by Joseph Young
Australia Post Accelerator, the ‘incubator’ arm of Australia Post, has officially announced their plans to test the blockchain technology to exploit its practicality in the fields of identity, registries, and e-voting.
Blockchain identity and registry have become two of the most popular trends in the fintech market, with an increasing number of startups migrating from the traditional implementation of the blockchain technology in finance to data-focused blockchain projects.
Blockchain startups, especially firms based in London, have begun to evaluate the ability of the blockchain technology to store a variety of data into a distributed protocol which significantly enhances the level of security and transparency typical encrypted databases and servers provide.
Rick Wingfield, Australia Post Accelerator partner, believes that organizations in the country’s public sector can leverage this ability of the blockchain technology to develop more robust, secure, and transparent ledgers of data that can grant the citizens of Australia more control of information.
Wingfield notes that the transparent nature of a blockchain network makes it difficult for companies and institutions that deal with personal and sensitive data. However, organizations that are required to process data publicly can greatly benefit from blockchain technology-based platforms and applications.
For instance, Wingfield described many of the world’s driving license distribution platforms and databases as a major example. If a government can integrate the blockchain technology into its existing IT systems that deal with public data such as driving license records, citizens won’t be required to possess a physical evidence of their credentials. Instead, they can simply access a blockchain-based distributed protocol to access their driving license, which is more secure and efficient than a physical license card.
“If you think about a driver’s license, not the physical form of ID but what it is, it’s an accreditation. It’s something that says I’m allowed to drive a car, has a start date and end date, and has conditions provided I haven’t gotten more than a certain amount of points,” Wingfield said.
“If that was written somewhere publicly, and if every time I got demerit points and that was written publicly as well then third parties could verify in real time whether or not I was still allowed to drive a car, potentially the smart car could,” he added.
He further emphasized that companies should research and study the blockchain technology outside of the conventional realm of finance. The blockchain technology itself has various potential applications in any data-reliant industries and markets.
Thus, leveraging the blockchain technology to enhance and improve outdated IT systems could be the key to successfully digitize the economy.
“If we’re going to successfully digitize the economy and the hard parts of the economy that haven’t been digitized yet … the hard things like health, education, and government services, those things require trust. If we’re going to digitize some of those things, then we need to know someone is who they say they are,” Wingfield noted.
Already, blockchain startups have begun to explore the applications of the blockchain technology in the industries mentioned by Wingfield. In fact, some startups are expected to launch demonstrations of working blockchain-based products by late 2016, showcasing its advantages over conventional databases in handling complicated sets of data.
By utilizing the blockchain technology to create a more visible and transparent network of data, Wingfield and the Australia Post Accelerator believes that core operations of an economy can be settled autonomously, without the presence of mediators and administrators, which actually increases vulnerability to hackers.
“When we think about the blockchain, we don’t want to take people’s private information and put it on a public ledger because that would very quickly become a honey pot for scammers and hackers, and even if that data was encrypted that’s probably not a good idea,” he explained.
“We do, however, think the technology has a really good use in bringing about a lot more control for the citizen; putting citizens in control of their data, and potentially using the two key infrastructure for citizens to jointly encrypt their data with whichever government, department, or corporate that owns that data, so it can only be unlocked with the two keys.”
With a government-backed organization voicing their interests in the blockchain technology, the Australian government could look into the application of the blockchain technology in other government-led operations and activities in the near future.