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Open Verifiable Data to Drive the Digital Economy

The stock-in-trade of governments is the provision of trust. For businesses, the traditional representation of that trust is paper. Paper in the form of permits, licenses, certifications and the like. These permissions, given to and hung on the walls of businesses, tell the world - “We adhere to the applicable laws and regulations to operate, and we’re ready to serve you!”.

To help power growth in the Digital Economy, we as a Government would like to provide businesses with a version of those permissions in a modern, digital form that they can use online to enable commerce and demonstrate these trusted permissions locally and abroad. An emerging W3C standard which could enable is this is Verifiable Claims. A Verifiable Claim is a piece of data stamped with strong cryptographic properties, guaranteeing:

  • The true source of the data is the Issuer - e.g. a BC Government service (e.g. BC Registry)
  • The data has not been altered since issuance
  • The permission has not been revoked (a real time verification)
  • The data was issued to a specific holder (e.g. a business)

An example of Verifiable Claim might be the Incorporation Certificate for a new legal entity issued by BC Registries. This Verifiable Claim could containing the date of incorporation, the Legal Name of the entity, it’s BC Registries ID, it’s official mailing address and so on. It can be Open Data, but it would be Open Data which is “stamped” such that it cannot be altered - and hence, can be trusted. The mechanisms for stamping (the cryptographic signing) and sharing of the data is made possible by the current advancements in Distributed Ledger Technologies - Blockchain.

Verifiable Claims are designed to be held in the “digital wallet” of the subject organization and used under their control for the purposes of conducting of online interactions, such as:

  • proving to other government services that the legal entity is incorporated
  • Used in a private sector context to prove qualifications - e.g. to a bank when opening a bank account, eliminating the in person production of paper incorporation documentation for the bank to verify

While we want to jump to the time when organizations hold their own set of Verifiable Claims in their own wallets, there is a “two-sided market” problem to be overcome:

  • Supply: Government (or private sector) services don’t offer Verifiable Claims because there are no businesses with their own digital wallets
  • Demand: Businesses don’t have a need for their own digital wallets because there are no services that support Verifiable Claims

TheOrgBook (our “in-development” product name) is both a step on the path of creating demand for Organizational Digital Wallets and Verifiable Claims, and a useful tool for the exchange of data between entities. TheOrgBook is a published repository of Verified Claims of public data generated by government services about businesses (and later can be augmented with other organization types such as societies, crown corporations, etc). In BC, a foundational Verifiable Claim would be generated, stamped and pushed into TheOrgBook by the BC Registry, and then supplemented by business-related Verifiable Claims from other services - Business Licenses, Liquor Licenses, Health Inspections, and so on. While enabled government services may not yet be able to get a necessary BC Registries Verifiable Claim from an business's digital wallet, it can get the public Verifiable Claim from TheOrgBook and verify the stamping of that data. This saves the user from the business from having to re-type all of the business data already provided by the Verifiable Claim, and immediately improves the quality of data held by the relying government service. This data sharing pattern can be extended across services and even across jurisdictions. In our proof-of-concept, the Government of Canada Supplier Registration process is using TheOrgBook to get Verifiable Claim data about an incorporated business from TheOrgBook in BC.

We are using TheOrgBook to learn about distributed ledger technology in support of Internet Identity-type problems. We are learning how to ensure we can know and can trust the entity with whom we are conducting business online. A solution to the challenges in Internet Identity has the potential to both generate significant economic growth, and eliminate antiquated, expensive and often ineffective paper processes. The Blockchain technologies we are using and evaluating are global in nature and scale. While the project is locally-driven, it is globally connected.

Our approach to this learning is open and agile. The Province of BC, in partnership with other Canadian jurisdictions, is building on the Linux Foundation’s Open Source Hyperledger Indy Distributed Ledger. Everything we are building in open, including the code (Open Source and published on GitHub), and our Sprint plans (published on Trello).

For more information see:

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