Australia and Singapore conclude blockchain trial project

A nine-month blockchain experiment evaluating the cost and timeliness of the two countries’ digital verification systems has been declared a success.

The Australian Border Force (ABF), the Singapore Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), and Singapore Customs, in collaboration with other industry representatives, recently completed a blockchain trial project evaluating the countries’ digital verification systems for issuing and verifying trade documents.

The collaborative venture was established as part of the Australia–Singapore Digital Economy Agreement, an initiative aimed at increasing the efficiency of bilateral commerce and reducing the economic friction associated with cross-border payments.

The interoperability of two digital verification systems — the ABF’s Intergovernmental Ledger and IMDA’s TradeTrust reference implementation — was examined in order to gain a better understanding of the possibility of creating “high integrity digital trade documents that can be instantly authenticated, provenance traced, and digitally processed.” According to the official announcement,

“QR-codes embedded with unique proofs are inserted into digital certificates of origin (COO), enabling immediate verification for authenticity and integrity of the document when scanned or machine-read.”

Several prominent industry organizations, including the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Australian Industry Group, as well as financial institutions such as ANZ Bank, DBS Bank, and Standard Chartered, all participated in the trial and emphasized the benefits of increased cost and time efficiency through the use of verifiable COOs.

When the trial was announced in November 2020, the hope was that digitizing COOs would pave the way for a shift away from paper-based documentation, which not only harms the environment but also slows supply chains, as businesses frequently delay approval until hard-copy documents are delivered via courier. ABF Commissioner Michael Outram acknowledged the trial’s encouraging results:

“Digital verification and verifiable documents show promise as a ‘circuit-breaker’ to disrupt persistent paper-based evidence required by authorities.”

Himanshu Maggo of Standard Chartered Bank stated, “The rapid validation of digital COOs is a significant step in establishing a trusted trade environment capable of efficiently verifying the provenance of items.”

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