Archives of the future: Ottawa’s Bitaccess builds federal blockchain database


The National Research Council might have just taken the first step towards eliminating the need for physical archives with a new blockchain-based database developed by an Ottawa firm.

Bitaccess builds a digital ledger for public institutions called Catena, which leans on the immutable aspects of blockchain to preserve public records. The firm first announced back in January that it would work with NRC to host a searchable database for IRAP grants, which support early-stage companies’ R&D efforts.

Bitaccess announced Monday that the NRC is taking the next step in its blockchain experiment, adding the IRAP database explorer to the InterPlanetary File System. This cosmic-sounding system is in fact a publicly-hosted blockchain, which holds numerous advantages over the previous web-based application.

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Namely, it provides a more lasting alternative to more-or-less temporary websites. If a host server goes down, a web-based application could be lost forever, which can be pretty catastrophic when it comes to maintaining public records.

The distributed nature of the blockchain significantly reduces the risk of such an incident. Bitaccess CEO Moe Adham tells Techopia that the decentralized, permanent nature of the technology could make it a suitable digital alternative to today’s physical archives.

The other big advantage to this solution is its ease of use. The prototype currently active on the NRC’s site is populated with IRAP grant data from the past few years. It’s easily sortable and filterable by city, amount or date, with some basic information about the nature of the transaction. For example, awards to Ottawa-based firms that have received IRAP in the past few years such as Klipfolio, Ross Video and Bitaccess itself are all trackable on the site.

“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,” the site reads

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