In an interview with Cointelegraph, Rupert Colchester, Head of Blockchain at IBM Australia and New Zealand, discussed how distributed ledger technology is changing supply chain systems around the world.
Colchester also shared insights into some of IBM’s current blockchain initiatives and the state of the industry in Australia, and shared his enthusiasm for the emerging era of digitization that is driving DLT.
Cointelegraph: What is the status of blockchain adoption in Australia today? Is Australia behind or ahead of the curve in relation to DLT?
Rupert Colchester: I think Australia’s advances in DLT technology over the past two years have been very encouraging. However, a country-specific assessment tells only part of the story, as many blockchain and DLT implementations affect companies within borders, sometimes within borders, outside borders, etc.
“Even with regard to government blockchain initiatives that can be described as” country and wealth-driven, “the initiatives often affect exports and imports in the form of people, goods, and services.”
For example, there are excellent use cases for technology in terms of skills and qualifications, but many of these use cases relate to non-Australian students, regulations, processes, educational institutions etc. So I think it is very difficult for each country to make its own progress evaluate.
What is definitely true is so Australia has set the standards and, indeed, how it plays a really prominent role in some of the global standard initiatives related to DLTis a very positive thing. To help companies and organizations within Australia’s borders make progress in this technology, it helps to take a leadership role in terms of standards and technical standards, but also in terms of governance and knowledge mechanisms to drive things forward.
The other thing I want to add when I think of the Lygon initiative, where we piloted three of the country’s largest banks, is the importance of effective collaboration within Australia’s borders. This is something that cannot be seen in many other countries in the world.
If you look at the supply chains in general, I wouldn’t say Australia is particularly far ahead. There are still not many organizations that use a common platform for supply chain data and workflows within Australia’s borders. In some other countries, in some cases, hundreds of organizations use a single platform. You still don’t see that.
CT: What role should the government play in introducing blockchain?
RC: It is important that governments take the initiative from a standards perspective and create obstacles for organizations, companies and regulators in a particular industry. And these are not just financial services, but all types of standards and organizations as well as various supervisory authorities and associations.
“For me, the most effective way the government can help is to drive a collaborative and proactive effort across the industry. When the Australian government supported and / or led initiatives, I think this is a sign of success. “
There are countries where governments are not really active in any way, in any form or in any form. But at least In Australia we definitely see that the government is supportive and proactiveand indeed created a roadmap specifically.
CT: What are the advantages of DLT for supply chain systems?
RC: Supply chains are embedded in some form in every industry. Consumers are demanding a whole new level of transparency. They also require a high level of collaboration across the supply chain to improve the customer experience.
Therefore, they have an expectation about the person from whom they are buying or getting something. They hope that the people who buy have made the necessary collaboration across this supply chain. They are also increasingly expecting a level of sustainability in the supply chains. Therefore, there is an expectation on the part of consumers, and consumers reward the supply chain if there is such transparency or if there is transparency regarding sustainability.
“When every member of a value chain works together, people can really benefit from the benefits that technology can bring to that value chain or supply chain.”
Transparency, increased visibility of things in a supply chain and speed are really remarkable to me and the efficiency that it creates. And of course very important in today’s economy, this also leads to a cost reduction.
CT: What can you talk about in connection with the supply chain initiatives IBM Australia and New Zealand are currently working on?
RC: While we are currently working on several projects and some of them affect the supply chains, I cannot analyze them in detail. However, we continue to work with commercial lenders, a collaborative supply chain-based platform between IBM and Maersk to enable the visibility and digitization of business processes or processes. In addition, the IBM Food Trust initiative, a digital solution for the entire food industry. Everyone, from the farmer or producer to the consumer who buys the product.
We also work in the financial services industry, where it touches the supply chain again. These initiatives are beginning to see real scale and meaning in the digitization we are achieving and the massive efficiency of work processes. In the Lygon pilot project, for example, we fulfilled our promise to create a proof of concept. Instead of taking 30 days to issue a bank guarantee, it now only takes one day if that’s the case.
Another very interesting topic is the issue and verification of reliable certificates for citizens and other people in the country, be it a school year, a university degree, a digital badge or even a small certificate that you can rely on if you have a professional experience: the ability to have a reliable source of credentials for every citizen. As a result, employers can validate this credential. Recruiters are also interested in the validity of this credential.
This project increases confidence in all credentials, whether small or large macro grades across the country. And the fraud that is sometimes associated with skilled workers is obviously a real focus. In fact, this is one of the main use cases in the national blockchain roadmap.
CT: Can you talk about the role other emerging technologies like artificial intelligence play in promoting blockchain initiatives and promoting adoption?
RC: We see AI and blockchain as other exponential technologies like the Internet of Things and 5G – all of these are key technologies that support the transformation of workflows and processes across the business landscape.
Sometimes these business platforms are cross-industry platforms, and sometimes they are within the walls and boundaries of a single organization. Sometimes they can even be found in several industries. So within one branch, but also in several branches.
When the companies and customers we work with try to establish their strategic intent with the platforms they belong to or want to own, they always support these workflows. And these technologies will in turn be the ones that digitize or improve these workflows.
“These two and other technologies can only be treated together as mechanisms and opportunities to add or improve intelligence in current workflows.”
Every blockchain project we do contains pretty much an AI element and generally an IoT element as well. Whether it’s extremely advanced machine learning or simple natural language processing, it varies. But they exist absolutely side by side and we have to treat them as simple enabling technologies.
CT: What are the biggest obstacles to widespread adoption of DLT?
RC: For me, adoption barriers really focus on working together. It’s not that companies don’t want to work together, it’s: how easy is it to work together? Even now, think of the world we live in now, if only for a short time. It’s really difficult to bring the right actors from different companies together in one room to talk about initiatives on individual topics.
Something like the Lygon Initiative, which took us a year and a half to hatch. A group of thirty to forty people were required to meet regularly at all companies to ensure that there were no conflicts of interest, that confidentiality was carefully maintained when needed, and that we had government support where appropriate. for the initiative we took. And that applies to any of these other blockchain initiatives.
“With things like the IBM Food Trust, most of the obstacles were removed. The barrier is now just growth: how fast can a network grow to deliver value for everyone?
But strangely, the growth rate of such a network also depends on the collaboration. How open is a meat producer to sharing their data across the chain? Well, it’s getting more open, but it’s still not that the world feels completely comfortable with it.
Therefore, there is this paradigm shift to share certain records or data points that your company may have historically perceived as crown jewels. a shift to a world where you are ready to share it and understand the value that sharing brings to your business. This is still a leap that is taking place gradually, it’s slow, but sure, it doesn’t just happen overnight. Companies don’t just look at their industry colleagues and say, “Oh, they did. Now i do it. “
CT: What innovations at DLT are you looking forward to?
RC: I am very excited about the continued growth and deployment of the IBM Food Trust platform, which includes a large number of products and part numbers in existing members, as Dole recently announced in the United States. I’m also very excited about Lygon’s perspective and what Lygon can do in all Australian organizations. Many people need bank guarantees and letters of credit, and Lygon can fully digitize these instruments.
What most people are used to is that digitization is a kind of “was one”, which simply means: “Let’s make digital documents out of it on our computer.” Even so, companies have many different versions of these documents. This true digitalization and how blockchain will enable and support it is probably what appeals to me the most.
The interview was edited and condensed for clarity.