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The case for Tui, the Kiwi cryptocurrency, and other uses of blockchain technology

The case for Tui, the Kiwi cryptocurrency, and other uses of blockchain technology

The Blockchain NZ conference talks about the case for a government-backed digital currency, as well as uses of the technology in healthcare and education.

The creation of a pool of New Zealand dollars as cryptocurrency would be a world-first

Grant Anderson, Xero

Tui, the native Kiwi bird, is being considered as the moniker for New Zealand’s first digital currency using blockchain technology.

“The creation of a pool of New Zealand dollars as cryptocurrency would be a world-first,” says Grant Anderson, head of government relationships at Xero.

“New Zealand is quick to embrace all sorts of technology and we are fast to adopt,” says Anderson, who made the case for the Tui digital currency at The Blockchain NZ conference in Auckland.

“It is reasonable to assume we would have the same fast adoption of cryptocurrency if we are to introduce one,” says Anderson, one of the speakers at the conference that is part of TechWeek 2017.

Gartner defines blockchain as a type of distributed ledger in which value exchange transactions (in bitcoin or other tokens) are sequentially grouped into blocks. Each block is chained to the previous block and immutably recorded across a peer-to-peer network, using cryptographic trust and assurance mechanisms. Depending on the implementation, transactions can include programmable behaviour.

Anderson says the proposed cryptocurrency will be called Tui to distinguish it from the Kiwi dollar.

There is a huge, exciting opportunity for New Zealand to be the first country to issue this cryptocurrency, as it will gain a first-mover advantage, he says.

“Our regulators get to write the playbook,” he adds, “It is far easier to write the rules while we are learning how to play the game, than it is to come afterwards and getting everybody to play the rules that somebody else makes up.”

New Zealand can attract hundreds more of the world’s brightest developers and tech startups if we are the first one to do this, he adds.

He says cryptocurrency can also help lower the transaction costs for small businesses and large retailers.

“Our present payments system is an old clunky legacy system, very expensive, and of course the owners of that system want to get a return on investment of that investment," he says.

He believes other technology companies like Apple could introduce something like a 'pip coin' that could be used as an extension of Apple pay, to be used for apps and at the Apple store.

Should this happen other merchants would start to accept them too he states, and other technology companies like Google, Amazon and Samsung would follow with their own versions of the 'pip coin'.

He points out there are aspects of the Tui that need to be fully fleshed out before the public is confident of its security.

Anderson says a major barrier to mainstream acceptance of Kiwi dollars as cryptocurrency, is the lack of understanding outside the technology community of what these currencies do.

He suggests having a trial run of Tui, using the agile approach.

He says one of the biggest hurdles around introducing Tui, is that regulators all want to see a fully fleshed out regulatory framework before it is out there.

“Maybe it can not be done with today’s technology, but it may be with tomorrow’s,” he says.

“If we work together, we can get enough groundswell to get the Tuis in circulation.”

Blockchain has emerged as a potential enabler of a digital credentialing ecosystem. It could make the matching of skilled individuals to job openings more effective and trustworthy than ever before.

Lukasz Zawilski, NZQA

Blockchain beyond finance

Other speakers spoke about using Blockchain technologies for other sectors, like education and healthcare.

Lukasz Zawilski, CIO of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, says the agency is exploring using the technology as another way to provide a trustworthy New Zealand Record of Achievement.

He cites a Gartner prediction that by 2021, 30 per cent of higher education institutions in the US, the UK and Australia will be using a digital credentialing infrastructure powered by blockchain.

NZQA is developing a New Zealand Record of Achievement (ROA) to capture achievement information on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework for level one to 10.

He says NZQA is undergoing digital transformation and this includes how it delivers qualifications.

While he notes it is too early to determine the impact of this technology in coming years, a recent report notes how this year, financial institutions will spend over $1 billion on blockchain projects.

Blockchain technology can also be applied to the education sector.

Blockchain has emerged as a potential enabler of a digital credentialing ecosystem. It could make the matching of skilled individuals to job openings more effective and trustworthy than ever before, says Zawilski, who spoke at a panel at the conference.

Proof of educational attainment, allowing more accurate evaluation of educational suitability for particular employment, is a fundamental challenge in the global economy, leading to an often costly process to establish trust between all involved parties.

You have a single user interface to retrieve your records - a one stop shop, and to be steward and manager of your own records

Dr John Halamka, Harvard Medical School

In a survey, 58 per cent of employers reported having identified a lie on a resume.

The problem of verifying academic credentials is symptomatic of fundamental problems with trust and identity on the Internet, he says.

At the moment, some of the methods of verifying the qualification is through paper (inefficient, not portable, not machine readable, expensive and possible to forge) and digitally-signed PDFs (which are reliant on the Adobe ecosystem and limited to PDFs), says Zawilski.

"Blockchain has potential in this,” he says. “Only time will tell … but we know education verification is changing.”

Another speaker, Dr John Halamka, professor at Harvard Medical School and CIO of the Beth Israel Deaconess System, spoke about their pilot programme using blockchain for medical data access.

Called MedRec, the programme involved the creation of a decentralised record management system to handle electronic health records using blockchain technology.

"We want the patients to be the stewards of their data, to determine what data gets released and for what purpose," says Halamka, who spoke at the conference via Skype.

In that respect, the blockchain is simply a ledger, a record of the patient’s lifetime experience across different sites of care.

“You have a single user interface to retrieve your records - a one stop shop, and to be steward and manager of your own records,” says Halamka, a practising emergency physician, and an independent director at Orion Health.

“It is a very straightforward mechanism. It is fit for purpose and holds a great promise for use in healthcare going forward.”

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Tags GartnerHealthcareJohn HalamkaOrion HealthNZQACIO100digital currencycryptocurrencytechweekThe Blockchain NZ conference

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