Federal Labor is putting new money behind blockchain as an important strategic technology, earmarking $3 million to establish a Blockchain Academy in Perth, designed to build the skills for in-demand jobs in the tech sector.
The new academy, which has the backing of industry groups like the Australian Digital Currency Association (ACDA), will be announced in Perth by Labor’s shadow minister for the digital economy Ed Husic, together with shadow minister assisting for small business Madeleine King, together with Perth-based Labor MP Matt Keogh.
Perth was selected as the site for the first Academy because of the strength of a growing startup community that includes many younger firms that are focused on Blockchain technology. Perth-based PowerLedger has used the technology as part of its business model for years.
It is anticipated that once the Academy model has been proven successful in Perth, consideration will be given to expanding the footprint to other key cities.
The Blockchain Academy is a second marker Labor has put down, coming a week after Mr Husic and shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen announced that Melbourne would host a $4 million National Centre for Artificial Intelligence Excellence – to drive skills-development for emerging AI applications and use cases.
Labor’s Mr Husic said it was important that industry support mechanisms like the Blockchain Academy be national in focus and that development efforts on emerging technologies like blockchain be coordinated.
He said Labor wants Perth to play a bigger role in the Australian tech and innovation sector – to ensure this activity doesn’t just end up on the east coast of the country, and the Blockchain Academy was an opportunity to put a spotlight on the tech strengths of The West.
Perth had several advantages, being well positioned to link in with other global cities like Singapore that are embracing Blockchain within its FinTech sector.
The number of startups involved with blockchain technology has more than doubled over two years from 3.4 per cent in 2016 to 8.1 per cent in 2018, while blockchain patent filings have grown 140 per cent or more each year since 2013.
Australians have shown a disproportionately high interest in blockchain technology, with the Australian Stock Exchange expected to switch on the world’s first industrial-scale blockchain in financial services by March 2021, helping settle trades faster and with less risk.
Australia Post and the Commonwealth Bank also have active blockchain projects currently running.
Quoting a Data61 report commissioned by the Australian Computer Society, Mr Husic said it’s estimated that every Blockchain developer could expect 14 different job opportunities.
But the report warns that a lack of skilled workers with blockchain-related skills could impact the future development of blockchain applications in Australia.
Labor wants to drive skills and training through the Blockchain Academy by partnering with education and training providers from the vocational and tertiary sectors.
The Academy would explore industry specific applications of Blockchain, connecting corporations with startups, academia and students to help spot opportunities for using the technology in specific business use cases.
It would also potentially host computer science researchers, economists, and corporates and will also act as a venue for education programs and as a showcase for projects.