The Australian research organisation, CSIRO – via Data61, has produced two reports on blockchain technology. These examine the risks and opportunities of this technology for Australia.
The first report, ‘Distributed Ledgers: Scenarios for the Australian economy over the coming decades’, explores four plausible adoption scenarios of blockchain technology in Australia by 2030. This approach includes scenarios that are aspirational and transformative, establish a new equilibrium and represent collapse.
The second report, ‘Risks and opportunities for systems using blockchain and smart contracts’, selects three use cases to examine how blockchain systems can support new markets and business models. These include: agricultural supply chains, government registries and remittance payments.
The Australian Treasurer, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, said the reports would help Australia build on its existing position as a leader in developing blockchain technology. They: “will give decision makers in business and government guidance on matters they need to consider in developing a system that uses blockchain technology. 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.”
Blockchain technology benefits
These reports on blockchain identified benefits for business and governments:
For business, blockchains remove the need for a third party. As such blockchains can reduce the number of stakeholders involved in any one transaction. This reduces costs and saves time. Blockchains can also enable improved information sharing and better business processes. If delivered these provide stakeholders with more confidence and reduce risk.
For government, blockchain technology can become a common reference point to bring together different levels of administration (local, state and federal) in order to host government-organised registries of open data. The result could include:
- more reliable integration across government services
- improved mobility and business consistency across states
- better regulatory oversight when blockchains record operational information in regulated industries.
Recommended next actions
While the two reports do not attempt to describe a full panoply of blockchain technology opportunities, they include a number of recommendations:
- increase research and development (R&D) on trustworthy blockchains
- test blockchains for ‘rainy day scenarios’
- scrutinise technology-specific risks for new systems
- provide indicative guidance on sufficient evidence for regulatory acceptance of blockchain-based systems
- inform regulators and businesses about the typical technical risks and limitations of blockchain technologies
- implement technologically-neutral regulation and policy.
What’s it mean?
Blockchain technologies are hot. There is global interest in the possibilities – by governments, enterprises and a vibrant start-up ecosystem.
CSIRO is well respected. These reports offer weight and depth within the constraints they lay out. They do not paint blockchain technology as a panacea. There is much yet to do, not least educating regulators and businesses about not only the opportunities but also the risks and limitations.
For enterprises wishing to understand how they might exploit blockchains and how blockchains might fit into the administrative domain, these are recommended reading.