Commbank wants to control disability packages and government payments with blockchain

Commonwealth Bank has been working with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) to create “smart money”. The “smart money” utilises blockchain, best known as the technology that allowed for the creation of Bitcoin.

The purpose of the project, named Making Money Smart, is to encode limitations and rules on how the money can be spent. The payments made to people with disability under the National Disability Insurance Scheme were targeted as the primary use case for “smart money” due to the lack of transparency in rules and consistency under the current system as well as the significant amount of manual processing. Essentially, “smart money” would replace the current situation where lots of humans are making different interpretations of the rules on NDIS packages.

Targeting Government Payments

Beyond NDIS packages, government payments more broadly were seen as a potential use case for the Commonwealth Bank’s “smart money”. This would seemingly operate in a manner similar to current and past trials where government payments are accessible through cards or food stamps programs that are limited to only allow spending by holders on products approved by the government.

Commonwealth Bank’s Head of Experimentation and Blockchain, Sophie Gilder noted to the Australian Financial Review that:

“We knew this would be a tough case, but that’s why we wanted to tackle it…It’s a big, hairy issue and we envisage using blockchain and connecting it with the new payments platform because that infrastructure is there and allows payments to be made in seconds.”

“when we do proof-of-concepts we don’t like to use real data or real money … we always do these tests in a sandbox environment where we can glean learnings before applying it to real circumstances.”

[image description: woman holds two physical gold coins over her eyes, the coins show the emblem of Bitcoin, a popular cryptocurrency based on the same blockchain technology Commbank is seeking to use for NDIS packages and government payments]

While Gilder sees great opportunity for “smart money” in the private sector, controlling NDIS packages is a high priority, with Gilder stating

“You could use smart money for insurance payouts or corporate credit cards. In these instances there are less rules, although still some rules, meaning it will be faster to implement. But that doesn’t mean we’ll stop working on the NDIS…

We’ve had really great feedback and we want to see if we can make it a reality. But with so many stakeholders and the amount of money flowing through it with half a million participants, it will take longer.”

Fundamentals Forgotten?

Interest from government bodies, businesses and the broader community in Blockchain technologies generally and cryptocurrencies specifically has grown significantly in the past year following the rapid rise and fall of Bitcoin over 2017-18. The popular cryptocurrency rose from a value of $998 (USD) per Bitcoin at the start of 2017 to a peak of $19,666 (USD) in December, representing an almost 20x increase in under 12months and creating significant wealth for well timed investors.

This is not the first to leap frog the NDIS forward by adopting cutting edge technology rather than focusing on getting the fundamentals right. The NDIS has been marred by failing technologies since the rollout began. Mismanagement by the NDIA has seen core systems languish with a complete collapse of the portal, and millions of dollars unpaid to providers while over half a billion dollars was spent on consultants last year.

At the same time the NDIA has pursued vanity projects like an artificial intelligence (AI) based customer service assistant voiced by Cate Blanchett called Nadia. The Nadia project was ultimately shelved after $3.5million in development.

What do you think?

How do you feel about companies like the Commonwealth Bank proposing to control NDIS packages and government packages with blockchain technologies? Will this bring transparency and consistency, both desperately missing from the current processes and procedures of the National Disability Insurance Agency? Or is this a major over reach that will destroy the individual freedoms of personal choice and control? Let us know in the comments


  • kathleen
    13/10/2018 at 3:06 pm

    In order to block chain the NDIS funding, they will have to blockchain the people first…..don’t feel like being block chained thanks.

  • kathleen
    13/10/2018 at 3:04 pm

    This is total craziness…since when have banks ever been able to be trusted to operate for the good of their customers. Just give the predators control of everything why don’t you? So all us participants will be going to and applying to use our NDIS like its a loan? How much do we have to beg and why should they get ANY say?

  • Nada Day
    13/10/2018 at 11:36 am

    Commbank ripped off every vulnerable customer they could find and now they want us to trust them with our measley NDIS payments ? Commbank will decide if we need a support ? what is happening to Australia ?

  • vince furlonger
    13/10/2018 at 10:31 am

    Yes ,there is merit in utilising Distributed Ledger Technology it would streamline the whole process and a) Save money probably hundreds of millions of dollars which could then be placed back into the system freeing up more funds for the participants.b) Enable quick payments via the use of smart contracts maybe built on the Ethereum blockchain using a ERC-20 coin purpose designed for the NDIS.I would however NOT involve a bank for numerous reasons but would employ a DLT consultant already involved in this technology.Blockchain technology would cut out the middleman and just involve the payer and the payee.

  • Mark
    12/10/2018 at 2:06 pm

    How can you let the banks run ndis and have trust .. just a few weeks ago they were ripping there customers off!! what makes any one think they wouldn’t fall the same away again

  • AnnMarie Day
    12/10/2018 at 12:18 pm

    There is so much restriction already on choice & control of plans and accessing funds due to faceless planners making decisions without knowing the individual. It would be disasterous
    if banks or companies then restricted the process even more. This would ruin the integrity of the NDIS!

  • Michael Poyser
    12/10/2018 at 10:38 am

    We been trying since feb 2018 to have my sons funding approved for transition into supported accommodation ndis has proved to be a bureaucratic nightmare for our family, a litany of unanswered emails from a government Organisation that does not seem to be interested the slightest bit in helping my son obtain the long term care he needs. To farther complicate the matter by having funds tied up by the Commbank is totally unnecessary The system is way too complicated as it without going down that track even further

  • Meredith
    11/10/2018 at 10:32 am

    What a horrendous way to control People with a Disability and take away their power, choice and control yet again. Get the fundamentals of the NDIS right before leaping ahead to exciting technology that will ultimately force people with a Disability back Into a box, again. This smells of another form of institutionalization.
    All the money going into this research can surely be used in much better ways such as training NDIS staff and LACs, improving the crappy technology and improving internal processes.

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