CSIRO study examines potential uses of blockchain technology

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s (CSIRO) Data61 has delivered a comprehensive review of how blockchain technology could be adopted across government and industry in Australia to deliver productivity benefits and drive local innovation.
In 2008, blockchain emerged as a technology to support digital currencies and it has quickly generated interest for its broad application offering secure transactions across various domains such as provenance of data, health records, banking, voting and government services.
Over the past year, CSIRO’s Data61 Australia’s data innovation group has engaged with industry and government to deliver two reports on the regulatory, technical and societal implications of using blockchain-based systems across various industries.
“The pace of change we are experiencing as a nation is exponential and we can’t afford to be followers in the adoption of emerging technology like blockchain,” said Adrian Turner, CEO of CSIRO’s Data61.
“It has potential to reframe existing industries like financial services and seed new ones like food provenance and personalised health.”
The Treasurer, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, said the reports would help Australia build on its existing position as a leader in developing blockchain technology.
“It will give decision-makers in business and government guidance on matters they need to consider in developing a system that uses blockchain technology,” he said.
“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.”
The first report developed by Rob Hanson and Dr Stefan Hajkowicz in Data61’s Strategic Insight Team explores four plausible adoption scenarios of blockchain technology in Australia in 2030 including: aspirational, transformative, new equilibrium and collapse.
“Scenarios allow decision-makers to consider, if similar possibilities were to occur, what should they do to prepare for the future ahead of time,” Hanson said.
“Most importantly, each scenario examines the aspects of critical uncertainty for the use of blockchain technologies: human behaviour, technology and development, regulation and user adoption.”
The second report takes a technical approach by exploring design alternatives for blockchain systems in three illustrative use cases: remittance payments, open data registries and agricultural supply chains.
“Looking at the range of critical requirements in these specific context helps us understand how blockchain-based systems can support new markets and business models,” said Dr Mark Staples, Group Leader, CSIRO’s Data61.
The study highlighted that the path towards widespread adoption is still not clear.
It was recommended that further trials of blockchain systems should demonstrate responses to ‘rainy day’ scenarios when problems arise like disputed transactions, incorrect addresses, exposure or loss of private keys.

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