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‘Together, we can drive the long-term development and adoption of blockchain technology, and capitalise on the tremendous economic and social opportunities it offers.’

The Hon Karen Andrews, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology [1]

The Australian Government has engaged with industry and researchers to develop the National Blockchain Roadmap to highlight blockchain’s potential and some of the opportunities that exist.

Blockchain technology is predicted to generate an annual business value of over US$175 billion by 2025 and in excess of US$3 trillion by 2030 [2] .

The Australian Government has also provided support and funding for government, private sector and researchers, to foster innovation and collaboration around blockchain, through programs such as Austrade business missions to international markets; the Entrepreneur’s Programme; Australian Research Council Grants; and Business Research and Innovation Initiative pilots.

The Government’s investments have been improving blockchain technology, developing international standards for blockchain and helping businesses to bring blockchain products to market. Many of these investments are described in case studies throughout this Roadmap.

Australia’s ability to capitalise on our current standing and to realise the potential of blockchain—both domestically and internationally—relies on ensuring key fundamentals are in place:

  • effective, efficient and appropriate regulation and standards
  • the skills and capabilities that can drive innovation
  • strong international investment and collaboration

Getting these basics right for Australia’s maturing blockchain industry will ensure Australia is well positioned to take advantage of the valuable business opportunities and the jobs and growth this technology can enable.

As with any emerging, disruptive technology, blockchain and its uses will need regulatory frameworks that are fit for purpose. Challenges include maintaining trust; ensuring security of blockchain systems and the integrity of data; identifying participants in blockchain systems; balancing privacy with transparency; tech-neutrality; and the legal status of smart contracts.

The Australian Government has provided $350,000 to Standards Australia to lead the development of international blockchain standards through the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which will help address a number of these concerns as well as improve the interoperability of blockchains generally.

Given that blockchain is a relatively new technology, there is a need to both build a skills-base that can translate into the capability that drives innovation and to educate industry and government about blockchain’s potential. A lack of familiarity with blockchain and its potential—along with concerns about the level of hype associated with new technologies—may unduly limit industry and policy decision-makers’ appetite for engaging with blockchain.

Demand for blockchain-skilled workers is substantial, with rapid growth in blockchain-related job advertisements since 2016. The roughly 470,000 Australians with potentially relevant digital and information and communications technology (ICT) skills could form a solid cohort of blockchain-proficient professionals, provided the appropriate blockchain-specific training is made available.

Australia is not alone in recognising the potential of blockchain. Several other nations leading blockchain development—including the United Kingdom (UK), the United Arab Emirates (UAE), China, the Netherlands and Singapore—have adopted a broad approach to encouraging industry to trial blockchain—an approach which could be applicable in Australia.

However, Australia is already a significant leader in international collaboration on a number of key projects designed to improve the technical and regulatory environment for blockchain. It has also demonstrated innovation and leadership in blockchain in areas such as international standards, research, bond operations and smart programmable money, while also conducting trials in the energy, agricultural and public sectors.

Acknowledging the many possible applications of blockchain, this roadmap highlights some key opportunities available in the agricultural sector, education sector through credentialing and the financial services sector, specifically relating to Know Your Customer (KYC) identity checking requirements, in Sectoral Opportunities.

Blockchain represents an opportunity to improve each step in the process of generating agricultural produce and getting it to the customer. A key example is the wine industry, for which blockchain solutions can offer transparency, data-sharing and efficiencies. It can assist in inventory tracking, facilitate automated payments between supply chain members, and reduce counterfeiting through provenance transparency, among other potential benefits.

Similarly, blockchain holds potential for the credentialing sector. Credentials are produced by the education sector, by professional and trade associations, and by government. These certifications benefit consumers by facilitating trust in professional and trade services, and employers by facilitating access to trusted information about skills and capabilities.

The financial services system goes hand in hand with distributed ledger technology—indeed, it is the genesis of blockchain innovation. There is significant opportunity to enhance consumer outcomes in financial sector. For example, a barrier to switching financial services providers is the KYC identity checking requirement—commonly involving presenting ‘100 points’ of identification for verification. This challenge presents a unique opportunity to use blockchain technology to reduce costs and provide efficiencies for all parties.

Seizing the opportunities presented by blockchain will require government, industry and researchers to work together. This Roadmap signposts a number of key next steps to advance our collective efforts to proactively address challenges and embrace blockchain investment and opportunity in Australia, progressing towards a blockchain empowered future.

Footnotes

[1] ADC Global Blockchain Summit

[2] Blockchain Potential and Pitfalls