Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to employ the case of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) data repositories to examine the potential of blockchain technology in the context of addressing basic contemporary societal concerns, such as transparency, accountability and trust in the policymaking process. Current approaches to sharing data employ standardized metadata, in which the provider of the service is assumed to be a trusted party. However, derived data, analytic processes or links from policies, are in many cases not shared in the same form, thus breaking the provenance trace and making the repetition of analysis conducted in the past difficult. Similarly, it becomes tricky to test whether certain conditions justifying policies implemented still apply. A higher level of reuse would require a decentralized approach to sharing both data and analytic scripts and software. This could be supported by a combination of blockchain and decentralized file system technology.
The findings presented in this paper have been derived from an analysis of a case study, i.e., analytics using data made available by the OECD. The set of data the OECD provides is vast and is used broadly. The argument is structured as follows. First, current issues and topics shaping the debate on blockchain are outlined. Then, a redefinition of the main artifacts on which some simple or convoluted analytic results are based is revised for some concrete purposes. The requirements on provenance, trust and repeatability are discussed with regards to the architecture proposed, and a proof of concept using smart contracts is used for reasoning on relevant scenarios.
A combination of decentralized file systems and an open blockchain such as Ethereum supporting smart contracts can ascertain that the set of artifacts used for the analytics is shared. This enables the sequence underlying the successive stages of research and/or policymaking to be preserved. This suggests that, in turn, and ex post, it becomes possible to test whether evidence supporting certain findings and/or policy decisions still hold. Moreover, unlike traditional databases, blockchain technology makes it possible that immutable records can be stored. This means that the artifacts can be used for further exploitation or repetition of results. In practical terms, the use of blockchain technology creates the opportunity to enhance the evidence-based approach to policy design and policy recommendations that the OECD fosters. That is, it might enable the stakeholders not only to use the data available in the OECD repositories but also to assess corrections to a given policy strategy or modify its scope.