If you can’t beat them, join them. That seems to be the stance Australian politicians have taken towards blockchain technology as of late.
Just recently the Australian Labor party announced a $3 million pledge for the establishment of a blockchain academy in Perth if elected in May.
That news followed the recent unveiling of a multi-government partnership with Power Ledger for a ‘blockchain village’ in Western Australia, where townhouses will generate their own solar power and then sell excess electricity via crypto tokens on Power Ledger’s blockchain platform.
Outside of government, the Australian Stock Exchange has jumped on board the blockchain train with the launch of its distributed ledger technology test site last month.
The launch of the test site has been widely regarded as “the world’s largest deployment of a private blockchain in financial markets.”
But not all countries or governments are as forward thinking as Aussie pollies, with ‘regulation crackdowns’ regularly making daily global headlines.
So why are the other governments of the world still dragging their feet when it comes to progressing blockchain adoption?
A rocky start
Like anything new, often the immediate reaction is to treat whatever it is with caution. Or block it completely.
The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has been one of the most active institutions when it comes to crackdowns, and recently increased its scrutiny of exchange-traded funds.
China wants to ban Bitcoin mining, after already making crypto trading illegal and quashing initial coin offerings to fund blockchain projects. Often called China’s version of Facebook, Wechat has banned its merchants from using cryptocurrencies.
And let’s not forget the issues the crypto industry has had with navigating capital gains come tax time.
But at least Australia’s leaders are starting to come on board.
In the 2018-19 budget, then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull allocated $700,000 to the country’s Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) to investigate blockchain applications for government.
Last month it was revealed the DTA had only used $200,000 of the funding after deciding that blockchain lacked ‘standardisation’. The agency noted that the remaining funds would be allocated to other DTA projects.
While the DTA’s move can be seen as a little disappointing, there is an effort to address this issue seen in Australia’s 2019-20 budget, where politicians voted to put aside $60,000 for Standards Australia to continue the development of international blockchain standards.
A bright future
When Ed Husic, the Shadow Minister for the Digital Economy, made the announcement of the $3 million pledge to a blockchain academy last week, he noted the enormous opportunity blockchain has to create jobs.
“It’s estimated that for every single blockchain developer, there’s about 14 job opportunities, according to a recent report done by the Australian Computer Society and Data61,” Husic said.
“We know the demand is there, we know the skills that are needed, we need to start that process of skilling people up. […] But also getting traditional businesses to work with new firms and startups to think through what can be done with blockchain to improve the way that businesses operate and ensure that we have a stronger economy at the edge of one of the most dynamic global economies.”
Australia has learnt what benefits come from fostering innovation at the early stages – you only have to look at the success of homegrown unicorns Atlassian and Canva.
DigitalX has been a pioneer in the Australian blockchain industry, and with the merger of country’s two corporate blockchain bodies, the newly strengthened Blockchain Australia is well-placed to represent businesses seeking to participate in this new digital economy.
Perhaps Australia’s leaders have got their sights on the benefits of the past – by embracing emerging tech, you erect a welcome sign to the innovators of the world, which can result in the establishment of new businesses, creating jobs, which then injects more money into the economy.
So why wouldn’t you back what’s been called ‘the biggest technological revolution since the internet’?