SURREY, B.C. – The Surrey Board of Trade urges the Government of Canada to take real action to address the lack of innovation regarding blockchain technology in Canada.
Blockchain is a distributed ledger in which anything of value can be stored, ranging from money, stocks, bonds and intellectual property, votes, art, music, loyalty points, carbon credits, health-care records and student accomplishments. Even our identities can be stored, transacted, communicated and managed securely and privately.
The use of blockchain technology, which is a primary facet of cloud computing and the internet of things, is a relatively new way of exchanging information and services but is already revolutionizing global trade.
The Surrey Board of Trade notes that Canada is falling behind the rest of the world in terms of capitalizing on innovation in the blockchain sector. Canada’s banks – strong, stable and innovative – are ideally situated to foster blockchain growth.
Still, Canada needs to overcome significant obstacles if it is to cement a leadership role in blockchain technology. A key handicap is the absence of a clearly defined strategy for governments and other stakeholders to utilize blockchain technology. For example, government focuses on investing in related technologies such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing but misses the critical underlying blockchain infrastructure.
To reinforce Canada’s position as a global leader in blockchain technology, the following steps need to be taken:
1. Canada needs a strategy
In the early 1990s, two government advisory committees were created to develop strategies for Canada and the first era in the internet. This work contributed significantly to Canada’s adoption of the internet, among other things, catalyzing the opening of the telecommunications marketplace. With the internet entering a second era, it makes sense for the Federal Government to set up a national commission, with representatives of government, financial institutions, the research community, technology entrepreneurs, civil society and, not least, consumers. It would develop concrete recommendations that would enable Canada to achieve a leadership role in imminent blockchain revolution.
2. Stimulating research and development (R&D) through blockchain-based flow-through shares
The report explains how the flow-through shares model that has been effective in Canada’s mining, oil and gas industries could be applied to technology. The key is to use blockchain to track all investments, real-time in R&D to ensure all tax benefits go directly into innovation. This would offer Canada a double-barrelled opportunity: a massive new source of funds to spur research and development in the technology sector, and a highly visible, real-time demonstration of blockchain’s capabilities and benefits.
3. Create a Blockchain Research Institute
It’s time to conduct deep research into applications – identifying the most important opportunities for blockchain in business and government and drawing the road map for how to get there. Canada needs a Blockchain Research Institute to unlock the potential of blockchain across industries and within the functions of organizations. The Institute could operate as a research centre for projects that potentially benefit a wide range of players, and where competitive issues are not a concern.
4. A Blockchain Centre of Excellence
Round-table participants and others expressed strong support for a Blockchain Centre of Excellence. The Centre would not be dissimilar to those that have helped propel many other emerging technologies. However, new thinking is required. (For example, it would be the focal point for a cluster of blockchain-related businesses, encouraging them to feed off each other.
5. Government as a model user
One of the most important steps government can take is to adopt the technology to transform its own operations – federal, provincial and local. This stimulates innovation, creates a stronger domestic market for entrepreneurs and, among other things, could dramatically improve the performance of government.
6. Expand access to the United States
Building an innovation economy in Canada does not mean isolating ourselves from the rest of the world. Indeed, with calls for protectionism growing louder in countries such as the United States and Britain, we must build bridges and strengthen ties to key markets, expand our trading partners, and work constructively with foreign governments. Given Canada’s relatively small domestic market, it is vital for the blockchain community to expand access to the United States. The U.S. is by far the largest source of financing for blockchain start-ups, the biggest market for their products and, outside Canada, the biggest supplier of talent for blockchain and other fintech ventures.
7. Education and cultural change
Revolutionary products and services often run into early skepticism, even mockery and hostility. Entrenched interests resist change and established leaders are often the last to embrace the new, if they ever do. Blockchain is no exception. It has already brought dislocation, conflict, confusion and uncertainty, and is sure to bring more. This is especially true in Canada, where regulators and policy makers have tended to favour stability over innovation.
The Surrey Board of Trade will be presenting this policy to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce delegation to be held this weekend in Saint John, New Brunswick.
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For further details, please contact:
Anita Huberman, CEO