Australia is developing a national blockchain intended for the country’s businesses to use, according to an official statement from the government’s scientific research department.
Insect repellent and banknotes
That department is called the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, or CSIRO. Established in 1916, it is an independent federal government agency that has over the years contributed to a wide range of research and inventions, such as insect repellent, WiFi technology, and the polymer banknote. In 2017 it set up a branch specifically to deal with digital innovation, Data61.
The blockchain is being developed by Data61 in partnership with computing giant IBM and a British/Australian law firm called Herbert Smith Freehills. IBM will be developing the blockchain itself, which has been named the ‘Australian National Blockchain’.
The benefits for businesses will be making use of smart contracts to make business agreements/transactions easier and safer. According to the announcement, the ANB is seen as a step towards an ‘internet-of-things’, or a system in which everyday processes are connected to the internet.
Dr Mark Staples, senior research scientist at Data61, said: “For complex enterprise contracts, there are huge opportunities to benefit from our research into blockchain architecture and into computational law. Smart contracts have many applications, and as the ANB progresses we look forward to exploring other business use cases to roll out.”
The blockchain itself is being developed by IBM. IBM actually began working on blockchain technology in Australia in May 2017 when it opened ‘Blockchain Centre’, a nonprofit research and advocacy organisation, in Melbourne.
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In July 2018, four major international banks test IBM’s blockchain by sending a number of transactions between companies and countries over a few days. They declared it viable.
Paul Hutchison of IBM Global Business Services said: “Blockchain will be to transactions what the internet was to communication – what starts as a tool for sharing information becomes transformational once adoption is widespread. The ANB could be that inflection point for commercial blockchain, spurring innovation and economic development throughout Australia.”
According to the press release, the blockchain will be completely legal under Australian law. Natasha Blycha, Blockchain and Smart Legal Contract Lead at Herbert Smith Freehills, said: “Our clients are enthusiastic about process automation, and how it can support a move away from paper-based systems, simplify supply chains and quickly and securely share information with customers and regulators.”
Cryptocurrency – no longer a rabbit
Last week, we reported that a partnership between two Melbourne businesses now allows Australians to pay for their utility bills in cryptocurrency.
The two developments show that the Antipodean authorities have given up the suspicion with which they treated digital currency when it first washed up on the island. Initially blaming it for a number of society’s ills, the state recognised Bitcoin as legal tender in September 2017 in order to be able to police it, and to that end created an entire new branch of government – AUSTRAC.
As further testament to the relaxing of suspicion, an Australian cryptocurrency exchange called CoinJar was recently allowed to launch a crypto-investment fund for high-value investors.