Blockchain case study: Commonwealth Bank and the NDIS

A trial combining blockchain technology with the New Payments Platform to create smart money, for a case study of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Daniel Royal is the manager of the Making Money Smart project.

What problem were you trying to solve?

We looked at solving problems with 3 sets of users:

  1. For NDIS participants, simplifying the user experience by eliminating paperwork, manual calculations, paper receipts and service eligibility considerations.
  2. For NDIS service providers, reducing administration costs by enabling simple eligibility checks, near real-time payments and automatic reconciliation.
  3. For the government, enabling improved value for money through enhanced service delivery and fraud control powered by data analytics capabilities.

How did use of a blockchain help solve this problem?

The proof of concept translates budgets in participant’s NDIS plans into blockchain tokens. Smart contracts (which represent the budget rules) are dynamically attached to the blockchain tokens to form smart money (programmed to know who it can be spent by, what it can be spent on and when it can be spent). This enables NDIS participants, service providers and the government to have real-time visibility of service eligibility, with appropriate access controls for privacy. Furthermore, service providers could redeem the tokens they receive as they deliver services for near real-time payment on Australia’s New Payments Platform.

Did you consider existing data exchange and centralised database technologies?

Yes, our report evaluated the proof of concept against a hypothesised centralised database solution. We found that a centralised database and our smart money proof of concept could achieve a similar front-end user experience. While the smart money proof of concept could offer potential platform advantages on the back-end, if the smart money technology was applied across multiple payment environments (that is, to the NDIS and other use cases), further work may be required to deliver sufficient performance and confidentiality outcomes to achieve these platform benefits.

What brought you to blockchain?

CBA and CSIRO’s Data61 had wanted to test the potential of blockchain to enable smart money for quite a while. We were also interested to see how blockchain technology may be able to integrate with existing payments technologies, such as Australia’s New Payments Platform. The NDIS contains highly personalised budgets and payments, making it a good case study for our project.

What went well?

The smart money proof of concept could enable all the conditions in the NDIS ecosystem, including different types of budget management (self-management, agency-management and plan-management). We received great feedback from NDIS participants and carers on our prototype app (Net Promoter Score rating of 89%).

What surprised you?

One of the biggest surprises was the extent of the challenge to collect all the data required to enable conditional payments across the NDIS ecosystem, including payments to general businesses that deliver services to NDIS participants (for example, travel, digestive aids). The design challenge is as much about effective data collection as it is about data processing (whether using blockchain or a centralised database).

What do you know now that you didn’t know earlier?

That blockchain technology offers promise, particularly around the potential for platform benefits if the technology is leveraged across multiple conditional payment environments – but that further work is required to balance 2 key design criteria: performance and confidentiality.

What advice would you pass on to other government agencies?

Collaborate with the Digital Transformation Agency and other government and industry stakeholders related to your use case, so that you can benefit from a range of perspectives and expertise. User research with existing users of government schemes is also invaluable and should be central to your design considerations.

What is the best way for your colleagues in the public sector to learn more?

The Making Money Smart webpage shows our project video, evaluation report and companion report on potential data analytics capabilities.

Get in touch

If you have any questions you can send an email to info@dta.gov.au or call 0427 136 791