Monash Uni: Blockchain Is Not Restricted to IT

Blockchain presents particular challenges to educators, as distributed ledgers may be implemented virtually everywhere. Therefore the world’s most advanced universities establish cross disciplinary blockchain centers. Digital Asset Live Editor-in-Chief talks with Dr Joseph Liu, Head of newly established Blockchain Technology Center at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

Q1: The Monash Blockchain Technology Center is established on the base of the IT Dept research lab. How different it will be from the lab?

The lab is funded by a local fintech company called Collinstar Capital and it is mainly for the technology development of the cryptocurrency called Hcash. While the Centre is a cross disciplinary platform (with affiliated members from different faculties in Monash, e.g. Law, Business, Medicine, Engineering etc.) and provide blockchain-based solutions to different sectors in the community, such as digital health, finance, supply chain, smart energy etc. In addition to the research part, we will also provide education to our master students on blockchain related subjects, and also training short course to executives level to let them know how blockchain can be applied to improve their business.

Q2: You stated earlier, that the decision to establish the Blockchain Technology Center was taken when you and your colleagues realised that ‘blockchain is not just restricted to IT’. Will you please elaborate on this statement?

Though blockchain itself is an information technology, the application or impact of it does not just limit to the IT sector. Most of the people know that it forms the technology of cryptocurrency, which can be used as a digital payment method, or an investment tool (finance sector). It can be applied to digital health, to allow patients to put their clinic records into the blockchain system and control who can have the access. It can be also used in the supply chain scenario where the data got from the farm, for example, for beef production, alongside the logistic chain to the customer in other countries. The temperature, location etc. information can be put into the blockchain in an authentic manner, so that the customers will have a higher confidence on the product they want to buy.   

Q3: Will the MBTC be engaged in education or do research primarily If yes, how do you envisage it? You mentioned plans to create an interdisciplinary platform.

Starting from the second half of this year, we have already started to add blockchain-related subjects into our Master of Cybersecurity course. More will be done in 2020: we will organise an pure online short course (we called Microcredential) on blockchain, which is targeted for technical people (e.g. programmers) to enroll, to enhance their knowledge in blockchain. We will also organise short course for managers or executives in Australia and the Asia Pacific region to engage with more industries and to let them know how blockchain can be used to improve their business. 

Q4: What areas in the DLTs and their applications will be prioritized and why, in education and in research? 

Finance (this is the most “popular” area on blockchain so far, not just limited to cryptocurrency but also in banking and insurance sector). 
Supply chain. Australia is a food exporting country. Many international customers are willing to pay a higher price to buy better food from Australia. But they also want to ensure that the food is real, and really coming from Australia. Blockchain can play a very important role in this issue.Digital Health. This is also one of the main theme in our Faculty. We have a medical doctor in our Faculty serving as full professor in Faculty of IT. He is also the affiliated member in our Centre and we will coordinate on various digital health project to provide blockchain-based solution to them.Smart Energy. Monash has a net-zero initiative and blockchain can play an important role in the smart grid area. There are lots of energy transactions happening every second from many parties which can be recorded in the blockchain system.

Q5: What challenges do you see currently in blockchain adoptions?

There are still some technology limitation, e.g. the efficiency for the pure decentralised consensus such as PoW, or the privacy issue of blockchain system, that may limit the practical deployment of blockchain into different scenarios. On the education side, many industry may not know how blockchain can improve their business. They may just hear about the name “blockchain”, which they may even think it is equal to Bitcoin.

Q6: Since I do short courses on blockchain adoptions and tokenization, I would like to know what is your attitude to such form of  education?

It is good to have different parties to provide education or training to the public. 

Q7: What qualifications will your students obtain? 

Master students will be given the relevant certification, while the microcredential students will also be given a credit for the blockchain unit if they later enroll in our master program.

Q8: Do you plan to cooperate with other education centers in blockchain worldwide? If yes, how?

We plan to organise the training short courses in other parts of the Asia Pacific region.