Australian Gov’t Partners With IBM and Legal Experts to Build Smart Contracts Platform

IBM, CSIRO’s Data61 and law firm Herbert Smith Freehills have partnered on a new Australian consortium to build a cross-industry blockchain-based smart contracts platform for enterprises, according to a press release published August 29.

Data61 is a digital innovation center that forms part of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) – an Australian government corporate entity that undertakes scientific research to advance diverse local industries.

The initiative has been dubbed The Australian National Blockchain (ANB), and will pool the tech, scientific and legal expertise of the three partners to create a nationwide, legally-compliant blockchain infrastructure for the digital economy. As the press release outlines:

“The ANB will enable organisations to digitally manage the lifecycle of a contract, not just from negotiation to signing, but also continuing over the term of the agreement, with transparency and permissioned-based access among parties in the network.”

At a more granular level, the release states that the platform’s smart legal contracts (SLC) will be designed to contain “smart clauses” that can interact with external data sources such as Internet of Things (IoT) device data, and will self-execute to trigger pre-determined business processes and events as soon as a given contract condition is met.

One example is given for use in the construction industry, in which smart sensors on site could record the time and date of a successfully delivered load on the blockchain, and trigger a smart contract that would automate payment on behalf of the construction firm.

The concept will reportedly initially be tested as a pilot using IBM’s blockchain solution, and the consortium says it plans to invite local regulators, banks, law firms and businesses to participate in the pilot, which is due to start before the end of 2018.

IBM Global Business Services’ Paul Hutchison has given his perspective that:

“Blockchain will be to transactions what the internet was to communication – what starts as a tool for sharing information becomes transformational once adoption is widespread. The ANB could be that inflection point for commercial blockchain, spurring innovation and economic development throughout Australia.”

Beyond ANB, major initiatives are underway in Australia to integrate blockchain across both the government and the financial sector. This July, IBM signed a five-year AU$1 billion ($740 million) deal with the Australian government to use blockchain and other new technologies to improve data security and automation across federal departments, including defense and home affairs.

Earlier this month, the World Bank and the country’s largest bank, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), successfully issued a public bond exclusively through blockchain technology.