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Like China, Australia Talks Blockchain Roadmap as US, Japan Mull Own Digital Currencies

Barely days after the US suggests the possibility of a Fed-issued digital coin, Australia has somewhat followed China in establishing its stance on blockchain by releasing a national roadmap after a year of preparation.

The document, which attests to Australia’s recognition of the potential of the emerging blockchain technology like the Chinese premiere did in a presentation last October, highlights significant opportunities for the technology across multiple sectors in the country’s economy to save money, solve problems, increase efficiencies in multiple processes, and enable new opportunities.

Australia seems to have been on the matter for a while though. It dates back to a 2018 PWC survey of global executives which concluded that 7% of them currently consider Australia to be a blockchain leader, ahead of Japan (6%), the UK, Denmark, India and Hong Kong (each at 5%). The survey’s findings put Australia significantly behind the US (29%) and China (18%) while respondents predicted that only Australia, China and India were on target to expand their share through to 2023 – which seems to be evident in the case of China currently.

For now, Australia’s financial services sector is known to be the most prominent advocate and adopter of blockchain technology to date as it undertakes nearly 40% of blockchain activity in the country, the document states. The professional, scientific and technical services sector represents about 20% while the remainder 40% of overall blockchain activity in Australia is spread across a wide range of sectors from retail through to mining.

However, what is next is getting to improve on the opportunities that are available to be realised through the use of blockchain technology in other sectors particularly in the legal sector, construction sector and government sector including for supply chains in agriculture and wine exports; and trusted credentials the education sector, it adds. There are some challenges to realising these opportunities which need to be addressed in order to capitalise on the technology though. The roadmap states:

“One barrier to increasing investment and collaboration across borders is a limited understanding of the blockchain-related needs of potential customers or investors, relative to the services which Australian blockchain firms can provide. Improving the ‘pitching’ skills of Australian blockchain businesses—as well as taking a more targeted approach to helping blockchain providers find the right customer or investor—may help maximise the impact of international engagement opportunities.”

In another blockchain-related topic on the other side of the world, the Governor of the US Federal Reserve have said that they are looking at a broad range of issues around digital payments and currencies, including policy, design and legal considerations around potentially issuing its own digital currency.

Lael Brainard said this week that the Fed is “conducting research and experimentation related to distributed ledger technologies and their potential use case for digital currencies, including the potential for a CBDC (central bank digital currency).”

The significance of this stance is not only about standing up against the much-awaited CBDC by China but the reversal of Brainard’s standpoint about two years ago when she told a conference in San Francisco that there is “no compelling demonstrated need” for such a coin. The consideration now falls in line with the view of a former chief economist at the IMF Kenneth Rogoff that a digital Fedcoin is inevitable.

The Fed’s disclosure comes as a group of ruling party lawmakers in Japan confirmed late January that they are working on a proposal for their country to issue its own digital currency as part of measures to counter China’s move toward issuing digital yuan.

The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reportedly told their parliament that the government will work with the central bank in studying digital currencies and find ways to enhance the yen’s convenience as a settlement means. The Bank of Japan is one of the six central banks that recently announced their decision with the Bank of International Settlement to come together and share expertise on understanding digital currencies and how to issue them in the future.

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