Homeless in Vancouver: B.C. Ministry of Citizens’ Services joins the Linux Foundation

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      A funny thing happened on my way to writing about IBM buying the open-source company Red Hat: I noticed that a ministry of the B.C. government is listed as a member of the Linux Foundation.

      According to a B.C. government spokesperson, the Ministry of Citizens' Services of British Columbia joined the Linux Foundation as an associate member on September 4, 2018, as part of becoming an associate member of the Foundation’s Hyperledger project.

      The Linux Foundation is a nonprofit consortium founded in 2000 to encourage the development and widespread adoption of the open-source Linux operating system. The foundation currently has about 1,000 members, running the gamut from private-sector information technology companies, public-sector government and nongovernmental organizations, as well as open-source software developers—all of them having a direct interest or involvement in Linux.

      Associate membership, explains the the Linux Foundation, is open at no cost to government agencies and not-for-profit organizations that “have demonstrated a commitment to building, sustaining and using open source technologies”.

      The B.C. Ministry of Citizen Services’ is the only B.C. government ministry—apparently the only government agency in Canada—to have joined the Linux Foundation.

      It did so in order “to learn from other organizations, collaborate and share information around open source software,” according to the spokesperson, who emailed me in reply to a series of questions on Tuesday (November 6).

      Fast, functional and free—what’s not for a government to like?

      Specifically, the spokesperson explained, the B.C. Ministry of Citizens' Services is keen to learn and share information about Hyperledger—a Linux Foundation initiative to extract the general-purpose functionality from the open source Bitcoin blockchain.

      The Bitcoin blockchain is a decentralized, cryptographic ledger designed to keep track of all Bitcoin transactions in the world.

      Being stored not on one central computer but linked across some 6,000 computers on the Internet gives the Bitcoin blockchain great computational power, certain economies of scale and makes its encrypted and multiply redundant record of transactions nearly indestructible.

      With Hyperledger, the Linux Foundation is hoping to create a decentralized ledger platform with all the benefits but none of the limitations of Bitcoin’s blockchain—adding scalability and capacity for confidential one-to-one transactions—making it suitable to the varied needs of both government and enterprise.

      An open-source blockchain solution like Hyperledger could be a potential Swiss Army knife for Big Data management—both powerful and inexpensive; suitable for everything from healthcare records, citizen identity and rights management, financials, census and demographics, stock market exchanges and large-scale longitudinal databases.

      For her part, the BC. Ministry of Citizens' Services spokesperson described Hyperledger as “a collaborative effort created to advance blockchain technologies. It is a global collaboration, hosted by The Linux Foundation, including leaders in finance, banking, Internet of Things, supply chains, manufacturing and Technology”—adding:

      “The ministry is actively exploring the potential uses of technology such as block chain and innovative ways that service delivery for people could be improved.”

      “The ministry is responsible for considering ways that new technologies could be used to provide better services to British Columbians, and the Linux Foundation membership assists in this work,” the spokesperson concluded.

      Stanley Q. Woodvine is a homeless resident of Vancouver who has worked in the past as an illustrator, graphic designer, and writer. Follow Stanley on Twitter at @sqwabb.