Distributed Ledger Technology: A Comprehensive Overview

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If you’ve been following cryptocurrencies and blockchain, you’ve heard about distributed ledger technology (DLT). Although the idea of distributed computing isn’t entirely new, the execution of distributed ledgers is one of the most ingenious inventions of our time.

Distributed ledgers didn’t gain popularity until 2008 when the first cryptocurrency was created. Since then, they have evolved into programmable and scalable platforms where tech solutions that use ledgers and databases can be created.

In very simple terms, distributed ledger technology may be defined as tech protocols and infrastructure that allow concurrent access to records, updates, and validations across a network of databases. In this article, we explore the differences between DLTs and blockchain and explain their benefits and limitations.

Distributed Ledger Technology vs Blockchain

Blockchain is a form of distributed ledger technology. However, there are many other types of DLT systems. As decentralized systems, blockchains and DLTs facilitate transparent and secure data storage and updating. However, major differences exist between the two.
DLT systems use different structures to manage and store data while blockchains use linear blocks to record, store, and verify transactions. Each block has transaction data, a time stamp, and a cryptographic hash for the previous block.
The other difference between blockchains and DLT systems is immutability. Blockchain does not allow alteration of data after recording it on the chain. This isn’t the case with DLT systems. Although some DLTs offer immutability, this feature does not apply to all distributed ledgers.
Blockchains are mostly permissionless and public. However, some are permissioned. This is different for DLTs. The permissioned blockchains are designed to provide high levels of security and privacy. They can be made permissionless where need arises.
The two systems have wide applications. However, blockchains are often used in applications like smart contracts and cryptocurrencies. DLTs, on the other hand, are mostly associated with healthcare, supply chain management, and voting systems.

Benefits of Distributed Ledger Technology

Distributed ledger technological solutions are important because they have the potential to change how companies, governments, and other entities record, store, and distribute information. Their value is demonstrated by the range of benefits  they offer, which include: 

1. Eliminating  Fraud

There are no centralized points of control in distributed ledgers. This reduces their vulnerability to widespread system failures and enhances their resilience to cyberattacks. Some DLTs use cryptographic algorithms that make it impossible to forge or alter records. This feature makes DLT data trustworthy and reduces fraud risk.

2. Improving  Efficiency

Distributed ledgers automate transactions and eliminate intermediaries. Since they facilitate automatic execution of transactions upon fulfillment of contract conditions, DLTs reduce human interaction in transactions. This streamlines organizational processes, increases efficiency, and reduces costs for organizations. 

3. Immutability

Distributed ledgers allow users to make database entries without involving third-parties. Once records are entered into the ledgers, they cannot be altered. This means your records remain secure until the ledgers have been distributed. 

4. Decentralization

DLT systems are highly decentralized. They store data across database networks in an accurate and consistent manner, which helps in reducing discrepancies and errors. 

5. Greater Transparency

Distributed ledger technology enhances visibility of system operations for all users, which enhances transparency of transactions and data. With greater transparency, businesses, and governments enjoy stakeholder trust.  

Limitations of Distributed Ledger Technology 

Distributed ledgers have several limitations due to their infancy. These limitations include:

1. Complex Technology

Another limitation facing distributed ledgers is their complex technological nature. This complexity makes it challenging to maintain and implement. Businesses and governments that want to leverage DLT solutions must invest in specialized expertise. The technical complexity of DLTs also makes it challenging for developers to design new services and applications.

2. Lack of Regulatory Clarity

Regulation is among the major limitations of distributed ledger technologies. Across the world, governments struggle to regulate DLTs like blockchain. This lack of clarity in the regulatory environment causes confusion and uncertainty for business. Without clear regulation, distributed ledger solutions cannot reach their full potential. 

3. Slow Adoption

Distributed ledgers can only transform business operations through widespread adoption. However, awareness of how these technologies work remains low. Additionally, most people hesitate to try new technologies, which further slows down their adoption rate.

4. The Interoperability Challenge

Most DLT systems run independently without communicating with each other. This makes it impossible for users to move information or assets from one system to the other. Although there are efforts to fix this operation issue. But it’ll take time before such a solution is developed.


Although the adoption of distributed ledgers by businesses and governments appears slow, the technology leaves a lasting impact on entities and industries that utilize it. The technology has the potential to change the way businesses operate and manage data. DLTs are becoming a necessity for modern enterprises and governments that need to prevent fraud, fix inefficiencies, and guarantee accuracy of supply chain and financial reporting data.

They improve efficiency and offer transparency and better security.  However, these benefits are curtailed by the complexity of these technologies, unclear regulations, and slow adoption. As DLTs advance, these drawbacks will be addressed and the potential of these technologies realized.

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