Home Government Tech Policy Blockchain used for proof-of-concept in secure health data analysis
Blockchain used for proof-of-concept in secure health data analysis Featured

Software firm Agile Digital, secure cloud provider Vault Systems and the federal Department of Health have collaborated to demonstrate proof-of-concept of a system where blockchain technology can be used to help data scientists analyse the data of patients and not violate their privacy.

The three organisations earned an iAward for Big Data Innovation of the Year at the last week's Australian Information Industry Association ACT Gala Dinner and Awards Ceremony.

The proof-of-concept is claimed to the first implementation of blockchain technology in the Federal Government, It came about because the Department of Health wanted to look at creation of a data science lab environment that allowed researchers to extract critical data without leaks, and without risking re-identification of patient data.

The Federal Government has shown a keenness to use public data for various purposes over the last couple of years, with the Centrelink robo-debt scheme claimed to be based on analysis of data. It was not exactly a roaring success.

{laodposition sam08}In September 2016, the Department was forced to remove a dataset made available publicly on the data.gov.au website after a researcher at Melbourne University found that service provider IDs could be identified.

This proof-of-concept is, apparently, aimed at avoiding such pitfalls.

Vault Systems founder and chief executive Rupert Taylor-Price said: "Data security is an important right that all Australians deserve, especially when it comes to their own medical records. The future medical breakthroughs could very well hang on finding a way to balance citizen's medical data for science while still guaranteeing security is a priority.

"For those reasons, we found lots of merit in being involved in this project. It is also great to team up with Agile Digital and really push the envelope on providing a secure platform. By capitalising on
blockchain technology and ASD-certified 'Protected' cloud, the Australian Government will possess the capabilities to analyse sensitive data for breakthrough research, while still complying with the Australian Government's privacy and security standards.

"It's big step forward in solving the conundrum of allowing approved scientists access to consented Australian's data and prioritising citizens data privacy."

Vault Systems is one of five companies which are certified to store government data with the highest security rating in its cloud service.

A statement claimed that during the project, the Department was able to use blockchain technology to record who accessed data, what data was accessed, what questions researchers asked, and what answers they received in relation to extracted data.

This allowed the Department to ensure that only authorised access occurred. It was also able to ensure that attempts to identify individuals did not take place.

"Agile Digital prides itself on developing and supporting high-quality cloud-based solutions that can support the Australian government's security needs," said, David Elliott, the company's executive director.

"Through this project, Agile Digital was able to leverage blockchain technology and Vaults secure cloud to ensure the data we were provided was securely stored. This guarantee can play a vital role to ensuring researchers are only able to access the data they need while the remaining sensitive data is not accessible."


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the sitecame into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.


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