Government urged to test blockchain’s potential

Government urged to test blockchain’s potential

Blockchain technology might help prevent a repeat of the Centrelink data-matching disaster, says investment banker turned business professor Christine Helliar.

Blockchain is the technology behind cryptocurrency Bitcoin, but is increasingly viewed as having applications elsewhere in business and government.

In simple terms, blockchain is a tamper-proof digital ledger that keeps a continuous record of all transactions that take place.

Each transaction is time stamped and stored as part of a detailed history that builds up over time.

The information can be shared among a network of computers.Professor Helliar, who works for the University of South Australia, said blockchain could be used to link all tax and welfare payments, reducing the potential for error and fraud.Instead of data being collected by a range of different agencies, all transactions relating to a person could be kept in one place, with the government as gatekeeper, she said.

“There have been major problems with Centrelink’s automated data-matching system, which is precisely where a government blockchain could come in,” Professor Helliar said.

“It’s like an audit trail and governments around the world are looking at what blockchain could do to make their systems more efficient and accountable.”

As part of a major welfare crackdown, Australian­ Tax Office data is being matched to self-reported income given to Centrelink to determine if there are any discrepancies in payments.

The federal government wants to recoup $4 billion through the debt-recovery process.


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