Australia Post Accelerator has joined firms from across the globe that are experimenting with the blockchain technology which powers bitcoin. It is exploring three potential areas in which it believes blockchain can be developed: identity, registries, and e-voting.
Australia Post Accelerator partner Rick Wingfield confirmed the move at Australia’s largest ICT event for the public sector.
Technology in Government 2016 brought together senior public sector technologists and communications experts to discuss ICT solutions within government.
There have been global discussions about how blockchain technology can improve these critical areas particularly identity issues.
A UN summit considered using the technology in May following world leaders’ pledge to provide a legal identity to all by 2030. They proposed using blockchain technology to achieve the universal identification objective.
Wingfield says blockchain will help digitize a person’s identification process, unlike the current process that requires a lot of paperwork.
Australia Post Accelerator is the incubation arm of Australia Post which verifies about a quarter of the population annually for government agencies and corporations.
Australia Post is a Government Business Enterprise with the Commonwealth Government of Australia as its sole shareholder. It is also Australia’s largest retail network. Hence it has the knowledge that has earned it the convenient edge over the market.
In April, Australia Post completed a so-called digital transformation. It says the change will equip it to compete with online services as customers post fewer letters. It immediately started the push to become the manager of consumers’ online identities as they conduct financial affairs online.
Its chief executive Ahmed Fahour was the first to hint that the company was exploring the use of blockchain technology.
In March, Fahour told The Australian Financial Review Business Summit that:
The future is going to be a digital identity, so that when you say who you are, I can tell who you are. A lot of people are thinking about blockchain from a financial services point of view but the reality is it has much wider applications.
Wingfield says they think the technology could create more control for citizens over access and the use of personal data. He says residents will use the two key infrastructure “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.”
He says the public ledger nature of blockchain can also simplify registry accreditation. It could verify if someone is still licensed to drive or operate heavy machinery, or can work with children.
For e-voting, Wingfield says the pseudonymous nature of blockchain will make people’s votes remain anonymous, unlike the current voting system.
Australia Post launched a series of incubator and accelerator programmes last year. They aim to leverage the broad reach of its retail footprint to lure technology entrepreneurs. The idea was to improve the centuries-old postal agency’s search for new growth opportunities outside of its declining letters business.
Blockchain technology is gaining wider use in Australia. The Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) is currently building a new post-trade solution using blockchain technology.
Earlier, the ASX enlisted US-based firm Digital Asset to develop solutions for the Australian equity market using the technology.
According to its report, Backing Australian FinTech, the government believes the blockchain technology has the potential to revolutionize critical services. They cited services such as international transfers between banks, equities clearing and settlement, and financial contracts.
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