Spotlighting #HyperledgerWomen: Stories from front lines of community building—Nancy Norris, Government of British Columbia

Spotlighting #HyperledgerWomen: Stories from front lines of community building—Nancy Norris, Government of British Columbia

To celebrate #HyperledgerWomen and their contributions to our community, we are asking a cross section of the many women leaders in our community to share stories about their careers, what brought them to the blockchain space, what projects they’re excited about and advice they’ve received or have to share. In this series, we will share stories from a diverse group of #HyperledgerWomen who are driving progress in our community, and in the industry at large.

Today, we hear from Nancy Norris, Senior Director of the Government of British Columbia’s Energy & Mines Digital Trust.

What brought you into the digital trust space?

When the Energy & Mines Digital Trust (EMDT) project was brought to my attention, I was working in an area of the Government of British Columbia (B.C.) that focused on strategic initiatives and inter-governmental relations. As I learned more about EMDT, I felt it was a very interesting and unique use of emerging technology. EMDT provides digital trust solutions for the natural resource sector, empowering companies to securely and efficiently share critical data on their sustainability performance. 

The more I learned, the more interested I was in exploring the project further. I wanted to identify the value of the technology and benefits of government becoming more involved in this work as well as to understand exactly what the technology was capable of. I knew this project had immense potential.

Why do you believe in digital trust technology and in what ways can it enable better sustainability practices and processes on behalf of governments? 

Climate change poses an enormous challenge. Over recent years, the realization has surfaced that we cannot continue with old ways and expect to see improvement. While daunting, this offers us the opportunity to rethink how we do business and embrace a new approach – new technological solutions, new management styles, new capabilities, and new voices on our teams. Projects like Energy & Mines Digital Trust are a marker of that openness to change. 

There are many regulatory processes that could be improved with digital trust technology. In our first working session with new pilot participants, we were able to brainstorm 11 potential applications for digital credentials. As our work continues, I’m confident this number will increase. 

Why are digital identity, digital credentials and digital trust important in sustainability reporting? 

Digital credentials can be used to increase the overall quality and trust in reported data, enabling natural resource companies to showcase their sustainable practices, while making the process of reporting more efficient. Natural resource operators can receive their assessments from auditors via digital credentials, and those credentials can then be shared with a multitude of audiences. 

Increasing the ease and efficiency of reporting data incentivises companies to increase transparency around their sustainable practices, which improves accountability in operations and reveals areas to further encourage sustainable activity. This process creates a positive feedback loop that’s a win-win for everyone. 

In what other ways do you envision governments leveraging blockchain technology to drastically improve processes whether for sustainability or in other areas?

Potential use cases for digital trust technology in the natural resource sector are virtually endless. We’re currently investigating how digital credentials can help B.C. mines mobilize their sustainability data into supply chain traceability solutions. To facilitate this, EMDT has been invited by the UN Centre for Trace Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) to lead joint activities on critical mineral supply chain tracing. This work is focused on the future of global trade and how digital tools can improve trust and authority in data shared across complex international supply chains. 

Aside from sustainability, the Government of British Columbia is already using digital trust technology for a variety of diverse use cases. BC Digital Trust offers a range of digital credential and digital identity services, empowering individuals and organizations by giving them more control over how their information is shared. This includes both organizational credentials, like those used by EMDT, and personal credentials, such as those used with the BC Wallet.

What projects that you are working on get you most excited? 

EMDT is currently exploring moving our Towards Sustainable Mining use case into production together with the Mining Association of Canada (MAC) and several of its members, which is an incredibly exciting and pivotal moment in this project. 

Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) is a voluntary benchmarking standard that recognizes ESG performance, enabling B.C. mining companies to differentiate themselves in global markets. Annual TSM reporting is a membership requirement for the Mining Association of Canada. By exploring the adoption of digital credentials, MAC is hoping to advance digital innovation in the mining sector, demonstrating how industry associations can utilize digital trust technology to make reporting and data mobilization more secure and efficient for its members.

We saw great success in the pilot phase of this use case. All participants noted there is an increasing desire for verified data at the mine site level, and EMDT demonstrates how digital trust technology can increase the security and efficiency with which that data is shared. 

This use case has the potential to create value at provincial, national, and international levels, in addition to the benefits experienced by the mining operators. TSM is recognized across 14 countries, which creates the opportunity to scale the number of users and amplify these benefits worldwide. 

What has your experience been like as a woman in both the digital trust space and in the government sector?

My professional experience isn’t in technology, but, despite this, my background prepared me to lead Energy & Mines Digital Trust. When I first approached the project, I was struck with imposter syndrome, and not for the first time. Working in the energy and mining sector, I am very familiar with being the only woman in the room. Even when these rooms are welcoming, it can be daunting to approach a space where you infrequently see yourself represented. 

Over time, I’ve developed a range of emotional tools to help me navigate and push past this feeling. I’m familiar with feeling uncomfortable; rather than be dissuaded, I was excited to embrace this project as an incredible opportunity. While I may not be a developer or engineer, I have skills and insights that improve EMDT. 

The outputs of a project are infinitely better when there is space for diverse solutions, voices, and leadership. EMDT brings together a team of professionals with varied skill sets, backgrounds, and interests. I firmly believe our project is stronger as a result. 

What advice do you have for women looking in open source development/communities?

It’s daunting to learn something new, especially in a field that feels completely unfamiliar to you. My advice to women entering the open source technology space, or any field that feels intimidating to them, is acknowledge and honor those feelings, but then put them aside and remember all the unique skills and perspectives you bring to the table. You don’t have to be the expert in the room to add to, or lead, the discussion.  

There are so many different aspects to the open source community, which drives a need for diverse backgrounds, skill sets, and approaches. My own team serves as a clear example of this. EMDT is composed of people from many different professional backgrounds, and their input makes the project stronger as we work towards a common goal.

What was the best advice someone gave you?

A piece of advice that resonated with me comes from Tina Fey’s book, Bossypants: “Don't waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions; go over, under, through, and opinions will change organically when you're the boss.”

To me, the root of this sentiment is that it is essential to know your value. There will always be people who disagree with your approach or disrespect your position. While it is important to speak out against injustices, it is also important to go where your work is appreciated. You don’t have to change how you think, work, or lead in order to fit a mold. Over time, your successes will prove naysayers wrong.

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