Govt funds new blockchain roadmap

James Riley
Editorial Director

The federal government will develop a national blockchain roadmap and kick-in a further $100,000 for the study, despite its Digital Transformation Agency recently saying the new technology is at the “top of a hype cycle”.

Industry minister Karen Andrews this week said that the roadmap would “position Australia’s burgeoning blockchain industry to become a global leader”, with a focus on regulation, skills and capacity building, innovation, investment and international competitiveness and collaboration.

“The national strategy puts us on the front foot in exploring how government and industry can enhance the long-term development of blockchain and its uses,” Ms Andrews said in a statement.

Chain gang: The Industry department is funding a national roadmap for blockchain technology

“We will work closely with blockchain and technology experts from industry and academia to develop the strategy, as well as with CSIRO’s Data61 to incorporate findings from their forthcoming future scenarios report on blockchain,” she said.

It appears the strategy would be developed internally within the industry department, with the amount of funding actually allocated to it still unclear.

The government has pledged $100,000 for companies to attend Austrade’s Mission to Consensus in New York in May to a “landmark event” for the blockchain industry.

It comes after the federal government handed the Digital Transformation Agency $700,000 in last year’s budget, personally requested by former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, to investigate the use of blockchain for delivering public services, such as welfare payments with the Department of Human Services.

The DTA has been less persuaded by the new technology, with chief digital officer Peter Alexander telling a senate estimates hearing in October last year that “for every use of blockchain that you would consider today, there is a better technology”, and that it is at the “top of a hype cycle”.

In further guidance released by the DTA last month, the agency warned departments that they shouldn’t jump to embrace the technology and should instead look at the actual problem they’re trying to solve.

“Our team found that blockchain is still an emerging technology and, when applied to various pilots or considered against alternative technologies, gaps become evident across both the technical and business facets of its implementation,” the DTA said last month.

“Agencies should focus on problems they need to solve, rather than start from a specific technology solution. Agencies should continue to monitor blockchain developments, looking for opportunities to enhance service delivery that this technology may unlock in the future.

“Agencies should objectively compare blockchain solutions to alternative technologies when solving business problems. The limitations of blockchain should be carefully weighed against any unique benefits provided by a blockchain-specific solution for government.”

The DTA said its results “should not stop agencies searching for innovative ways to share and use data.”

The federal government has also provided $350,000 to Standards Australia to contribute to the development of international blockchain standards.

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