Who’s Getting on the Blockchain Train?

Briefing #21

Welcome to the 21st issue of the Digital Policy Salon weekly briefing.

We’re exploring the emerging field of blockchain and cryptocurrencies this week, featuring new research into investment in the growing Canadian blockchain ecosystem. Our perspective piece provides an overview of a 2019 study mapping the blockchain sector in Canada, while our weekly interview examines the new field of digital asset intelligence.

Beyond blockchain, policy updates and this week’s “what we’re reading” give us a glimpse of an important and ongoing debate about the legal classification of Uber and Lyft drivers. Read on to learn about a new COVID-19 test recently approved for use in Canada, among other important tech and COVID-19 news items. Thanks for sticking with us through the summer holidays, and we look forward to joining you again next week.

- Faun, Khiran, and Tyler

COVID-19 and Tech Policy Updates 🇨🇦

Canadian SMEs weigh in on the importance and impact of government programs responding to COVID-19

A new survey on the use of COVID-19 support programs by Canadian small businesses shows the federal wage subsidy program (CEWS) and federal loan program (CEBA) to have had the highest use, with 55% and 60% of small businesses using these respective programs. In contrast, just 15% of Canadian small businesses reported using the federal rent assistance program (CECRA). Along with the Innovation Assistance Program at IRAP, CEWS has been called a crucial measure that “essentially saved the innovation economy.”

Health Canada approves COVID-19 test that can display results within the hour

Guelph-based biotech company Precision Biomonitoring will begin the import and sale of new COVID-19 test kits, capable of diagnosing the virus in a little as an hour. The tests, recently approved by Health Canada, work alongside Precision Biomonitoring’s mobile phone app, which displays results digitally, enabling quick diagnosis from remote locations.

Wealth Simple approved to launch first Canadian-regulated cryptocurrency platform

The Ontario Securities Commission has approved Wealth Simple’s new cryptocurrency asset platform, making it the first cryptocurrency platform on the Canadian market to be registered with Canadian securities regulators. “For the first time, Canadians will be able to use a crypto platform that’s carefully overseen by regulators.”

New report identifies Canada as primary target for phishing scams

Phishing attacks, which account for a significant portion of all consumer-directed cyber-security attacks, pose a distinct threat to Canadians. According to a new report by the RSA, with respect to phishing, Canada was the most frequently targeted jurisdiction for the fifth quarter in a row, accounting for 66% of all attacks.

California judge provides guidance on employment status of gig-economy workers

A California judge recently ordered ride-share companies Uber and Lyft to provide their drivers the same benefits as regular employees, including overtime, sick leave, expense reimbursement, and other benefits where applicable. Currently, in many jurisdictions, ride-share drivers and other gig-economy workers are considered independent contractors and not regular employees, which prevents them from receiving such benefits. The order has since been appealed and will be ruled on by a higher court. — Mairead Matthews | email

Our Perspective

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Building Canadian Consensus | Overview

“Building Canadian Consensus” examines the Canadian blockchain ecosystem, documenting its current status and trends for its future.This study provides the following overviews:

  • Key concepts in blockchain technology
  • Canadian blockchain ecosystem by industry
  • Blockchain activity across Canada
  • The blockchain labour market, skills and education
  • Trends, issues, and the future of blockchain in Canada

Study findings: Snapshot

Canada’s blockchain ecosystem is currently made up of over 280 companies, employing over 1600 workers.

  • About 60% of Canadian blockchain firms offer services related to Cryptocurrencies, Finance & Fintech, or Blockchain Consulting. Emerging sectors in blockchain include culture and education.
  • Toronto and Vancouver drive Canada’s blockchain economy, with 60% of blockchain companies and 65% of blockchain workers.

Blockchain workers are found in a vast array of industries. While Ontario and British Columbia currently absorb 70% of blockchain workers, smaller provinces are also scaling quickly in their ability to attract and develop this skilled talent base.

  • Alberta tripled its number of blockchain workers from 2018 to the first half of 2019
  • Nova Scotia grew from zero in 2016 to over fifty by the first half of 2019.

Blockchain knowledge is dynamic and changes quickly, which makes curriculum development at post-secondary institutions challenging. A growing cohort of institutions, however, are responding to demand for blockchain talent.

  • Internationally, blockchain education was led by the University of Nicosia in Cyprus, which launched the first blockchain massive open online course over five years ago. It became the first University to accept Bitcoin as tuition payment in 2014.
  • Across Canada, post-secondary institutions like York University, George Brown College, and UBC have begun to offer formal programs for blockchain development.
  • Micro-credentialing in blockchain varies across Canada. TransformationWorx, founded in 2017 and based in Ontario, for example, offers two-day bootcamp-style courses in blockchain and solution design for professionals.
  • Several Canadian institutions, including the University of Ottawa and UBC, have launched law and policy-oriented modules or research groups to study the legal implications of blockchains, cryptocurrencies, and smart contracts. Their students are mostly at that graduate research level.

Read the full overview here 📝

Interviews in the Field

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The Importance of Playing Around with “Blockchains”

By Rosina Hamoni | email

We all understand the role of financial intelligence in asset management, but how does this industry translate to the world of digital assets or cryptocurrencies? In this conversation, ICTC Research Analyst Rosina Hamoni and Consilium Crypto CEO Austin Hubbell explore the role of big data in digital asset exchange.

Rosina:

How has the digital asset industry evolved over the last few years?

Austin:

The digital asset industry has come a long way in the last few years and has seen some non-linear growth recently. Prior to the bull run of 2017, the concepts of blockchain and digital assets were relatively unknown. Since then, we’ve seen an explosion in the number of courses, books, podcasts, and all kinds of different media available for learning about the industry.

There has also been a lot of progress made in terms of regulations and standards in most developed countries, although there is still a lot of work to be done to develop a cohesive framework that can be adopted across jurisdictions.

Finally, the reputation of digital assets has changed from primarily being associated with crime and the dark web to being seen as a ground-breaking new technology that has the potential to save billions of dollars across multiple industries.

Austin Hubbell, CEO and co-founder of Consilium Crypto

Read the full interview here 🎙

What We’re Reading

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Uber and Lyft must classify drivers as employees, judge rules, in blow to gig economy

(The Guardian)

Bill AB5 — and with it, the future of work and the rights of gig workers — has come into focus again. On Monday, a California judge issued an injunction against Uber and Lyft, following a lawsuit against the two companies stating that they are transgressing AB5, a landmark Californian law seeking to protect gig workers by ensuring that they are classified as employees rather than as contractors. Uber plans to make an appeal.

Taking points:

The battle revolves dizzyingly around issues of regulation, innovation, flexibility, protection, and welfare. Despite Uber’s planned appeal, its CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, penned a New York Times Op-ed titled “I Am the CEO of Uber. Gig Workers Deserve Better.” One part public affairs offensive, one part gig worker protection manifesto, Khosrowshahi’s article concludes with a suggestion that “This is the time for Uber to come together with government to raise the standard of work for all.” Just what is meant by ‘come together’ remains to be seen. - Khiran O’Neill | email

Research Visualized

Around the world, the use and implementation of blockchain has been growing. The figure below displays a McKinsey analysis, showing the different sectors to which blockchain can be applied, ordered by impact and feasibility. Financial services, retail, and public administration are among the highest impact and highest feasibility sectors, while the lowest impact and lowest feasibility has been identified as arts and recreation as well as manufacturing.

Blockchain Opportunities by Sector — Source: McKinsey Digital, June 2018

Our Research

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Chain Reaction: Investment in Canada’s Blockchain Ecosystem

Canada’s blockchain ecosystem is expanding as industry embraces new use cases that improve business process efficiencies across various industries, which in turn creates new opportunities for foreign direct investment (FDI). As industry understanding of blockchain evolves, and the concepts of blockchain and cryptocurrency are decoupled, blockchain’s value proposition drive the new growth in Canada’s blockchain hubs, particularly Toronto.

“Blockchain’s potential for improving the economics and resiliency of firms, enabling transactional transparency, and advancing security are at the heart of its value proposition. As blockchain becomes commonplace around the world, advancing the applications of this technology in Canada will be key for demonstrating its potential and attracting investment in a space that is ripe for the picking.” — Namir Anani, ICTC President & CEO

Chain Reaction: Investment in Canada’s Blockchain Ecosystem examines opportunities for blockchain-focused foreign direct investment (FDI), backed by primary research. The study compares Canada’s blockchain ecosystem to other key global centres of blockchain activity and presents the insights of industry experts on the value of blockchain across specific sectors.

This study builds on the 2019 ICTC blockchain report Building Canadian Consensus, which serves as an introduction to blockchain technology in Canada, outlining blockchain trends and analyzing the country’s blockchain workforce by sector, type and size of company.

Read the full study here 📖

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