According to a recent piece in Computerworld, the Australian government’s Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) is on track to have a prototype blockchain platform ready by the end of the current financial year. At the moment the DTA is in the middle of a discovery phase with Data61, wherein they are, “exploring the relevance and application of blockchain for government.”
There are numerous areas where blockchain could help the Australian Government save money, and boost overall efficiency. Randall Brugeaud, who was appointed to be the CEO of the DTA earlier this year, identified the Australian welfare system as a near-term target for blockchain implementation.
Mr. Brugeaud told a tech conference earlier this year that the DTA will be looking for,
“innovative ways to securely and efficiently deliver government services using blockchain,” and that, “The potential of blockchain to securely record transactions will be investigated drawing on the experience of other public and private sector organisations.”
Australia is a Leading Force in Blockchain Adoption
At $700,000 AUD, the money that has been allocated by the DTA to, “investigate areas where blockchain technology could offer the most value for Government services,” is small by global standards. Nations like South Korea and China are throwing USD billions at blockchain research, and a single city in China has earmarked more than a billion USD for local blockchain development.
All that said, Australia has been a leader in developing blockchain technology for real-world use cases. Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) debuted a proprietary blockchain logistics platform a few months ago, when they used it to ship a consignment of almonds from Victoria, Australia, to Hamburg, Germany.
The Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) has also been working towards moving their trade settlement platform over to blockchain. The ASX decided to roll-back its go-live date for their new blockchain settlement platform from 2020, to 2021. They are still on-track to have the first blockchain platform for equity settlement globally, and the ASX is also looking for, “other asset classes that financial institutions still manage on legacy technology and with manual processes,” according to ASX CEO Dominic Stevens.
Blockchain for Public and Private Applications
Social services are a great potential area for blockchain deployment. Most public aid services could be easily addressed via a blockchain platform, and numerous areas where waste is possible could be eliminated with smart-contracts that pay out benefits along predetermined lines.
There is no need for a government office to cut a check, or even use a direct deposit when it can easily be automated with a blockchain platform that can be automatically reviewed in accordance with national guidelines. Cutting the need for human-oversight removes the potential for errors, and cuts costs at the same time.
The same premise is basically true for private sector applications of blockchain technology. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) recently formed a consortium with Herbert Smith Freehills, a law firm, and IBM. They plan on building an Australian blockchain platform that would allow smart-contracts to be used in legal matters.
The consortium is planning on calling the new platform the Australian National Blockchain (ANB). The goal is to allow companies to use smart-contracts for numerous applications, including, “The ability to record external data sources such as Internet of Things (IoT) device data, enabling these clauses to self-execute if specified contract conditions are met,” according to a press release from the group.
The gains that Australia is creating with their support of blockchain technology are two-fold. First, Australia will benefit from the gains in efficiency that blockchain will almost certainly create in many areas. Secondly, they will have experience in transitioning over to blockchain-based systems, which could help them compete globally as other nations upgrade to blockchain.
The ASX commented on the state of their blockchain transition, and why they were taking a bit more time to launch it,
“Several respondents noted the possible risks involved, particularly with regard to ensuring all users are ready by the go-live date,” they noted, and continued, “A few supported a more phased implementation approach. ASX acknowledges this feedback, but remains of the view – informed by previous experience transitioning critical market infrastructure systems – that the single cutover weekend is the most appropriate solution and is lower risk than other alternatives such as running multiple systems in parallel.”
It is clear that moving critical systems from one settlement architecture over to another isn’t an easy process. Now that the ASX is taking the steps to remain ahead of the curve, they could very well be in a position to help other exchanges roll-out their own programs. The same is true for the logistics platform that CBA recently used, which may play a much larger role in global trade over the next few years.