Canada pilots blockchain staff records

By on 17/06/2019
Alex Benay describes his time as CIO at the Government of Canada as "one heck of a ride" and says he is proud of what he and his colleagues have achieved in moving the national digital agenda forward.

The Government of Canada (GC) is using blockchain technology to issue project-based employees with a kind of digital CV, providing “a permanent, self-owned and secure record of their skills and experiences.”

Alex Benay, the country’s chief information officer, announced the project last week in a blog post, writing: “Proving yourself with paper or checking a database will now be a thing of the past.”

Project staff will be issued with digital credentials called Blockcerts. These will be recognised and accepted by the government’s experimental jobs platform, Talent Cloud.

A use case for blockchain

In his post, Benay writes: “At the Digital 9 Summit back in November 2018, I shared our intentions to explore a Blockchain credential pilot with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Since then, the MIT Media Lab, together with [technology firm] Learning Machine, have developed an international open standard for issuing digital credentials known as Blockcerts.

“Today, we’re taking this one step further and working directly with Learning Machine to produce Blockchain credentials for the GC’s Free Agents.”

Since 2016, the government has been experimenting with a new workforce model which aims to provide a flexible and adaptable workforce fit for 21st century public services. Floating government staff, known as ‘Free Agents’, have been retained to work on short-term projects across a range of public sector agencies.

Logging learning

In the collaborative one-year pilot project run by the GC Talent Cloud team, the Digital Identity Unit at the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) and Learning Machine, these staff will now be issued with the blockchain credentials.

According to Learning Machine, Blockcerts enable the employee to become “their own ‘lifelong registrar’, able to store, access, and verify any Blockcert issued to them by any provider anywhere in the world.”

The company’s website states that any person or institution will be able to use the technology without any additional costs or special software. “This is the breakthrough of decentralised credentials enabled by secure, recipient-owned digital records using the global open standard,” it says.

Benay says that he’s “excited about this work and the potential that Blockchain certification will provide Canada and other leading digital nations around the world.”

About Natalie Leal

Natalie is a freelance journalist whose work has been published by The Sun Online, The Guardian, Novara Media, Positive News, and Welfare Weekly, among others. She also writes reports and case studies on global business trends for behavioural insights agency, Canvas8. Prior to working as a journalist Natalie worked for the public sector in social services for several years. She switched careers in 2013 after winning a fully funded NCTJ in a national writing competition. She holds a Masters degree in social anthropology from Sussex University where she specialised in processes of social change and international conflict and reconciliation processes.

One Comment

  1. Martin Sage

    04/07/2019 at

    Not to be knocking of new technology but I would think that experience would need to be brought up to date as jargon changes. When I started working sick was a term used for illness and dope was something that was a pitfall you wanted to avoid as a simple example. Setting subjective descriptions of experience in stone doesn’t seem like a good plan. Is this just a blockchain vanity project?

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