When governments adopt and pilot emerging technology, the act is often viewed by the public as a way of legitimizing its potential. Now, the Government of Canada is getting on the bandwagon.

In general, blockchain technology increased its global presence over the last few years and continued to earn legitimacy both inside and outside of the tech community.

Originally, blockchain technology aimed to serve merely as the basis for Bitcoin, the world’s first digital currency. Since then, however, blockchain far surpassed its original purpose and found a wide variety of uses in the world outside of fintech.

Now, the Canadian government launched a working proof-of-concept that aims to explore the potential of blockchain technology for government use.

The public can now access the blockchain publishing prototype, which makes use of the Ethereum blockchain. This adoption marks the beginning of what many enthusiasts hope will be a longstanding relationship between blockchain technology and the Government of Canada.

The National Research Council

In this pilot program, the NRC (National Research Council), an official Government of Canada agency, is using blockchain technology in order to better track and publish information about grant funding.

All new and amended funding information is viewable publicly thanks to the new system, which is stored in the Catena Blockchain Suite. The suite is a Canadian tool based on the Ethereum blockchain and will allow the NRC to update live information.

“This technology offers unprecedented levels of transparency and trust allowing public records to be searched, verified and audited at a level the world hasn’t seen before,” said the statement about the prototype.

The claim is bold, yet perusing the available public disclosures seems to grant vindication to the statement. With over 3,600 published disclosures (at the time of writing), the public is able to view everything from the recipient of NRC funding to the dollar amount and its intent.

“These are early days yet,” said NRC Canada in its statement. “The experiment is expected to provide constructive insight into the potential for blockchain technology and how it may be used for more open and transparent function of public programs.”

Transparency in action

Proponents see the pilot program as a quintessential example of blockchain being applied effectively in the real world.

By its very nature, blockchain technology is a system that heavily promotes transparency and universal access to data records. The tech works on a peer-to-peer network that serves as a public ledger. In blockchains such as the NRC’s new initiative, the public gains access to all previous transactions recorded in the ledger.

The system ensures data integrity and validity through both internal and external systems, and its potential for government application is abundant.

A key principle of democracy is the idea of an equal playing field for the public. Promoting government transparency is an important element in building trust, and blockchain continues to further its relationship with democracy as a result of this new initiative.

Canada and the blockchain movement

The NRC initiative is another of many examples where Canada positioned itself at the forefront of the recent blockchain movement. The country received praise in the past for its innovation in the field, and some of the industry’s brightest minds and most exciting start-ups set up shop in Canada.

Canada is currently home to one of the world’s largest research organizations dedicated to blockchain technology. The Blockchain Research Institute is stationed in Toronto and is actively investigating real-world applications for blockchain technology.

With an impressive list of supporters behind the institution, including TD Bank and CIBC, the Blockchain Research Institute continues to investigate more than 50 research projects. These projects will propose ways in which blockchain technology can be used to impact various industries.

With the NRC’s push towards trialing blockchain technology in an official capacity, the initiative brings together Canadian blockchain enterprise Bitaccess, funding from the Build in Canada Innovation Program and records from the NRC Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP).

The wholly Canadian pilot program marks a new era for Canada’s status as a pioneer in the blockchain movement. The NRC will evaluate blockchain’s potential for further utilization in other government applications based on results from the pilot.

“This experiment also marks an important step forward for the technology and a commitment by the Government to support emerging Canadian innovation.” noted the NRC in its statement.

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