Perth will be home to an Australia-first $3 million blockchain academy if Labor wins government on May 18.
In a joint statement yesterday, Shadow Minister for the Digital Economy Ed Husic, Shadow Minister Assisting for Small Business Madeleine King, and WA MPs Matt Keogh and Patrick Gorman, revealed the opposition’s plan, labelling the nascent technology as “a secure and more trusted technology platform”.
“Labor wants to drive skills and training through the Blockchain Academy, teaming up with education and training providers from the vocational and tertiary sectors,” the statement said.
“The Blockchain Academy’s location in Perth will provide a focal point for the Blockchain based startups and firms that are already flourishing in the city.”
As part of the academy, Labor will look to upskill interested developers in blockchain-specific development, sourcing students from the tertiary sector and vocational training providers. The centre will also look to connect these students to job opportunities with startups and corporates, and “potentially” host researchers and act as a venue for events.
“The Liberal Government has failed to tackle major tech skills shortages that are holding back Australian businesses,” the ministers said.
“Labor wants to address this, investing in Australians to develop job skills that are in high demand now and into the future.”
If the Perth academy is successful, Labor will explore expanding the model into other capital cities.
Blockchain technology has been a hot topic in the business world for the past few years, with the cryptocurrency boom of 2017-18 fuelling global hype around the distributed, decentralised platform. However, the sector has cooled in recent times, as numerous hyped projects failed to deliver on their promises.
Labor’s $3 million pitch for Perth, in a state which has birthed local success stories such as Power Ledger, will be a boon for local blockchain startups, but also may run the risk of being seen as money better spent elsewhere by blockchain sceptics and founders across Australia.
Recently, the government’s Digital Transformation Agency revealed the results of a six-month-long, $700,000 study into the technology’s feasibility for use in government systems.
“It would be our position today … that blockchain would be well worth being observed but without standardisation and a lot of work to come in it, for every use of blockchain you would consider today there’s a better technology alternative,” the agency’s chief digital officer Peter Alexander said in October.
Agencies considering the tech were urged to be “pragmatic” and consider other more “mature” and established database technologies.