HSF partners with tech icons to study a new digital backbone for Australian business

The consortium will build a potentially significant new piece of infrastructure in Australia’s digital economy

HSF partners with tech icons to study a new digital backbone for Australian business

Herbert Smith Freehills, CSIRO’s Data61, and IBM have come together to build a potentially significant new piece of infrastructure in the country’s digital economy.

The three have formed a consortium to build the Australian National Blockchain (ANB), a digital platform that’s envisioned to be a new backbone for Australian businesses. It will enable organisations that are members of the network to use smart contracts, exchange data, and authenticate legal agreements.

The consortium said that the ANB will be the first enterprise-grade, publicly available blockchain system for businesses across the country that’s designed for Australian legal compliance.

The aim is to enable organisations to digitally manage the whole lifecycle of a contract, from negotiation and signing through the term of the agreement, all with transparency and permission-based access of involved parties. With the system, organisations can trigger business processes and events with the use of blockchain-based contracts.

The ANB will also allow automation of processes, as its contracts will feature smart clauses, which can be set up to allow for input from outside data sources, such as Internet-of-Things devices that tell a clause to self-execute once certain conditions are met.

Blockchain-enabled smart contracts can also potentially work with artificial intelligence and analytics to help ensure compliance and provide insights.

“Technologies like blockchain are set to transform the legal industry and the wider business landscape as we know it,” said HSF’s Natasha Blycha, blockchain and smart legal contract lead. “This presents a huge opportunity for agile and forward-thinking firms and has potential to deliver significant benefits to our clients and the business community as a whole. Our clients are enthusiastic about process automation, and how it can support a move away from paper-based systems, simplify supply chains and quickly and securely share information with customers and regulators.”

The consortium is already working with another leading Australian law firm to bring the ANB to market. The group will test the concept as a pilot based on the IBM blockchain. Later on, regulators, banks, law firms and other Australian businesses will be invited to participate in the pilot. If successful, the consortium also intends to roll out the platform to other markets.

“IBM Blockchain and the IBM Cloud provide the highest level of security to support even highly regulated industries such as healthcare and government, and IBM has extensive experience building blockchain networks and convening large consortia focused around solving important business problems,” said Paul Hutchison, vice president and partner of cognitive process transformation at IBM Global Business Services.

“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,” he said.

Data61 delivered two reports to the Australian Treasury last year that studied how blockchain technology can be adopted by the government and the business sectors.

“Our reports identified distributed ledger technology as a significant opportunity for Australia to create productivity benefits and drive local innovation,” said Dr Mark Staples, senior research scientist at CSIRO’s Data61.

“Data61’s independence and world-leading expertise will help to catalyse the creation of digital infrastructure for Australian businesses to transition to a digitally-enabled future. For complex enterprise contracts, there are huge opportunities to benefit from our research into blockchain architecture and into computational law. Smart contracts have many applications, and as the ANB progresses we look forward to exploring other business use cases to roll out,” he said.

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