purposes.

  • Could help instructors to educate a workforce skilled in building, applying, and making use of blockchain-centered goods.
  • Could boost purchaser literacy and aid minimize detrimental community perceptions of blockchain.
  • Could promote essential considering and innovation, as perfectly as prompt innovative research and growth.
  • Could support put together policymakers to improved use and control the most current systems.
  • Instructional materials will probably require to be tailor-made to satisfy a wide assortment of mastering desires throughout several concentrate on audiences.
  • May well be challenging to detect who could most correctly build educational products for any individual concentrate on audience.
  • May need new funding or reallocation of existing assets, specifically to address the have to have for schooling regarding modern takes advantage of of blockchain further than existing financial programs.

Suitable takes advantage of (report p. 41)

Policymakers could aid routines built to establish regardless of whether blockchain is suitable for reaching certain missions and aims or to mitigate certain difficulties.

  • Actively investigating wherever and when blockchain would be the most handy could allow entities to capture the entire gains the technological know-how might offer.
  • Supporting blockchain use, in which proper, could enhance transparency and accountability of existing units and services.
  • Lawful or regulatory uncertainty may perhaps hinder some likely consumers from benefitting from blockchain.
  • Could be challenging to revert to a non-blockchain engineering when an entity has invested a significant amount of time and resources.
  • Could involve new funding or reallocation of current assets.

Source: GAO. | GAO-22-104625

Why GAO Did This Review

Economies rely on central authorities and dependable intermediaries to facilitate organization transactions. Blockchain is a engineering that could lessen the require for this kind of entities whilst establishing a method of verification. It may well for that reason enhance a wide variety of fiscal and non-money programs. Even so, the use of blockchain systems raises a wide variety of moral, lawful, economic, and social fears.

GAO was asked to perform a technology evaluation on the use of blockchain, with an emphasis on foresight and policy implications. This report discusses (1) non-financial apps of blockchain, including potential rewards and troubles, (2) economical applications of blockchain, together with prospective added benefits and challenges, and (3) plan alternatives that could assist improve added benefits or mitigate troubles of blockchain technologies.

GAO assessed blockchain programs formulated for or utilised in finance, govt, supply chain administration, and business administration interviewed a array of stakeholder teams including govt, industry, academia, and a venture money company convened a meeting of industry experts in collaboration with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medication and reviewed key studies and scientific literature. GAO is pinpointing policy choices in this report.

For more info, speak to Karen L. Howard at (202) 512-6888 or howardk@gao.gov.