A joint initiative from the European Commission and the European Blockchain Partnership (EBP) to deliver EU-wide cross-border public services using blockchain technology, the European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI) is a network of distributed nodes across Europe, leveraging an increasing number of applications focused on specific use cases. Let’s have an in-depth look at EBSI, a good functional example of blockchain technology, why it is an important step forward and how can it shape the future.

Blockchain technology has enormous potential to enhance the way that citizens, governments and businesses interact, by developing trust between entities and improving the efficiency of operations. The EU’s ambition to lead the way on next-generation ‘hyperscalers’, includes major investments in blockchain. Distributed technologies permeate economic activities and public services at large. Their importance as a driver of growth in the EU’s and global economy will likely continue to increase.

Unlocking new opportunities

Last month, in February, the first node of the European Blockchain Services Infrastructure went live in Belgium, in line with the goal of EBSI: to enable cross-border public services within the European Union, offering security and privacy. Highlighting that, a European strategy for data reads: “New decentralised digital technologies such as blockchain offer a further possibility for both individuals and companies to manage data flows and usage, based on individual free choice and self-determination. Such technologies will make dynamic data portability in real time possible for individuals and companies, along with various compensation models”. Before we find out how EBSI works and who benefits from that, here’s how it all started.

A brief history of EBSI 

In 2017, Member States and EFTA countries signed the Tallinn declaration on eGovernment, outlining the importance of efficient and secure digital public services in order to achieve the full potential of the Digital Single Market. A year later, in 2018, 27 EU Member States, Norway and Liechtenstein signed a declaration creating the European Blockchain Partnership (EBP) with the ambition to provide digital public services matching the required level of digital security and maturity of today’s society. On 14th February 2019, the European Commission published the 2019 Telecommunications Work Programme of the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), creating initial funding conditions for EBSI.

EBSI use cases

Also in 2019, four use cases have been selected for the European Blockchain Services Infrastructure. For each use case, a Member State led and composed user group was established. The aim of these user groups was to deliver a prototype application on the EBSI. The number of applications supported by EBSI will continue to grow, driven by use cases identified by the European Commission and the Member States.

Notarisations
Leveraging the power of blockchain to create trusted digital audit trails, automate compliance checks in time-sensitive processes and prove data integrity.

Diplomas
Giving control back to citizens when managing their education credentials, significantly reducing verification costs and improving authenticity trust.

European Self-Sovereign Identity
Implementing a generic Self-Sovereign Identity capability, allowing users to create and control their own identity across borders without relying on centralised authorities.

Trusted Data Sharing
Thanks to its characteristics, blockchain technology can be used to securely share data (such as VAT identification numbers and import one-stop-shop) amongst customs and tax authorities in the European Union, thus increasing trust between parties.

How does EBSI work?

The EBSI platform is a peer-to-peer network of interconnected nodes. The Commission operates a minimum number of EBSI nodes at European level and the Member States operate EBSI nodes at a national level. All the nodes are able to create and broadcast transactions that update the ledger. The architecture of each node is composed of two main functional areas:

  • A set of four layers comprising components which together provide the EBSI infrastructure, which contain capabilities common to all use cases. These layers include generic capabilities and connectivity to Blockchain networks.
  • A set of two layers comprising use case-specific components enabling support for hosting of business applications.

Who benefits from EBSI?

EU citizens
Transact across borders with public services more securely than ever before. If we take a look at some developments for public services, we can clearly see that blockchain technology can reduce bureaucracy, increase the efficiency of administrative processes and increase the level of trust in public record keeping, bringing advantages and clear value for citizens. Starting from here, technological and ecosystem maturity of distributed ledgers have to increase in order to unlock the transformative power of blockchain and bring even more benefits to individuals.

EU institutions
Simplify administrative processes, enable regulatory compliance and increase efficiency in cross-border public services. In the context of digital government, blockchain technology has a potential of facilitating direct interactions between public institutions, citizens and economic agents. At the most basic level, this implies improved public services in information registration and exchange processes. Blockchain technology could take away a large part of the administrative tasks that governments fulfill in society nowadays. Governments possibly do not have to provide, on their own, information storage and information exchange processes in order to facilitate economic activities in societies, as this could be provided by blockchain protocol.

Blockchain technologies can be used as an information infrastructure for exchanging information between public administrations. For instance, timely and reliable exchange of criminality information, blockchain could facilitate the distribution of grants and the exchange of information regarding academic degrees or taxes. In addition, distributed registration of documents and assets, instead of solely registering in a centralized way, could bring several technical and economic advantages. Greater transparency, reliability and improved performance are important when applications require data from multiple sites, organizations or countries.

National administrations
Simplify administrative processes, increase efficiency and instill trust in citizens. Which are the advantages of applying blockchain technology in governments? More than a few: reduced economic costs, time and complexity in inter-governmental and public-private information exchanges that enhance the administrative function of governments; reduction of bureaucracy, discretionary power and corruption, induced by the use of distributed ledgers and programmable smart contracts; increased automation, transparency, auditability and accountability of information in governmental registries for the benefit of citizens; increased trust of citizens and companies in governmental processes and recordkeeping driven by the use of algorithms which are no longer under the sole control of government.

Modex believes in the EBSI concept

Since launch, Modex has firmly believed in the power of blockchain technology and the benefits it brings to individuals, corporations and the society we live in, as a whole. We think that launching the European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI) is a great step forward and the way to go for a blockchain-based future in Europe. Just like all the entities involved in this project, Modex is working constantly to push the blockchain innovation boundaries even further and to bring time and cost related advantages to enterprises using our tools and services.

In over two years, using cutting-edge technologies and with a clear strategy, Modex has evolved from the world’s first app store for blockchain into a complex ecosystem designed for developers’ needs and enterprises looking for blockchain solutions. Our mission is to spread and facilitate the adoption of blockchain into society and to solve real-world problems using this revolutionary technology.

Modex BCDB (Blockchain Database) is a middleware that fuses a blockchain with a database to create a structure which is easy to use and understand by developers with no prior knowledge in blockchain development. As a result, any developer who knows to work with a database system can operate with our solution, without needing to change their programming style or learn blockchain. For enterprises, Modex BCDB translates into enhanced data security, secure data sharing, streamlining of operations and maximum protection against cyber-attacks.