Canadian Government Trialing Blockchain Tech to Enhance Funding Transparency

In the latest instance of an organization looking to adopt blockchain technology to replace legacy offerings, the Government of Canada is trialing the use of ethereum’s network to enhance transparency in government funding.

The new initiative will explore how blockchain technology can be used to help make government research grants and funding information for transparent to the outside public. The trial will be run by the National Research Council (NRC), using the Catena Blockchain Suite. The suite is a Canadian-invented product built on the ethereum network that can quickly enable the publishing of complex datasets onto public or private blockchains.

“On the simplest level, blockchains are public ledgers that record transactions shared among many users,” reads an NRC statement. “Once data is entered on a blockchain, it is secure and unalterable and provides a permanent record. Blockchains provide the ultimate in transparency and trust, making this technology a brave new world for organizations that strive to conduct transparent business.”

The way it works is that whenever the NRC creates a new grant or makes changes to an existing one, the relevant information will be stored on the blockchain and posted to an online database that is easily visible to any Canadian, increasing transparency and reducing barriers to access.

The Catena Suite is the latest product from the Ottawa company Bitaccess. The current BRC trial involves the government proactively publishing grants and contribution data in real-time, a measure that adds to the existing proactive quarterly disclosures available through the Open Government site.

“Our goal is to enable institutions to become fully transparent, and enable constituents to participate in the verification and validation of public information,” says Moe Adham, co-founder of Bitaccess. “We built the Catena Blockchain Suite as a simple, low risk, application for institutions to get introduced to blockchain technology. So far the reception has been terrific”.

There are a few different blockchain networks to use, and the NRC’s use of ethereum is most-likely based on the technology’s use of smart contracts. These are specific coding operations that can send information or digital assets between parties without a middleman, resulting in a safer and more secure transaction.

Canadians can peruse the Catena Suite right now and see various contracts awarded as early as Q1 2016. The most valuable contract is an $11.85 million one awarded to Ryerson University, and it comes with a unique transaction ID and block number to look more deeply into. Contracts to tech companies like Thalmic Labs and ecobee are also on the Catena Suite.

Blockchain technology has shown its potential to aid in transparency and ledger-keeping in a variety of industries, from cannabis to agri-food, and now government. It will be a major factor in how large companies and organizations address transparency and security as the technology progresses and becomes more widespread.