Australia's blockchain roadmap coming soon

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The Department of Industry, Innovation, and Science believes that blockchain is a promising application in agriculture and food manufacturing in Australia, touting its benefits in providing transparency and authentication of supply chains.

The department said the use of blockchain in food provenance and traceability could improve food safety and protect Australian producers from fraudulent and counterfeit products.

Must read: Is FOMO making enterprises unnecessarily leap into blockchain?

“The safety, quality, taste, and well-regulated production of Australian-branded agricultural and food goods — which make them popular and high-value commodities in foreign markets — make the Australian brand an attractive target for counterfeiting,” it said in a submission [PDF] to the Select Committee on Financial Technology and Regulatory Technology and its probe into the opportunities the two vectors present to Australia.

“The process of growing, producing, manufacturing, and transporting goods is complex, with many different participants involved in the process.”

According to the department, food and wine fraud in 2017 alone was estimated to valued at over AU$1.68 billion.

The department is currently developing a National Blockchain Roadmap that it said would highlight the opportunities posed by blockchain technology across the whole economy.

It said the roadmap will assess “sectoral opportunities” including in agriculture, credentials for individuals, and know-your-customer (KYC) checks.

“It will also examine key issues of regulation and standards, skills, capability and innovation, international investment, and collaboration in blockchain,” the submission continued.

The roadmap is being developed with oversight by an Advisory Committee comprising representatives from industry, academia, and government with the expectation that it will be finalised and published in the next few months.

See also: Blockchain: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)

It follows the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) giving advice over a year ago to those getting lost in the buzz of blockchain that they should turn their attention elsewhere.

DTA chief digital officer Peter Alexander also dunked on its use, adding to the above that “for every use of blockchain you would consider today, there is a better technology — alternate databases, secure connections, standardised API engagement”.

“Blockchain: Interesting technology but early on in its development, it’s kind of at the top of a hype cycle,” he said.

The government entity has even published a questionnaire for organisations to self-evaluate before bothering with something that can just be stored in a secure database.

Industry also took the opportunity to update Australia’s role in the development of international blockchain standards.

Standards Australia, the country’s non-government standards body, was charged with managing the secretariat of an international technical committee for the development of blockchain standards by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in September 2016, with 16 ISO member bodies including Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Estonia, Japan, and South Korea also participating in the development of ISO/TC 307 Blockchain and electronic distributed ledger technologies.

In 2017, Standards Australia published a Roadmap for Blockchain Standards, determining at the time the industry should first develop blockchain and DLT terminology standards as a means to clarify definitions in the sector and set a platform for the development of other related standards.

“Common standards for blockchain are crucial as the technology matures,” the department wrote in its submission to the committee. “Currently there is a lack of interoperability between blockchain platforms, and many will require replacement in the near future to remain competitive and to avoid security problems and obsolescence.”

It believes standards for blockchain will improve market confidence and support a broader rollout of blockchain systems.

The department said the ISO committee is developing blockchain standards on a number of topics including interoperability, terminology, privacy, and security.

Standards Australia also recently published a report on the interactions between smart contracts in blockchain.

Common standards will enable the establishment of more extensive and cohesive digital infrastructure and collaboration for blockchain activities and enable a wider range of blockchain-empowered activities,” it said.

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