Vienna teams up with EY for government digitisation and blockchain plans

23 August 2018 4 min. read

The City of Vienna has joined forces with Big Four firm Ernst & Young to validate and secure the city’s Open Government Data (OGD) by using blockchain technology. The OGD is an open data portal which includes data such as public transport routes, train schedules and surrounding communities’ voting results. 

August 2018 has been a big month for Vienna, with the city being named as the world’s most liveable in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Index 2018. Just days after the announcement, Vienna has now shown its hand in the global battle to be recognised as the world’s smartest city. As a part of Vienna’s smart city drive, the city has crafted the digitalisation platform called DigitalCity.Wien – an independent and not-for-profit initiative of the city in collaboration with several committed ICT companies based in Vienna. The organisation aims to create a tech heart in the central European city, drawing talent into ICT jobs and building a stronger Viennese economy. 

The city is using blockchain to simplify and automate administrative processes, especially for OGD in areas such as energy reports and valid business registrations, which must be updated frequently. The public blockchain networks are also expected to improve the data security of the information.

The project itself went online in December 2017 and is one of the first of its kind to be launched in Europe. It has had over 350 datasets added to date. The technology secures official OGD documents by storing hashtags of the data sets on the public blockchain, allowing city employees as well as citizens to review the documents’ authenticity, when they were created, and when and if the data was modified.

Global accounting and consulting giant EY – which earlier this year launched an innovative blockchain audit technology – came on board with the initiative as a project manager and a supervisor. The platform itself was built by local developers over a period of four months. 

Vienna teams up with EY for government digitisation and blockchain plans

Ulrike Huemer, Vienna’s chief information officer – that’s right, the City of Vienna has a CIO – said, “This project, realised with the support of EY, makes the city a pioneer in the implementation of blockchains in public administration and we are committed to an open and participatory city with reduced bureaucracy. 

“With blockchain, government employees, residents or app developers can trace changes in data, so if someone changes the bus route – which is linked to mapping applications – an alert can be triggered. We will continue teaming with experienced professionals such as EY to pool knowledge and establish Vienna as a centre of competence for blockchain – as well as one of the most forward-looking technology cities in Europe and worldwide,” he continued. 

Whilst the technology is only being used throughout the city currently, according to Brigitte Lutz, City of Vienna project manager, the city is a test run for the national stage. “For now, we are only notarising documents from Vienna on the public blockchains, but we will expand this further to all data of the Austrian Open Government Data portal.” 

The platform is built on blockchain technology which facilitates digital currencies – including Bitcoin – but can also be used for a number of other widespread functions such as tracking ownership or the history of digital documents, digital/physical assets, content rights and royalties, marine insurance through to voting rights. According to research by Capgemini Consulting, commissioned by the EC, Austria’s open data portal ranks as Europe’s fifth most mature.

“When we think about the most useful applications for blockchain technology, increasing transparency is near the top of the list,” said EY’s Global Innovation Leader for Blockchain, Paul Brody. “From a foundation of transparent, reliable information, we can build all kinds of value add, analytics and insights, but it all starts with trustworthy information. We’re very proud to be working with the City of Vienna in this journey.”

Jonas Jünger, EY Project Manager and Blockchain Lead, concluded: “EY’s Austrian team is already working with blockchain in several industries such as energy, banking and financial services. For this pioneering innovative project in public administration, we collaborated with the EY network of experienced blockchain professionals and will continue to further expand our work with the city of Vienna.”