Perceived Affordance and Socio-Technical Transition: Blockchain for the Swedish Public Sector
Abstract: The Swedish public sector is under constant pressure to improve processes and services through further digitalization. Blockchain is a novelty technology which shows promise of enabling functionalities which are desired within the sector. However, as the technology is still in its infancy, the practical value it could offer the sector remains unproven. In this master thesis, the socio-technical transition of the public sector for adopting blockchain is analyzed using the multi-level perspective framework. The sector is operationalized as an incumbent socio-technical regime and blockchain as a collection of niche innovations. Affordance theory and the multi-level perspective are combined to analyze how the perception of blockchain affects the potential transition pathways. The primary empirical data is gathered through a series of interviews with key individuals from both the Swedish public sector and blockchain community, as well as from attending blockchain events. Secondary data is gathered through the review of various types of literature regarding the topic. The findings of the thesis show that the practical value and functionalities that blockchain offers and that match the needs of the sector are verification, authentication, traceability, automating simple logical functions, and digitizing unique value. The identified conceptual solutions deemed suitable today are: blockchain for identity management, blockchain for data verification, blockchains for property registers of, e.g., vehicles and real estate, and external industry blockchains for improved traceability of, e.g., supply chains and sales records. The thesis also derives recommendations for the public sector indicating that, e.g., active education, revision of regulation, and international cooperation would further a potential transition towards blockchain. It also finds that perceived affordances of a technology in its early stages affect the transition pathways; barriers of entry, number of potential adopting application sectors, the level of coordination, and the available resources for development are influenced by the perceptions.
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