The welfare payment delivery system will be an early focus of the Digital Transformation Agency’s investigation into the potential of blockchain to deliver more efficient government services.
Randall Brugeaud -- deputy Australian statistician, corporate services transformation group, at the Australian Bureau of Statistics and currently acting CEO at the DTA – said the agency would aim to have a prototype by the end of next financial year.
The DTA’s aim is to explore “innovative ways to securely and efficiently deliver government services using blockchain,” Brugeaud told the CeBit eGovernment Conference in Sydney. “The potential of blockchain to securely record transactions will be investigated drawing on the experience of other public and private sector organisations.”
The federal 2018-19 budget, handed down earlier this month, revealed that some $700,000 from the existing resources of the DTA would be earmarked for investigating blockchain’s potential.
The agency will “investigate areas where blockchain technology could offer the most value for Government services,” budget documents stated.
“Our plan is to look for use cases across the Commonwealth, with an initial focus on the welfare payment delivery system,” Brugeaud said.
Brugeaud noted the work that the ASX has done on developing a blockchain-inspired distributed ledger system that it will use to replace its existing CHESS system. CHESS provides clearing, settlement and other post-trade services for the Australian Securities Exchange.
Late last month the ASX revealed that it planned to have the new system in production sometime between the end of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021, although that timeline is subject to change, the exchange operator said.
Brugeaud also noted the research that the CSIRO’s Data61 had done on blockchain and distributed ledger technology.
Data61 released two major research reports in 2017 that canvassed the potential of blockchain-style technologies, including for government service delivery.
Smart contracts “could automate the process coordination to apply for, decide on, and distribute payments for grants and social security,” said the Data61 report, Risks and Opportunities for Systems Using Blockchain and Smart Contracts.
“With a sufficiently-sophisticated payment environment, a smart contract could automatically limit payments to approved suppliers or categories of expenses.” Private blockchains “could be used to facilitate information sharing and process coordination across agencies within government,” Data61 said.