The project focuses on complexity due to hyper-connectivity of public and private actors when exercising public tasks using distributed ledger technologies, such as blockchain. In order to solve pressing societal issues, public actors increasingly exercise public authority through network governance together with private actors, resulting in complex public-private relationships. Additionally, the increasing interest of public actors in blockchain technologies to mediate public-private relationships, enlarges this complexity, bringing forth three fundamental problems. Firstly, public values of the rule of law such as foreseeability, transparency and reason-giving do not necessarily align with values in network governance such as efficiency and scalability, resulting in value conflicts. Secondly, due to unclear rules and value conflicts citizens might experience vulnerability and uncertainty, negatively impacting the trust relationship with their government. Thirdly, the increased use of private actors and distributed technologies to exercise public authority may cause uncertainty for citizens in terms of legal protection.
Therefore, the central research questions are:
1) which value conflicts arise when public authority is exercised through distributed technologies?
2) what are the rule of law conditions necessary to steer the role and responsibilities of public actors using distributed technologies?
This project takes an interdisciplinary design approach and analyses two case studies. Combining expertise from philosophy, law, and computer science, this project rethinks and operationalizes the rule of law values to achieve ‘transparency, trust and legitimacy by design’. The research results will empower partners and stakeholders to develop, implement, and use blockchain applications in a legally and socially acceptable way.
The government is developing blockchain applications together with companies to improve its services. This might lead to complexity and uncertainty about government responsibilities or the optimal design of rules. The project investigates how blockchain can be designed in a transparent and legitimate way, so that citizens can trust the government.