Blockchain Opportunities and Challenges for Ireland

Blockchain Leaders Insights Podcast

Play Video


In an era where the fusion of technology and governance increasingly dictates the pace and direction of societal progress, the Republic of Ireland emerges as a compelling case study of how digital innovation can reshape the landscape of public services.

In this episode, Lory Kehoe, Chairperson of Blockchain Ireland and Paul Hearns, co-chair of the Events and Comms Working Group with Blockchain Ireland, cast a spotlight on this transformative journey, with a particular focus on the integration of Web3 technologies into the fabric of governmental operations. This episode features a deep dive conversation with Mr. Barry Lowry, the Chief Information Officer for the Irish Government, who unveils the strategic endeavours, challenges, and aspirations at the heart of Ireland’s digital evolution.

Ireland’s digital strategy, as articulated by Barry, is not merely a blueprint for adopting new technologies; it represents a holistic vision aimed at revolutionising how citizens interact with their government, ensuring services are more accessible, secure, and personalised. This vision is underpinned by the nation’s proactive stance on digital identity through initiatives like myGovID, which exemplifies a commitment to enhancing privacy while streamlining public service delivery. Ireland’s position as a trusted steward of public data, underscored by its high ranking in the OECD for public data use trust, further solidifies its role as a digital frontrunner.

The episode delves into the nuanced dynamics between digital innovations and governmental functions, exploring the potential of Web3 to introduce unprecedented levels of efficiency, security, and user autonomy in public services. From the pioneering digital COVID certificate to the forward-thinking digital wallet for credentials, Ireland’s endeavours in integrating blockchain and related technologies illustrate a forward-looking approach to digital governance.

However, this journey is not without its hurdles. Technical standards, privacy considerations, and the imperative for EU-wide and global interoperability pose significant challenges. Yet, these obstacles also open avenues for inventive solutions and collaborative ventures that could set new benchmarks for the world.

Barry not only highlights Ireland’s strategic moves towards a digitally empowered future but also reflects a broader global shift towards the digitalisation of governance. Ireland’s digital odyssey, marked by collaboration, innovation, and a clear-eyed view of the future, offers a blueprint for governments worldwide striving to harness the power of technology for the greater good.


Barry Lowry

Barry Lowry

CIO, The Irish Government


Lory Kehoe

Lory Kehoe

Chair of Blockchain Ireland

Paul Hearns

Paul Hearns

Co-chair of Blockchain Ireland Week Working Group

Key Insights

  • Strategic Digital Transformation. Ireland’s digital strategy, spearheaded by initiatives like “Connecting Government 2030,” showcases a comprehensive approach to enhancing government services through digitalisation. The strategy aims for a seamless, efficient, and accessible public service landscape, guided by the principles of innovation and user-centric design.
  • Advancements in Digital Identity. The development and implementation of myGovID as a cornerstone for digital identity in Ireland represent a significant leap towards enhancing privacy and streamlining access to public services. This move not only improves service delivery but also positions Ireland as a leader in trust and security in the use of public data.
  • Web3 and Government Services. The potential of Web3 technologies, including blockchain, to revolutionise government services is a central theme. Innovations such as the digital COVID certificate and the exploration of a digital wallet for credentials illustrate the government’s commitment to leveraging technology for public good, emphasising security, privacy, and user autonomy.
  • Overcoming Challenges. The journey towards integrating Web3 technologies into public services is complex, faced with challenges related to technical standards, privacy, and interoperability, especially in the context of EU regulations and global standards. However, these challenges present opportunities for innovation and collaboration across sectors.
  • Collaborative Approach to Innovation. The Irish government’s openness to collaboration with the tech community, academia, and industry highlights a forward-thinking approach to digital governance. This collaborative spirit is essential for driving innovation, ensuring that digital advancements are grounded in real-world needs and accessibility.
  • Ireland’s Digital Positioning. Ireland’s notable achievements in the EU’s Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) and its recognition as a trusted leader in public data usage underscore the country’s strong digital positioning. These accomplishments reflect Ireland’s strategic efforts to leverage digital technologies for enhanced public services and societal well-being.


The conversation with Barry Lowry on “Blockchain Leaders Insights” offered a compelling look into Ireland’s strategic approach to embracing digital transformation and Web3 technologies within its governmental operations. Ireland’s journey reflects a broader global trend towards digitalisation but stands out for its emphasis on security, privacy, and user-centric design.

As the country continues to navigate the challenges and opportunities of integrating Web3 technologies into public services, its experiences offer valuable lessons for governments worldwide. The commitment to innovation, collaboration, and a clear vision for a digital future positions Ireland as a leader in the digital age, promising a more connected, efficient, and inclusive government service landscape for its citizens.

For more detailed insights and future discussions, follow our podcast series for the latest in blockchain thought leadership.

Today's Guest: Barry Lowry, CIO, the Irish Government

Barry has spent over thirty five years working in ICT. He started as a trainee programmer in the Northern Ireland Civil Service and progressed through various roles to eventually become the Director of ICT Shared Services and Strategy for the NI Government.

Barry has been CIO for the Irish Government since April 2016 with the primary task of taking forward the Public Service ICT and eGovernment Strategies. These set out ambitions for developing the use of shared services, digital services and data to better serve the people of Ireland and ensure that Ireland is well-placed to benefit from European initiatives such as the Digital Single Market.

Barry is a Fellow of the Irish and British Computer Societies and is a former winner of the BCS Northern Ireland IT Professional of the Year. He was awarded an O.B.E. for services to the Northern Ireland Government and the Northern Ireland Computer Industry in 2017.

Connect with Gerry on LinkedIn
Learn more about The Irish Government

[00:00] Podcast title introduction

[00:14] Lory: Hello and welcome to Blockchain Leaders Insights brought to you by Blockchain Ireland. My name is Lory Kehoe, Chair of Blockchain Ireland and I am joined today by my co-host Paul Hearns. Paul.

[00:25] Paul: Hello, As Lory said my name is Paul Hearns. I’m co-chair of the Events and Comms Working Group with Blockchain Ireland and I have a background in technology journalism and I’ve spoken to a lot of leaders, technologists, things like that and hence me being here today.

[00:46] Lory: In today’s episode we’re going to be talking all about Web3 and government and no better place to have that discussion and no better person to have that discussion is with Mr. Barry Lowry who is the Government Chief Information Officer with the Irish Government. You’re very welcome.

[01:01] Barry: Thanks very much Lory, thanks for having me.

[01:03] Lory: Fantastic. So jumping straight in, Barry, we’d love to learn a little bit more about who you are and how you’ve ended up and why you’ve ended up in the role you’re in.

[01:12] Barry: Gosh, well, that’s a long story. My previous role was actually the CIO in Northern Ireland. And actually, Paul interviewed me. I think it was one of the last interviews that I did in that role and Paul interviewed me. But I got a couple of phone calls from people that I knew, one of whom was a previous CIO. And they said, this role has become available and we think it’s made for you and your made for them. So why don’t you apply? And I did. And I guess the rest is history. I came here in April 2016. And took up residence in Malahide. And I’ve been there and in the role ever since.

[01:57] Lory: Great.

[01:58] Barry: And love the role. It’s a privilege to do it.

[02:01] Lory: So we’re going to be digging into exactly, I guess. Yeah. What does that mean? So day-to-day, you know, excuse my ignorance here, but what do you do?

[02:11] Barry: Okay, well, I guess my CV probably would say something like I’m the chief advisor in digital to government. But actually the office of the government CIO carries a number of very important functions, really covering three areas. The first area is strategic, so we wrote the government’s digital strategy Connecting Government 2030 and we had a role in the national digital strategy and I sit in the steering group for that. Our second role is operational, so for example all government network services that hospitals, some local offices, government departments, etc, run on, are all provided by the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer. A lot of the software, is provisioned. We were involved during COVID in the contact tracing app and then the digital COVID certificate. And we’re currently involved in things like the digital wallet, which I’m sure we’ll talk about as the interview goes on. And then the third major function of OGCIO is a high level governance function. And interestingly enough, when the Department of Public Expenditure, NDP Delivery and Reform. And my boss is the minister for that department, Pascal Donoghue. When it was set up under the Ministers and Secretaries Act, one of the things that act did was empower the department and therefore by proxy my office to be involved in the modernisation of government through the use of digital. And so our governance role, we can approve and sanction public service projects. And in doing so, we make sure that they align with the national strategy and our own government digital strategy. So the other big area we’re involved in is representing Ireland in Europe and OECD and beyond. And trying to shape European agendas and trying to implement the outcome of those agendas. So it’s a great role because no two days are the same. No day is as you planned it. No month is as you planned it. But, you know, that’s part of the role.

[4:39] Lory: And tell me, where does Ireland stand or how does it compare to other European countries when it comes to, you know… Its digital initiatives at a national level?

[04:52] Barry: Well, actually, it’s formally measured by the Digital Economy and Society Index, DESE, as we call it, which is an EU measuring tool. And what they do is they measure the digital health and societal health of the country. And that looks at a number of things from number of people connected to the internet to the number of people with basic and advanced digital skills to business, and finally government. So overall in the DESI index, Ireland is fifth.

[05:29] Lory: Wow.

[05:29] Barry: And for public services, we’re sixth. We would probably score much higher for public services, but in health services, as everyone knows, we don’t do so well. So there’s a real opportunity to step up there. And if we step up there, we’ll progress right the way across the scores. We have notable disadvantages in Ireland, and I think we do very well with those disadvantages. The main disadvantage that we have is that we do not have a people register. And that makes it very difficult to do some of the e-identity stuff. We’ve managed to get around that through the creation of myGovID, which is associated to the CF2 interview and what’s called the PSI data set, which is basically key information about us all, which have been validated. So most people would know that it’s associated with the public services card and, of course, all the publicity that went around the public services card. But actually, the underlying use of that is critical because it’s about a face-to-face verification of your identity, which then plays into either a physical proof of your identity, in this case, the public services card, or an electronic proof of identity. And if we didn’t have that at state level, we would really struggle to deliver on a lot of EU regulation, mainly eIDAS 2 and the single digital gateway, which maybe we can come back to and talk about the importance of that.

[07:17] Lory: So if… The opportunity is from a health perspective, we up our game there, we should move up the ranks.

[07:24] Barry: Yes. And then there are plans to do that. I mean, the previous head of digital innovation and health, Martin Curley, used to talk about the opportunity to leapfrog. And actually that’s a very relevant thing. A lot of the technical innovation that Europe have is very much based on an older technology. And so to move straight in, which obviously a lot of the stuff we’ll be talking about today allows us to do to more progressed advanced state is a real opportunity for Ireland to leapfrog many countries.

[08:00] Lory: And who’s leading the charge at a European level on that index?

[08:05] Barry: It’s always the small countries. Scandinavia does incredibly well. So Finland, Sweden, Estonia and Denmark are superb. The Netherlands and Malta, they would tend to be the ones that we would look to. And Ireland’s up there with them. But as I said, we don’t have some of the same advantages. There’s things that are unique about Ireland, actually, which I think should be applauded. Because in many other countries the identity is co-managed by the financial sector or the telecom sector. In Ireland our ecosystem is entirely developed and owned by government and that does give people a real sense of assurance that their identity, assets, their identity assets are being managed properly and managed in their best interests. And, you know, there’s been a lot of misinformation or misreporting about the government’s role in identity management. But just to give you some actual stats, which underpin, I guess, my position in this which is it’s much trusted. Ireland is the most trusted country in the OECD with use of the public data in terms of use by government and government bodies. That stat came out at the start of 2023 which is amazing because Denmark held this for. Ireland’s now overtaking them. Ireland is currently the fastest growing country in the world in terms of take up and use of an electronic ID. And actually the user feedback for the whole MyGovID process, the safety interview and the public service card and so on is very, very high. So we’re in a good place. What we have to do is work out how we can enable members of the public to use that data set for their own use and make that legal. Because one of the reasons why the process is so trusted is it cannot be used by anybody other than a government body. And if you think of the public perception of banking, for example, after the crash, that was always seen as a positive. But we’re now moving into an area where Ireland is becoming very multicultural, very diverse, especially in our sector. And people want to do simple things like use their government identity to open a bank or take out insurance or whatever and so government can actually give them the capability to do that and that’s what we should be doing and that’s what we’re striving towards.

[10:57] Lory: Paul.

[10:58] Paul: You’re mentioning lots of things there that we can kind of take up on from this is identity management, control, trust all these things are words that swirl around all of the topics. So I want to open the conversation by just asking, what’s your overall view, given those kind of three pillars that you have in terms of your role? What’s your overall view of blockchain, Web3 and related technologies as you look to try and develop those capabilities and I suppose the next generation of government and public services?

[11:41] Barry: Yeah. Like most people, when I first started reading about blockchain, I obviously thought cryptocurrency, you know, Bitcoin and fintech and banking and all of those sorts of things. But as more people talk about Web3, they’re talking about a much wider picture, which includes artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, this idea of decentralisation of assets. And for me, that starts to get really interesting when you talk about then how people use their identity for their own purposes. And one of the things that really intrigues me then, if we bring it into technical level, is how blockchain can play a part with other technologies and create the best ecosystem possible. Not just actually to Ireland, because Ireland’s in this because of this cross-border needs of Europe and the single market. But then not just Ireland and Europe, but globally, because Ireland likes to think of itself and rightly so as a country that has as much in common and as much relationship with the other mainly English speaking countries with, you know, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, America. And, of course, the other island, which is just a few miles away.

[13:20] Paul:  The inner island, as we like to refer to it, yes.

[13:23] Barry: Yeah. And of course, it’s very interesting because when Europe talks about cross-border services, the main area of cross-border services for Ireland is with a country that’s currently in the UK. So, you know, those challenges are very interesting for us as well because we’ve got to make this work not just as an EU agenda, but make it work as a digital, actually improving all aspects of business and all aspects actually of social life as well. Because, you know, how many people do you know have a relative that’s in the other side of the border or friends or visited frequently or visited by people who live there frequently and so on. So, you know, cross-border means something, different to us in Ireland. We’ve got to tackle that. We’ve got to work out what’s the best way we can do that using technology.

[14:17] Paul: And in terms of utility then, the technical means of achieving some of those things, because I know you’ve always championed this idea of you can tell a service once your entire information and then it’s there to be used for adjacent services and things like that. So as you look at blockchain and I suppose that Web3 development, encompassing so many of the other services as well, where do you see the utility for some of the challenges, but also maybe the ambitions that you have to deliver new services?

[14:57] Barry: Well, I guess we could start with where we actually are. And I mentioned at the start of the discussion that one of the things OGCIO got very involved in was the digital response to COVID and the contact tracing app was the first time that people got comfortable with this idea of a government provided app on their phone and actually an app in which it was a two-way conversation if you remember you know you could actually provide information back to government. And of course, the main thing was, if you contracted COVID and you phoned the help centre, they would have asked you to download the keys if you use the app, because we had all these anonymous contacts and they were kept anonymous. It was all privacy driven. But it meant that you or I could be contacted and said, we think you’ve been in contact with someone who’s contracted COVID. That could have meant anything, of course, because you weren’t given any more details. But it did actually work, you know, and we were able to show proofs that this actually helped in the fight against COVID. But more interestingly, I guess, for this conversation, it got people used with this idea of something government provided on their phone for their own interests. And then the digital COVID certificate was the one that was a real game changer because all of a sudden, government was providing data on you either having been vaccinated, recovered from COVID or had later on a negative test, which you could use for the purpose of travel or even use for hospitality in Ireland. And so people got used to this idea that government can provide me with a credential, as we call it, and it lets me do things or approves things about me. So that didn’t just change our thinking in this, it changed Europe’s thinking in this as well, because EIDAS 1, and EIDAS stands for the Electronic ID and Authentication Services Directive. Europe don’t do short names. James. But EIDAS 1 didn’t really take off. And that was because culturally Europe were in a completely different place. You know, Austria were trying to do things on phones. The likes of Germany next door were very much based on chip and pin, like our banking system would have been, you know, a few years ago. But what EIDAS 2 started to bring up was this concept of a digital wallet and this idea of you carrying a government-provided asset on your phone and within that asset was a number of credentials and those credentials were proofs about yourself. So, for example, an obvious one, it’s your identity. If you were 16, 17, 18 years of age, how do you prove your age? And, you know, we’ve always thought of, you know, in bars and so on the guard age card, but it’s not a particularly eloquent way for a young person to prove their age. So this idea that you could show something on your phone that would have proof that you were over 18. And of course, the great strength of this approach is it’s privacy enhancing, because if your child goes into a bar with a driving license, it contains far more information that is actually needed. But if they go in with a phone and the verifier shows their picture and over 18. That’s a, you know, a minimum data set. It’s zero knowledge proof, as we would say. So identity is the first one. The next one we’re interested in is the whole idea of a driving credential, because how many times have you left your driving license in the other suit or whatever? So this idea, we all carry our phone all the time. Why don’t we carry our proof of driving? And then that throws up, could you put your insurance certificate on it? So, you know, people get this very, very quickly and they get the opportunity around it and they actually get the security around it. So that all came out of this idea that we could take data and out of that data, we could create a QR code, which could be downloaded onto your phone and that QR code could be scanned and that could be a proof of something about you. But as I said, the two real benefits, one very web three oriented, i.e. it’s totally decentralised and government doesn’t know that you’ve used this. Government’s not remotely interested in how many times you use it, but it’s also privacy enhancing because, you know, it’s only showing the person with the verifier the absolute minimum data set that they need to see for whatever transaction you want to use.

[19:52] Paul: That’s really a key aspect here is the fact that the user gets to make those decisions, that they have that control. And again, as you said, it’s privacy enhancing as opposed to, I suppose, the pre-COVID fear of just having too much information about me. I think that’s a really interesting change that, I suppose, the utility and the usability, allays those fears and enhances privacy for people.

[20:27] Barry: Absolutely. And this isn’t, this isn’t new ground for people. You know, we all started off where we realised that it was going to cost us an awful lot more money to travel in an airline if you didn’t check in yourself and download your boarding card onto your phone. And so people got comfortable with this idea that if you fly using Ryanair you download the Ryanair app. If you fly the next time using Aer Lingus, you download the Aer Lingus app etc and you could delete these and reload them again and so on as your heart’s content. And then of course we got into the whole ticket area you know we all downloaded our Bruce Springsteen tickets and they would only work once and you know all of that sort of thing. So people are quite comfortable with this and they get it, you know, without totally understanding the technology. They don’t need to. They know it serves a purpose. And one of the things that actually amazed me, this is a true story, that when things got better after lockdown, I was meeting a friend in the local coffee shop in Malahide. And I was stood in the queue behind these two senior ladies and the girl asked them had they got their proof of vaccination. They both whipped out smartphones. They were both scanned and logged in. And just as they went in, one said to the other, these are fantastic. You can go anywhere with these, you know. And so, you know, the real message, apart from pride that we had helped create this, you know, the whole message that said to me was is people do understand a lot of this technology. If you make it very simple to use, very straightforward, very intuitive, they’re quite comfortable with it. And one of the things we’ve learned about technology is that any user journey, it can and should make it easier. Than the old way we did before with paper and, you know, telephone support and all of those things that we had to do before. So I think the public appetite for this is growing. And I think it’s government’s obliged to try and move as quickly as they want us to. And so we’re piloting now our own Irish digital wallet with four credentials on it, with a group of policymakers who are feeding back. So we’re not near, you know, release yet because the technology is ahead of the policy. You know, we have to make sure it’s legal that this could be seen to be of equal standing to the paper certificate and so on. But the progress has been good. The pilot started just before Christmas. The feedback’s very good. We’re ironing out glitches and so on. And the really good thing is we’re working with an Irish company.

[23:16] Lory: Great.

[23:17] Barry: And, you know, we’re very proud of that. You know, when we did the contact tracing app, we worked with an Irish company and we actually released the source code of it and the spec and it was taken up by several countries around the world, which we were very proud of. So I think it really made a strong statement about Ireland and Ireland’s capability to play at the cutting edge of technology, which is probably a good example to use in this discussion because that’s what you guys are all about.

[23:59] Lory: A quick question. You’re going through some complex material and concepts there, whether it’s even at an economic, commercial, but at a technical level as well. How do you how do you explain this to you know senior members of government and cabinet and how do you go about doing that?

[24:16] Barry: They’re not particularly interested in the detail of the technology. They’re interested in I guess three main things about it. One is will it work? The second is it safe? And the third is, is it intuitive? Does it provide a good user experience? And interestingly we started this whole journey by not looking at technology. We started it with a program which we call the Life Events Program, which various government ministers have talked about. But that came out of the design principles for government, or it was very much related to the design principles for government. So when we talk about a life event for birth or a life event for driving, what we’re actually doing is getting people in the room that’s had good and bad experiences of trying to deal with all of these things. And we learn from that and we try and create then the credentials out of the process that feel intuitive, that feel right, that they’re comfortable with using. And it’s interesting because something like the birth life event, we’ve started this journey with actually preconception, because if you’re a young couple and you’re planning to have a child or you’re hoping to have a child, you know, the first thing you’re going to say is, well. Does our health impact if the mother’s diabetic? Does she need to take any special precautions and so on? Does she need to be monitored more carefully or whatever it happens to be? So this idea that you’re making it easy to follow this journey from that stage right the way through to preschool is the way government should have always worked. And now not worrying about the silos of departments and agencies and public service bodies and so on, but it’s a joined up response to the needs at a particular time. So we were talking about the driving licence. If you look at where that’s come from, that’s come from detailed discussions, which has involved members of the public, the RSA, the Department of Transport, the guards, justice, you know. So that’s the right way to do it. And it’s great that we’re very much focused on that. But of course, out of that comes what you can say to a minister. Yes, the public response has been good. They find it easy to use it or whatever that happens to be. But also, when we talk about hardening the application, You know, they broadly know what that means is you’re putting it through really intense scrutiny in terms of the security of it, the privacy of it and so on. And that’s just a process. I mean, anybody that works in the tech sector understands what that is. A minister understands it’s something that needs to be done. They’re not particularly interested in the detail of it. But they know if they bring in or if I bring in someone to do an independent assessment and it gets a green light, that’s a good thing. And if it gets an amber light, something needs to be fixed. So, you know, they know enough to lead in this space.

[27:50] Paul: Well, coming back to the other side of that, what are some of the technical challenges that you are facing? Because, again, like utility is fairly unquestionable at this stage. Usability is something that you seem to have a good approach to and as you said, you start with that in terms of your criteria. But in terms of the implementation challenges, where are the sort of stumbling blocks or pitfalls with these specific technologies?

[28:26] Barry: The actual detail of the specs and how it’s going to work is ever-changing. Europe, when they embraced the eIDAS 2 concept in the digital wallet, launched four pilots with four consortiums, and they’re all using slightly different technical solutions. And out of that, they’re evolving one recommended specification. So we, the team that I have and the partners that we’re using, we’re watching that and we’ve built enough around our solution that we can flex it to make sure that it goes whichever way Europe goes. But those final technical decisions haven’t all been taken yet. You know, things are being tried, you know. I mean, obviously, you guys are particularly interested in blockchain. My interest in that is, well, is this going to help enhance the solution or is it not? You know, how do, if it is enhancing it, how do we do it in the most efficient way? You know, you will be much more familiar than me with all the truths and rumours about blockchain and how it’s used and how it’s deployed. And is it, are we going to be consuming much more energy and, you know, all of those sorts of things. But what we try and do is try things and say, okay, this works. And then if we can do it this way and align it with the EU standards, then that’s probably the way that we’ll go. So it’s like any technology, you know, it constantly evolves and you might add things and so on. And then, of course, out of that comes, well, what actual products are we going to use as well? And we’re very open, you know, to try things. We work a lot. You know, I mentioned who are leading in this space. In terms of actually in this area, the most advanced countries are Ireland, Belgium, Denmark and Finland. And we’re all actually working together. Austria are pretty good as well. And we’re learning off each other and we’re trying things and so on. So, for example, Finland are getting involved in some of the security testing of our product. Because obviously, ultimately, we want them to trust it. So, yeah, I mean, it’s very exciting how it’s moving forward. I have to say, I don’t really get involved in the technical detail anymore. You know, I think my technical expertise died when they stopped using, you know, COBOL mainframes, you know, but, you know, so I understand enough of the detail, but I’m not the person who could do the design anymore or really get into some of the choices. You know, I trust others to do that for me.

[31:23] Paul: Well, no, it’s good to hear that the technologies still lend themselves to those kinds of approaches whereby you can have multiple perspectives all aiming for the same kind of outcomes, but as you said, using potentially, different approaches to see what works best. So it’s good that they’re not such outliers that it just requires a complete seed change. So I suppose that’s reassuring from both an efficiency and a progress perspective but kind of zooming out again you you’ve related a lot of what we’re doing to personal experiences and kind of common individual things so from a sort of citizen, from a consumer point of view what would you like to see coming from these technologies in terms of you know just making life easier making interaction easier?

[32:22] Barry: I think actually as a consumer, I’m probably not a lot more advanced than the average consumer. And I think we all want the same things. You know, we all want usability and we want a sense of security with the ecosystem. And, it, you know, one of the big debates about blockchain and crypto and so on was all about governance and regulation and control. And I have to say you know as a consumer I always feel safe when there’s a standards body underpinning something or the central bank says it’s okay and so on and I think that’s one of the challenges for disruptive technology is how to go enough means mainstream that they can be trusted and people can be comfortable with because I’m sure you know when you open you know the technical sections of our own papers and you read, you know, some of the stories in it about whatever cryptocurrency or blockchain or, you know, your particular areas of interest, you’re thinking, well, hold on a minute, that’s not 100% right. Or there’s two sides to that and so on. But of course, that impacts on trust as much as, you know, similar type stories about what government was doing with people’s data and all of those sorts of things. So I think It’s really important that we work together. And we build that trust. But just going back to consumer, you know, the examples that I gave, you know, like everybody, you know, I had to download the concert tickets on my phone. I had to download the boarding passes on my phone. I had to become comfortable that a phone would contain lots of apps that you trust. You know. And because I would travel a lot, you know, one of the very first apps that I downloaded was the TransferWise app, which I love. It’s fabulous. And, of course, what happens there is you load money into that and then you can spend that money on the fly. It’s got a, you know, a debit card associated with the app and you can spend money in different currencies and it just, you know, converts as you use it. So you’re not carrying, you know, pockets full of different currencies and so on, depending on all the places you’ve been. But I learned to trust that because actually through a government meeting, I met the guys that set up the company and I liked them and I trusted the product. And I must have been one of the first users in Ireland of that particular application, but it works. And it’s the same way, you know, why do people trust Revolut? You know, it starts to just happen, doesn’t it? But, you know, we have the need and we trust the ecosystem around, you know, satisfying that need. And it’s no different even than the traditional banks. You know, whichever bank you use, you’re probably using their app more than anything else. What was your tipping point? You know, when did you feel comfortable with this in terms of your own capability to use it properly, but the whole security ecosystem around it and so on. And that’s evolution. And I think there’s a really important point as well you’re touching on, Paul. And that is, we’re launching an innovation competition that actually launched just before Christmas. And the first stage of it, which ends at the start of February, is public service bodies bidding for financial support from the government to do these innovations. But then we’re going to turn these problems over to the industry. And why are we keen to do that? Because that’s how government learns, you know, I’m sure any of your members are doing work in a different sector altogether and you’re thinking that would work for government. Well, what we want to do is put the problems out there and let you say, we believe this will work for government. And so the idea behind this is, It will go through a dragon’s den type approach. In other words, it will be assessed. But any business that adopts the technical solution have to commit two things. One’s financial support, but the other’s mentoring. In other words, don’t be building that feature. We don’t need it. Or, you know, that type of thing to really help shape the products. Because you know the contact tracing app itself came out of this idea of has anybody ever used Bluetooth to actually collect information that you’re you know less than two meters apart you know. I hadn’t a clue but we put it out to the industry and we find a company who were doing things in that space and they said we think this could this could work for you and we tried it and, you know, Ireland was one of the first countries to start to say, we believe we have a technical solution that works. We were also one of the first who suddenly thought people won’t like this if it’s very heavily bureaucratic and it’s centralized and so on. We were the front of the first to say, you know, we’re going to have to not do things in this application to get people to trust it. And that was fine. We made those calls. And, you know, I don’t know whether you remember, but, you know, there was over a million downloads in just over a day. So people got very excited about it. It was first time ever in my life as well I heard journalists actually say, We couldn’t find any fault with this. They approached it.

[38:12] Paul: A unique situation, no doubt.

[38:14] Barry: It was, yeah.

[38:15] Lory: There’s probably people already now, as we speak, Googling about that competition. Where can they go to learn more about that?

[38:24] Barry: If they look up the press release, they’ll see the minister announcing it. But don’t worry if they’re in the sector, the actual announcement to the sector, that part hasn’t been announced yet. But when it is, there will be a press release go out and we’ll obviously make sure that sectoral representatives know about it. You know, we’ll be telling ISME and the IBEC’s and the likes of you guys because, you know. One of the things that I know my minister passionately believes in and I passionately believe in is, you know, it’s absolutely wonderful. You can walk through Dublin and you can see every big, important company in the world and it’s got a presence there. But ultimately, the economic health of your country depends on indigenous capability being developed because those are the people that will stay and evolve and keep investing in the country. And so, you know, it’s really important for us to try and give those guys a helping hand as well.

[39:29] Lory: Plus one on that. And look, I think our very first episode of this video podcast series was with Leo Clancy to discuss that, the importance of helping Irish companies in the Web3 space and to kind of explain what the process is to help create awareness and also tips and tricks to help get funding from Enterprise Ireland themselves, but also from other entities. So, yeah, look, I think we’re massive supporters of that viewpoint.

[39:53] Barry: And we need to drive stories out. You know, we all think, you know, there must be ways in which we can use IOT to protect older vulnerable people we all think you know there’s ways in which we can use artificial intelligence in a really healthy positive way. You know, you’ll have ideas around blockchain and so on. Let’s try them, let’s create the safe spaces where we can try them because one of the things, one of the things about Ireland that should be a huge advantage to us is everybody knows each other and by and large, we have really good relationships between, I call it the quadruple matrix, the industry, academia, government and society itself. You know, people do trust the government, you know, that it will try and do things responsibly and it will work with the industry and try and really take care and create something that’s safe and does the right thing and all of those sorts of things. And I think we can use that to our advantage, you know we can learn together and grow together you know and I know in my role one of the one of the things I’ve enjoyed most is the fact that you know I’m well known in the industry and I’m well known in academia and we do work well together you know and we enjoy working well together and we challenge each other. And I don’t mind being challenged you know we do our best but we won’t get it right all the time.

[41:21] Paul: Well it’s very reassuring to hear the level of activity that’s there in terms of the pilots, the work that’s being done, because as we have seen from many other examples, when a sort of a level of capability is achieved in something like a public service and then it’s opened up, the private sector takes advantage and can build on services from there. And when it’s coming from a trusted base that trust carries through and we’ve seen all sorts of developments from anything from the likes of GPS it being opened up to the private sector to build on it and how the services come from that. To be honest I would see this as a similar infrastructural development that can be built upon and plugged into by the public sector to develop all sorts of services from it, but with that trust, with that privacy. So it’s very reassuring to hear all that. So thank you very much for bringing that level of detail into the conversation, because I think it’s very good for the audience at large to know what’s going on there and to see the practicality that is being brought to it. So thanks very much. Lory?

[42:41] Lory: Great. So two questions to finish, and these are easy. So in terms of your favourite podcast or one that you’d like to recommend to our viewers and listeners, what would you go for?

[42:56] Barry: Strangely, I don’t listen to a lot of technical podcasts. I listen to your one.

[43:02] Lory: You have to say that.

[43:03] Barry: Out of pure curiosity.

[43:05] Barry: And every so often, you know, there’ll be something on the Techfire website and it’s a subject I’ll go in and listen to the podcast. But actually, what I really enjoy, I enjoy the rest is politics. Yeah. And I’ve just got into, I think it’s relatively new, the Path to Power, the Matt Cooper, Ivan Yates one, because I do enjoy those guys. And yeah so I tend to sort of, I like history podcasts and political podcasts and so on I think when you’re on the train back to Malahide after a long day I think you’re teched out you know it’s good to listen to something that’s a bit different Great.

[43:46] Lory: Yeah I think we had Gerry Cross with us and I think the rest of his politics was on his list as well if people want to follow you the work that you do the work your department does and learn more about it, where’s the best place to go?

[44:00] Barry: Well,, but if you Google OGCIO as well, you’ll find us within there. And yeah, and people can find me in LinkedIn.

[44:12] Lory: Super. A big thank you, Mr. Barry Lowry, for a really interesting conversation. So thank you.

[44:20] Paul:  Thanks very much.

[44:21] Lory: As we wrap up that episode, I think there were three things that really struck me. And I’m going to have to read these out because I’ll make sure I want to get them right. So did you know that Ireland is the most trusted country in the OECD with public data based on a piece of research that was done actually in 2023? So recent research. Secondly, the fastest growing country in the world for electronic ID adoption, right? I did not know either of these things. And then thirdly, and I think most relevant to Blockchain Ireland is actually that the government is open to working with Web3. And we’ve talked about three specific examples there. One, in relation to ID. Two, we heard Barry talk about zero-knowledge proofs, which we had John Woods from Algorand speaking about that not so long ago. And then thirdly, the digital wallet for credentials. So if you didn’t believe it, it is happening. And hopefully we’ll hear from Barry again. So a big thank you to everybody for listening and watching us. And we will see you again soon. Thank you.

If you enjoyed our episode please share it