4 May 2016

Data61 and Treasury to examine blockchain technology potential

CSIRO’s Data61 will undertake a review to fully examine the far-reaching potential and implications for both government and industry of the adoption of ‘blockchain’ technology.

Blockchain underpins the Bitcoin digital currency system, and while the ubiquitous adoption of distributed ledger technology is yet to occur even in the financial services sector, its widespread deployment in the future, across multiple sectors, is distinctly possible and could deliver significant productivity gains across the economy.

Data61, in collaboration with government agencies including Treasury, will undertake a detailed study over the next nine months to ascertain what this could all mean for both government and industry.

The study will examine both trends in the uptake of blockchain technology and distributed ledgers, and future possible scenarios in Australia.

It will be led by Data61’s expert blockchain research team headed by Liming Zhu and Mark Staples, with strategic foresight input from Stefan Hajkowicz from the Data61 Foresighting Team.

More specifically, Data61 will explore the potential benefits or productivity gains for the Australian economy; the skills Australia might require to become a global leader as blockchain technology becomes more prevalent; as well as potential legislative and regulatory implications such as privacy consideration.

The review will look to provide practical use cases where blockchain technology could be piloted in government services and the private sector.

Stefan Hajkowicz said a number of potential ‘proof of concept’ projects will be evaluated in conjunction with industry experts and across government.

“There are currently a few potential areas where we could explore opportunities – such as sharable registry information, verifiable supply chains and assessment of aggregate risk exposure in the financial services sector,” Mr Hajkowicz said.

“In fact, there are also potential applications for this technology that extend well beyond the financial industry, and we are excited to explore, develop and apply the technology in both financial and non‑financial industry, in consultation with industry and government.

“Deployment of such technology could be most promising in government delivery applications.

Blockchain is certainly an example of a technology that has the potential to disrupt or change the way not only financial services transactions are carried out, but also those across virtually any other sector, including government.”

“As this country’s largest data innovation group, Data61 is extremely well-placed to play a lead role in this important work. We will be seeking to identify what the future will hold for blockchain in this country and the impact it is likely to have on Australia over the next two decades.”

After consulting and evaluating suitable ‘proof of concepts’, an agreed ‘proof of concept’ trial will be developed to demonstrate the impact of the blockchain technology.

The keeping of accurate ledgers has for centuries been critical to both the operation of government and business.

They record details about assets, including available money and property, as well as any transactions that have occurred.

This capability has become more sophisticated through the rise of information technology.

Blockchain technology, which utilises powerful algorithms, allows multiple, independent parties to share digital information or transact with one another, using distributed or shared ledgers.

Such environments are typically not ‘owned’ or dominated by any one user, but still allow all parties to have confidence in the integrity of the shared content.

Data61 CEO Adrian Turner said this exciting opportunity to collaborate with industry experts and across government to demonstrate how blockchain technology could be used to enhance the services of both government and industry, and to improve productivity.

“This is a rapidly emerging area and now is definitely the right time to look at what it could mean for our economy,” Mr Turner said.

“This study will provide the information we need to properly consider both the opportunities and the challenges posed by blockchain.”

For more information, visit Data61.

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