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Australian Government Gets Behind Blockchain With New Policy Roadmap

Australian Government Gets Behind Blockchain With New Policy Roadmap

Published: February 12th, 2020

Australia’s government has released a detailed policy statement to help drive adoption of blockchain technology in the country.

The 52-page document, issued by Australia’s Department of Industry, points to blockchain’s potential to save money, add efficiency, create jobs, and boost to economic growth.

Under a five-year plan, the government aims to establish regulatory frameworks by sector, invest in education to expand blockchain skills in the workforce, and create global opportunities for investment and collaboration.

The document lists 10 steps the government says it will take to help the country move toward a “blockchain-empowered future.”

Pushing for greater adoption

Australia’s Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews, told reporters that with government support, the country could 'drive the long-term development and adoption of blockchain technology, and capitalize on the tremendous economic and social opportunities it offers.’

She said blockchain and related technologies could add an estimated USD 175 billion to GDP by 2025.

Sights set on agricultural and wine exports

The blockchain roadmap is expected to guide the work of regulators, startups and researchers in the next five years.

Andrews told the Sydney Morning Herald that blockchain’s ability to improve export opportunities by enabling domestic manufacturers to trace their products, ensuring quality control and proper labelling across supply chains. In a category where provenance is part of the product’s appeal, blockchain could add confidence to distribution networks and reduce expenditure on marketing and compliance.

Australian wine is one of the country’s most successful exports, with more than two thousand companies shipping to 123 global destinations. Last year, revenues from Australian wine exports grew by 3% to USD 1.9 billion. Volume declined, however, declined by 12%.

Blockchain investment: Australia versus other countries

Under Liberal Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the government allocated ca. USD 500,000 last year to explore the benefits of using blockchain for government payments. It gave the country's leading regulatory body USD 250,000 to promote agreement on international blockchain standards.

Other countries have also begun to make their intentions known in terms of support for blockchain tech.

The World Economic Forum, The Dubai Future Foundation, and the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution UAE jointly released a paper in January which stated that blockchain technology had the potential to save the UAE economy more than $3 billion.

In Russia, government-backed technology developer Rostec has scaled back its much-touted ambitions to develop new Russian blockchain technologies by 2024. It recently announced plans to spend 28.4 billion rubles on the initiative, down from initial reports of between 55 billion and 85 billion rubles

Australia’s Growing Digital Economy

The roadmap isn’t Australia’s only leap forward on blockchain. The country’s official gold bullion repository, Perth Mint, recently announced a partnership with tech firm Security Matters (SMX) to create a supply chain traceability project for gold based on blockchain technology.

The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) has also given regulatory approval to Raiz Invest Australia, allowing the company to add Bitcoin fund support to its micro-investment app.

Earlier this year the Australian Central Bank (ACB) announced a pilot project that would test an Ethereum-based interbank settlement system. In a statement, the ACB said the adoption of blockchain alongside a national digital currency could enable broader financial inclusion, while also lowering transaction costs.

Governments begin to embrace blockchain's promise.

Australia’s roadmap is an update to objectives announced in 2019, which prioritised blockchain standards in governance, security, terminology, and identity verification.

The government’s interest in blockchain has gained ground in recent years due to its promise to deliver cost savings across a number of industries including energy, manufacturing, and finance.

Analyst firm Gartner predicts blockchain implementations will drive global annual business value of over USD 175 billion by 2025.

In finance, blockchain can be used to confirm identity checks as part of expanding ‘know-your-customer’ regulations. In education, the roadmap suggests blockchain could add confidence to credentials checks, providing trustworthy information about an individual’s capabilities and experience.

The roadmap was developed in collaboration with an advisory committee comprised of private sector industry experts, universities, and civil servants.

Recent Australian blockchain milestones

Blockchain food traceability initiatives are already well established in the country. An initiative supported by the WWF called OpenSC is focused on using blockchain to promote sustainability.

Blockchain startup BeefLedger has created a traceability platform for beef exports; while Australian meat processor Thomas Foods International is trialling the IBM Food Trust blockchain for traceability with supermarket chain Drakes.

Australia’s moves to promote global blockchain standards is also having an impact. The International Standards Organisation’s (ISO) blockchain group was initiated after representations from Standards Australia.

Other blockchain initiatives include PowerLedger, an energy marketplace for consumer and utility companies.

In preparing the roadmap, the government analysed 138 blockchain initiatives and found, the most activity being driven by small-to-medium sized businesses in Victoria and New South Wales. Financial services led the way in a sector by sector comparison.

Box Out: Australia’s 10-point plan for national blockchain leadership

  1. Set up working groups to analyse the viability of blockchain use cases in finance, agriculture, and education
  2. Establish a state-backed blockchain user group analyse current government use cases
  3. Formalise and rename the National Blockchain Roadmap Advisory Committee to the National Blockchain Roadmap Steering Committee
  4. Identify international examples where countries have embraced blockchain to make government services more efficient
  5. Ensure that blockchain solutions are considered as part of broader policy work
  6. Reorganise the Business Research and Innovation Initiative programme to work more closely with blockchain technology providers
  7. Create common frameworks and curricula for blockchain qualifications
  8. Have The Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) create a development programme for new blockchain start-ups
  9. Derive more value from current bilateral agreements to create multinational pilot projects
  10. Promote connection for Australian businesses into digital trade infrastructure