The CSIRO believes blockchain technology will change Australian industry

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Data61, a project of Australia’s peak science organisation, the CSIRO, has just revealed the results of an extensive review into how blockchain technology could be adopted in Australia to deliver productivity benefits in areas such as financial services, and drive local innovation.

The use of blockchains, used to enable the digital currency Bitcoin, means you can prove where information has come from and gone to, creating new economic activity in areas such as financial services, supply chains and government registries.

Adrian Turner, chief executive of CSIRO’s Data61, says Australia must be at the forefront of the technology.

“The pace of change we are experiencing as a nation is exponential and we can’t afford to be followers in the adoption of emerging technology like blockchain,” he says.

“It has potential to reframe existing industries like financial services and seed new ones like food provenance and personalised health.”

Fake beef

One example of the benefit of blockchain is using the system to ensure Australia’s high-quality beef isn’t subject to food fraud, where non-Australian beef is sold as 100% Australian.

Over the past year, Data61 has engaged extensively with industry and government to deliver two reports on the regulatory, technical and implications to society from using blockchain based-systems.

The first report, developed by Rob Hanson and Dr Stefan Hajkowicz in Data61’s strategic insight team, explores four plausible adoption scenarios of blockchain technology in Australian in 2030 including: aspirational, transformative, new equilibrium and collapse.

“Scenarios allow decision makers to consider if similar possibilities were to occur, what should they do to prepare for the future ahead of time,” says Hanson.

“Most importantly, each scenario examines the aspects of critical uncertainty for the use of blockchain technologies; human behaviour, technology and development, regulation and user adoption.”

The second report takes a technical approach by exploring design alternatives for blockchain systems in: remittance payments, open data registries and agricultural supply chains.

“Looking at the range of critical requirements in these specific context helps us understand how blockchain-based systems can support new markets and business models,” says Dr Mark Staples of CSIRO’s Data61.

More work needed

The study shows that the path to widespread adoption of blockchain based systems is still not clear.

Further research is required to create evidence that blockchain systems will work as intended.

In 2008, blockchain emerged as a technology to support digital currencies and it has quickly generated interest for its broad applications including health records, banking, voting, government services and provenance of data.

A report by the World Economic Forum in 2016 found more than $1.4 billion was invested in blockchain technology in just three years.

Australia already has a number of world recognised blockchain developments, including the work of the ASX in collaboration with Digital Asset Holdings to examine the use of this technology in its clearing and settlement system for the Australian share market.

Momentum in exploring these technologies has been building recently with developments by Australian firms including major banks, Australia Post and AGL.

Treasurer Scott Morrison says the reports will help Australia build on its existing position as a leader in developing blockchain technology.

“It will give decision makers in business and government guidance on matters they need to consider in developing a system that uses blockchain technology,” he says.

“The reports demonstrate the benefits of this technology could be profound – delivering productivity, security and efficiency gains.

“We should all be interested in blockchain developments and its potential application, right across our economy.”

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