On January 19, 2018, reports indicate that the Canadian government will be looking to utilize the Ethereum blockchain in a bid to provide public transparency for disclosures relating to research and grant funding.
If successful, this trial of a public-facing database powered by the Ethereum blockchain may lead to other government agencies using the same tech to achieve a similar measure of transparency.
With the new system, hosted on Canada's National Research Council (NRC) website, anyone can see amendments to all existing grants created by the NRC, as well as any proposals for new ones in real-time, providing a layer of clarity and assurance for the public. The NRC has acknowledged that businesses wishing to engage in similar open practices can also turn to blockchain platforms.
According to the NRC:
"Blockchains provide the ultimate in transparency and trust, making this technology a brave new world for organizations that strive to conduct transparent business."
The database contains entries tracking the progress of every NRC grant and proposal, totaling 3,678 disclosures, which can be browsed through filters like monetary value, date, recipient, and region. Disclosures range from a grant of $665 to an Ottawa-based recipient, identified as "Zzzzjan19," in order to "support a firm in the 'Wheat farming' industry (NAICS: 11114)," to the largest grant tracked on the government's system, an amount totaling $11,849,091, for Toronto-based Ryerson University, "to support a firm in the 'Other schools and instruction' industry (NAICS: 6116)."
Data available for viewing includes the transaction ID, blockchain publication date, block number, contract index, the signed contract, a transaction ID icon, and information revealing the manner in which the funding effort was recorded to the Ethereum blockchain.
The trial for the pilot project will be spearheaded by the NRC via the Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP), an organization which operates as the Canadian government's premier research and development organization. An Ethereum blockchain-compatible software service called Catena Blockchain Suite, built by Bitaccess, is the platform upon which the government database rests.
As new technology platforms like the Ethereum blockchain provide governments a means to achieve greater transparency, pilot programs that test the capability of such systems to produce deliverables are laying the groundwork for future mass adoption. "These are early days yet," said the NRC, "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."