Government blockchain prototype on track for FY19

DTA working with Data61 on blockchain project

The Digital Transformation Agency says it is on track to deliver a prototype blockchain system for government by the end of the financial year.

The federal budget, handed down in May, revealed that the DTA would investigate areas “where blockchain technology could offer the most value for Government services”, with $700,000 from within the DTA’s existing resources to be allocated to the project.

At the moment the DTA is in a discovery phase with Data61 “exploring the relevance and application of blockchain for government,” a spokesperson told Computerworld.

Earlier this year Randall Brugeaud — at the time acting DTA CEO but since permanently appointed to the role — said that Australia’s welfare payment delivery system would be an early focus of the DTA’s efforts.

The DTA’s aim is to explore “innovative ways to securely and efficiently deliver government services using blockchain,” Brugeaud told a technology conference. “The potential of blockchain to securely record transactions will be investigated drawing on the experience of other public and private sector organisations.”

The government’s chief digital officer, Peter Alexander, told a 21 May Senate Estimates hearing that then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull had requested DTA investigate blockchain.

Ahead of the decision to launch a specific DTA project, a number of government organisations including the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and the Department of Home Affairs had already begun examining the potential of the technology, Alexander said.

The DTA executive said the project would be based on “pulling together the experience of blockchain across government to say: Fundamentally what is it, and is there value to this technology and this approach at a time and in a world where blockchain is new and not standardised but clearly has some value outside cryptocurrency?”

“There is clearly some value to blockchain and some of the components of that technology or technology set,” he said.

“We will look at it to determine what the value is and how we can use it. Specifically, we have been asked to look at whether we can use it for welfare payments.”

Alexander said the DTA is also “looking at it for a range of other things”. “Examples are settlement of trades, cargo management and even the providence of open datasets to ensure they’re accurate, noting that some of those things are using technology and approaches from the seventies that aren’t particularly new,” he said.

“So we are just working out what blockchain is, how it can work and whether it really is a value proposition for government.”

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