Data61 casts doubt over blockchain future in Australia

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Data61 casts doubt over blockchain future in Australia

More research needed to make sure hyped tech will work as intended.

Distributed ledger or blockchain technology has a long way to go before widespread adoption in Australia, according to Data61.

The CSIRO's digital and data group today published two reports on blockchain and its future in Australia, covering adoption scenarios, risks, and design alternatives.

It identified a number of benefits for government and the private sector with the technology, including a reduced number of stakeholders for transactions, thereby making them cheaper and faster, as well as better information sharing and business processes.

Governments specifically can benefit from blockchain as a common reference point that will bring together local, state and federal administrations to host registries of open data.

But distributed ledgers without a central authority carry risks as well as benefits, Data61 found.

While public blockchains have very low barriers to entry  - which is good for competition and innovation as well as productivity - they do not mandate authentication of participants.

As such, public blockchains could create headaches when it comes to money laundering regulation, terrorism financing, and tax avoidance, the group said.

Private blockchains with more controls over authentication and access address some of the regulatory concerns, Data61 said, but they may not be private enough to satisfy regulatory requirements.

Overall, Data61 found there was no clear path towards widespread adoption of blockchain.

It said there was not enough evidence to show that blockchain systems will work as intended, or how they will function with legacy systems.

Further research and trials are needed to establish that distributed ledgers wil produce the expected results. 

Rainy day scenarios need to be taken into account, such as problems with disputed transactions, incorrect addresses, exposure and loss of private digital keys, data-entry errors, and unexpected changes to assets on blockchains, Data61 said.

The organisation hopes its reports will help governments and other organisations make informed decisions on whether or not blockchains are right for them.

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