On 28 August 2020, the Australian government announced two new National Blockchain Roadmap Working Groups: the Supply Chains Working Group and Credentialing Working Group. Together they’ll support the roadmap’s Steering Committee in progressing analysis on blockchain cases in Australia, with a particular focus on credentialing in education and agricultural supply chains. Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, these are two of Australia’s largest exports.
The roadmap itself was created by Australia’s Government earlier this year to fully realize blockchain potential in multiple sectors, including innovation, regulation, and investment. The committee is made up of various academic, industrial, and governmental experts to oversee the roadmap.
Blockchain for supply chains and agriculture traceability
The Supply Chains Working Group will examine blockchain’s benefits in trusted supply chains, especially in agriculture. Australia has already used blockchain technology in numerous projects.
In January 2020, the blockchain supply chain management platform AgriChain received an investment of 6 million AUD ($4 million) from Cornerstone Growth Capital. The platform aims to provide end-to-end visibility to the agricultural supply chain by connecting growers, brokers, and logistic partners. In March 2020, non-profit firm Citrus Australia piloted a blockchain-based traceability system for citrus fruit exports with the support of the government agency Agriculture Victoria. Blockchain solutions for beef have also been particularly popular, with Australia’s largest family-owned meat processor Thomas Foods International joining IBM’s Food Trust blockchain last year.
The Credentialing Working Group will examine the benefits of blockchain in credentialing in the education sector. Blockchain appears not yet to be quite as widely used in this sector when compared to supply chains but it can certainly offer multiple benefits. These include providing verifiable records of qualifications and certifications, digital credentials and resumes, all while allowing individuals to control their own data. Given that tertiary education is their third-largest export industry and international education is worth $35.2 billion to the Australian economy, the working group will have its hands full.
National Blockchain Roadmap Steering Committee
The Steering Committee members of note include Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) Deputy CEO Peter Hiom. He is also the spokesperson for ASX CHESS, a blockchain-based clearing and settlement system, originally to be launched in March 2021, but now scheduled for April 2022 due to COVID-19. CHESS has already seen some backlash, receiving a formal competition complaint by share registry companies who believe that the system encroaches on their turf.
Other committee members include representatives of Blockchain Australia, CSIRO’s Data61, and RMIT Blockchain Innovation Hub. Data61, the IT innovation wing of Australian federal science agency CSIRO, has already dabbled in blockchain with their Making Money Smart project. This blockchain payment system controls the spending of disability allowances. Together, these blockchain firms have been involved in digital currency and digital token exchange, smart-money payment systems, and water trading, to name but a few industries.
Australia’s government has invested millions of dollars in various blockchain initiatives over the years. Yet their approach to blockchain has been cautious, wisely emphasizing how blockchain technology should be explored with the ‘mindset’ of how can blockchain benefit us ‘rather than’ how can we force our problem to ‘fit into the blockchain technology paradigm’.