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article imageCanada uses blockchain to make research grants more transparent

By James Walker     Jan 25, 2018 in Technology
The Canadian government has begun trialling blockchain technology as a way to improve the transparency of research grants. The National Research Council (NRC) is currently using an Ethereum-based system to publish funding information in real-time.
In a blog post, the NRC explained how blockchain technology could help to make government contracts more transparent. The blockchain's public ledger means data recorded on the system is unalterable and open to everyone. This provides transparency into the workings of government, which in turn promotes trust.
To implement the trial project, the NRC has partnered with Canadian blockchain SME Bitaccess. It's also working with the Industrial Research Assistant Program (IRAP), a body that generates a large volume of transactions each year and which would benefit from improved transparency.
Using funding from the Build in Canada Innovation Program, the NRC and Bitaccess are piloting a blockchain record-keeping system for the IRAP's financial activities.
The program is part of the Canadian government's wider efforts to improve transparency and utilise modern technologies. The NRC will be responsible for investigating how the blockchain could be applied to other areas of government. If the pilot proves successful, Canada could begin using blockchain more broadly to preserve public records and maintain transparency.
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The trial is described as the first "real-use case" of its kind for deploying blockchain tech inside public institutions. The NRC said it expects to acquire "constructive" insights into how blockchain could be used by government bodies. Many tech visionaries see blockchain as crucial to the future of business but it's still a new concept to most official organisations.
"These are early days yet, but 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," said the NRC. "This experiment also marks an important step forward for the technology and a commitment by the Government to support emerging Canadian innovation."
The blockchain is currently best known as the infrastructure supporting cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. In this scenario, the blockchain records every transaction on a decentralised public ledger. As the blockchain is immutable and distributed across computers around the world, the data stored within is always secured against external tampering.
These qualities are also what makes the blockchain concept attractive to organisations that need to store data transparently. The Canadian government's initiative is just one example of how the tech could be used. Other recent blockchain-based projects have included schemes aimed at sports fans and unsustainable practices in the tuna industry.
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