The Dubai government has announced a new partnership with IBM, as it seeks to become the world’s first ‘blockchain government’.

The emirate has announced that IBM will be working in partnership with ConsenSys, the ethereum startup, to advise and develop their government innovation arm, Smart Dubai, as they strive to build more blockchain-based systems.

Smart Dubai intends to migrate all existing government systems to blockchain solutions by no later than 2020, as part of its drive to take city administration into the digital age.

If successful, it will be the first wholesale embrace of blockchain technology by a government, continuing Dubai’s growing reputation as a hotbed for blockchain innovation and deployment.

Smart Dubai’s spokesperson, Zeina El Kaissi, said that while ambitious, the project could see wider pilot schemes rolled out by next year, with significant improvements in efficiency and service delivery for residents.

“If we can address 10 to 15 experiences, not small services, and transform them via blockchain over the next two to three years, that would be huge.”

The plan could see blockchain solutions being used across a number of government functions, ranging from tourism to health and policing, which will be seen as a demonstration of the potential tied up in blockchain technology for other administrators and governments worldwide.

It is expected that the pilot schemes could handle hundreds of thousands of transactions as early as next year, aided by a flexible approach to regulation for the project.

According to El Kaissi, this lack of bureaucracy is a major advantage for the project, and gives her confidence that more pilots can come on-stream within the next few months.

“There’s no bureaucracy. We meet and we move … We’ll design the architecture and the business case, and define the expected impact financially on the city and on the time and number of steps for users … There are going to be different types of use cases.”

The project will be keenly watched by analysts and blockchain developers worldwide. With other governments and agencies already eyeing up their own blockchain solutions for a range of administrative functions, the Dubai project could be a sign of a digital future to come.