The accelerating pace of technological development places high demands on companies and institutions to stay abreast of new technologies and their potential impact. One of the technologies that has become of significant interest to business leaders and policy makers is blockchain technology. Its uptake has been nearly exponential in recent years, and it has inspired – and in some cases even forced – financial institutions and governments all over the world to react. Until now, this has primarily depended on its linchpin status for decentralized digital currencies, but there are many other potential future applications.
Blockchain technology emerged as a convergence of the developments of the Internet, strong encryption, the open source movement, peer-to-peer file-sharing technology, and the activism of the cypherpunk movement. The latter has attempted to create a native digital currency for the Internet since the late ‘90s. A blockchain can be regarded as a global spreadsheet, or an incorruptible digital ledger, where financial transactions and any data or asset can be represented, shared, and transacted with. Interaction via blockchain, enabled by a global network of consensus, eliminates the need for trusted middlemen between parties exchanging information or value. The infrastructure enables these interactions point-to-point over a trustless network. Smart contracts and future application layers promise to change how data can be transacted, accessed, stored, and secured. Blockchain technology could enable fundamental changes in the way society is organized. With blockchain technology, it is possible to move from orga¬nizations with centrally controlled hierarchical structures of interaction and control (by necessity) to decentralized peer-to-peer organizations. In Sweden, the ecosystem around the technology is just starting to develop, and policy makers, business leaders, and entrepreneurs are seeking to understand the potential of the technology and the possible implications for different societal functions and industries.
The aim of this report is to explore what blockchain technology is, what it enables today, and what developments and potential applications blockchain technology could permit going forward.