An Australian government agency will join forces with IBM and law company Herbert Smith Freehills to develop a national blockchain for legal agreements.
Tech giant IBM, London-based law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, and the Australian government’s scientific research department have agreed to pilot a national smart-contract platform based on IBM’s blockchain, the three parties announced on their web sites on Wednesday.
The Australian National Blockchain (ANB), as the new digital infrastructure is dubbed, will enable local companies, regardless of their size and the industry they operate in, to come together and use smart legal contracts (SLCs). In this way, businesses will be able to exchange data and confirm whether a contract is legal and what its current status is, thus managing the whole lifecycle of a SLC.
At first, IBM, Herbert Smith Freehills and Data61, the digital innovations branch of Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), will test the platform. Then, banks, regulators, law companies and other local firms are hoped to also take part in the trial, due to begin by the end of 2018, CSIRO specified. Meanwhile, a law firm is hired to market the blockchain platform.
If the pilot of the ANB ends with good results, the three partners intend to bring the technology to other countries as well.
The lack of any enterprise-grade platforms to run the contracts prompted Herbert Smith Freehills to start exploring blockchain two years ago, blockchain and smart legal contract lead Natasha Blycha told The Australian Financial Review. The law firm had already discussed the matter with Data61 and it was the partnership with IBM signed in May that gave birth to the Australian blockchain platform.
In a comment on what potential blockchain technology holds for businesses, Paul Hutchison, blockchain director at IBM, said:
“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.”
For the US technology giant, this is not the first blockchain project in Australia. In July, IBM secured a A$1-billion deal with the Australian government to deliver blockchain and automation technology to government agencies.