Vicki Lemieux Comments on Records Management and the Blockchain

bitcoinAnyone who has heard me speak or followed this blog knows that I have a particular interest in how blockchain technology will be used to support information lifecycle management.  I try to provide the records management community with any new blockchain information I may come across.

Recently, Record Management ListServ member Gary Link posted a link to this excellent TED Talk by leading business analyst Don Tapscott, co-author of The Blockchain Revolution.  Our friend Vicki Lemieux, Director, Centre for the Investigation of Financial Electronic Records (CiFER), who has done as much research on the blockchain and how it may be used in records and information management as anyone, made some excellent comments in response to Gary’s ListServ post.

I felt Vicki’s comments deserved to be shared beyond the RM ListServ, so I reprint them, with permission, here:

Dear Gary (and All),

Many thanks for sharing the link to the blockchain Ted Talk.  It offers a great basic introduction to the blockchain and its potential.

Obviously in a 15 minute Ted Talk, Tapscott can only hope to convey the basics and ignite some curiosity, which he does very well. Records managers who need to navigate this new technology, however, will need a deeper look into what the blockchain does, and does not, do.

Over the summer, a team of researchers at the University of British Columbia has been working on a knowledge synthesis relating to blockchain recordkeeping.  We now have our initial findings, which include the following:

1. Blockchain technology is fundamentally a recordkeeping technology, as much as it is a value transfer technology.

2. Many current and proposed applications of blockchain technology aim to address recordkeeping challenges; that is, they offer a new form of records storage, use, maintenance or control of records.

3. Many of the claims associated with use of blockchain technology recordkeeping are over-hyped.

4. There appears to be little awareness in the blockchain community of archival science/records theory, principles and practice, or of recordkeeping requirements and standards derived from them.  More interaction between the records/archival and the blockchain communities would promote greater awareness.

5. Blockchain technology is giving rise to new forms of records that must be managed as legal evidence alongside other records in order to meet business and societal purposes.  This includes determining how blockchain records will be dealt with under laws of evidence as well as how best to preserve their long-term authenticity and accessibility as evidence.

6. There is growing support for the introduction of technical standards relating to blockchain technology as a spur to innovation.  Standards focused on use of the blockchain for recordkeeping can help assure that blockchain technologies embed existing recordkeeping solutions and requirements in much the same way that earlier standards outlining functional requirements for electronic records management systems (ERMS) ensured that these systems supported effective recordkeeping.

Vicki and her team expect their full report will be available in mid-October.  Links to that report will be published here.

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