The APS Blockchain Network launch event on 5 November was an absolute success with over 80 public servants present. The Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (DISER) hosted the virtual event as the first of the Network’s activities.
Narelle Luchetti, Head of the Digital Economy and Technology Division in DISER said. ” I’m proud to launch the APS Blockchain Network. It’s a first step in delivering on Signpost 7 of the National Blockchain Roadmap: raising awareness across the APS.”
Expert panellists and keynote addressed the need to build blockchain expertise.
We had the pleasure of hearing a keynote address from Caroline Malcolm, who leads the OECD’s Blockchain Policy Centre. Caroline spoke about the importance of establishing a network of APS colleagues to build expertise in blockchain in the APS.
Caroline emphasized the need for policy makers to:
- understand the environment
- understand the disruption that blockchain is causing to that environment, and,
- encourage attendees to check out the resources available at the OECD Global Blockchain Policy Centre
A key conclusion repeated by our panellists was to set realistic expectations for the technology. There are some great new developments in blockchain technology coming out of industry but these are not a solution for all situations.
A panel of experienced senior executive public servants discussed the potential and challenges of blockchain in an Australian government context.
Narelle Luchetti, Head of the Digital Economy and Technology Division in DISER spoke about:
- the importance of increasing blockchain literacy among the APS, and,
- in boardrooms of Australian businesses, to better utilise it as a technological solution.
Narelle described the work underway to that effect, including a budget initiative to fund two blockchain pilots. She also highlighted the work of the National Blockchain Roadmap working groups to develop use cases and examples of blockchain applications.
Peter Alexander, the Chief Digital Officer at the Digital Transformation Agency, discussed:
- the importance of focusing on defining the problem first before looking at the technology
- he cautioned against using blockchain as a ‘hammer’ for every nail, but,
- he also outlined some of the problems that blockchain provided excellent solutions for. Such as data integrity and the emerging potential of regtech
Peter said, “Don’t approach the problem the way you’ve always done, because you’ll get the same result.”
We also heard from Gayan Benedict, the Chief Information Officer at the Reserve Bank of Australia. He spoke about the RBA’s role and use of blockchain and the innovative culture they have developed, where:
- they brought policy and technology teams together to create an innovation lab that works on emerging technology challenges
- teams were able to identify potential applications for blockchain in RBA’s core work, through fun challenges
- teams could present opportunities to executive management to increase their literacy and support for emerging technology
A key theme from the panellists about the government’s role in exploring emerging technologies centred on the value in getting outside perspectives. Engaging with industry and other departments on blockchain applications is a must. Another theme was the responsibility government had to be model of digital practice and to create the social licence for technology.
Gayan said, “In the APS we set policy for application across the nation. It’s on us to understand how these disruptive technologies potentially change the policy framework in which we operate. It’s really important for a group like this to share knowledge. In the APS we need to be wise about how we adopt technology and how we respond to them from a policy perspective.”