Katrina Donaghy of Civic Ledger on Crypto Clothesline
This week’s interview on the Clothesline is with Australia’s prize-wining Katrina Donaghy, a woman very active on the Blockchain technology scene, who’s forging the way for both the industry as a whole, and positively encouraging women to be part of it also.
After a couple of rescheduled planned interviews we finally managed to speak to Katrina from the bustling departure lounge of the airport. We learn about how she got into Blockchain development, about her projects including Civic Legder, how she sees women in the industry, including how that will unfold in the future, the Government departments being impacted by her organisation and of course, her favourite quote.
Can you tell us about Civic Ledger and the award you’ve recently won?
Civic Ledger is an Australian Blockchain company that focuses on civic applications of the technology.
We work very closely with government. We see the opportunity that Blockchain has some really good use cases in government because they issue what we call ‘assets’. And when you have an asset that can be verified through an authoritative source, such as government, it makes it a different value proposition for the person that’s doing the transacting and receiving the transaction.
We were founded in September 2016 after we did a small MVP (Minimal Viable Product) for the Queensland government. It’s a really long time ago because, as I’ve said this before, we were using the Bitcoin blockchain as Ethereum was still sort of, getting out of blocks.
We got market validation that we had something that the government would find useful, that’s when we created the company. And then for the next 16 months we worked with government to understand good user cases, so we could better understand the potential of the technology.
And during that stage we worked very hard in building out a community because we saw that there was a sort of a gap: trying to keep the ‘noise’ out of the conversation. Obviously with cryptocurrency… we felt that if we could educate, then, we would get adoption and we’ll realise the potential of the technology.
Just recently we were a finalist, under three categories in the Finnie Awards (annual Fintech Australia awards recognising leadership and innovation in the nation’s financial technology sector), and we were named “Australia’s Emerging Fintech Organization for 2018”.
“There were 5 Queensland Blockchain crypto recognised as well: Travel by Bit, Living Room of Satoshi, Entersoft, InsureTech and Civic Ledger.”
We got market validation that we had something that the government would find useful, that’s when we created the company. And then for the next 16 months we work with government to understand good user cases so we could better understand the potential of the technology.
And during that stage we worked very hard in and a lot of us building out a community because we sold that. There was a sort of a gap in trying to keep the noise out of the conversation obviously that we felt that if we could educate them we would get adoption and we’ll realize the potential of the technology.
MVP (Minimal Viable Product):
When you build out software, it’s really important to keep it very short, lean and in very quick sprints, it’s called ‘Agile’. You want to test whether the technology is the right fit for the problem that you’re solving, so you want to make sure it’s at reduced cost, and then the customer can see the results quicker.
In the past, traditional legacy systems take nearly three to five years to get to market. By adopting Agile you’re quickly able to show and share the client that potential, and then once you’ve delivered MVP, then you might fill out a movement to a Proof-of-Concept, which adds additional exceptions to the problem. Once that’s satisfied, then you may move to a Pilot, which then takes you through to the runway for software development. Through Alpha, Beta and enterprise.
How did you get into the space?
I quit my job.
I was an executive in a not-for-profit company and I’ve got to the point where I’d worked so hard for 20 – 25 years, being very altruistic in my skillsets to actually make money for governments as I did a lot of revenue generation for councils and government. I got to the point when my loyalty was not valued so I just quit. And that takes a lot of courage.
Sometimes I think I waited too long, but again, it comes down to timing, but I’d gone through a health hackathon and I met some incredible people. We looked at a problem. Very interestingly, it wasn’t Blockchain because it still had founded by that stage, but I took that innovation back to an organisation that I was working for. They were kind of: “No we don’t DO that sort of stuff here.”
There was some other conversations that made me question, so on the Friday I had an interaction with my CEO, and by the Monday I had gone.
Then I joined this startup. We were looking at some things around identity. I found that I couldn’t solve the problem looking at it from a traditional way, and around September, October… Blockchain found me, and then I was gone.
I remember going down the rabbit hole and realising that this was a technology that could look at problems in a whole different way. I’m a sociologist and a problem-solver, I found that there was a really neat fit to my values.
Then I went onto Twitter and started finding some really interesting people, and I found Leanne Kemp, who is also from Brisbane, and she created a company called Everledger.
I followed her on Twitter and I found out that she was actually speaking at the Innovation Summit in Brisbane in 2016. I went to the Innovation Summit and she was the only person talking about Blockchain technology. I talked to her after she got off stage, and I talked to her about where there was a glut in Brisbane. Leanne’s a very straightforward person, and I’m not going to swear, but she did swear at me, and she said: “Do something. Don’t wait for someone to say it’s okay, you go do something. So I did! I joined my first Meetup and then that’s the story. It’s been crazy ever since.
It’s about setting yourself up to be open for the opportunity and being mindful of signs to say ‘You’ve got to be paying attention to something and this is the reason why.’
It’s not easy. This stuff is hard. Dealing with the technology that nobody understands, and we’re trying to work with government. Nobody would think that you’d put the two concepts together, particularly when it comes from such a libertarian perspective. We see the opportunity around emerging democracies, developing countries. It’s just incredible and I’m very, very grateful for this journey that I’ve finally found, with the right community who are very passionate about this technology.
What kind of work you are doing with the government? What sort of projects?
In Australia we work with governments around the idea of issuance.
If you think about you as a citizen, or tax payer, or customer, or rate payer… For you to interact with the government, you have to fill out a form and they assess your suitability. Then they’ll issue you a permit or license, or whatever.
These are what we call ‘assets of value’, whereby we as citizens need to interact with government to get a service. That’s that sort of stuff is what we call ‘time-sensitive’. If you want to park a car for example, and you get a fine, that’s because there’s a time difference between you saying, “I’m going to park for this amount of time…”. Then a ticket inspector comes along and says, “No, you’ve overstayed.” Then you will dispute that and say, “No, no, no. I was there for this time.”
All that data sits inside data-bases that are manually handled, and that’s why we have to go to court quite a lot for intestation.
Anything that is has a time-sensitive relationship, this is where Blockchain can create an opportunity to reduce friction, create a better user experience, prove transparency, but also speed up the delivery of those services. At the same time, it reduces costs, reduce waste out of the actual transaction.
In Australia there are 811 million transactions every year between federal government and state government, and citizens, customers and organisations. If you think about all those transactions, that’s huge! And a lot of red tape… So we sort of spun opportunities to look at transactions.
We’ve looked at water. Water is a massive market in the agricultural sector. It’s worth $16 billion, but those transactions often don’t happen in a transparent way. If you look at water, it’s very precious commodity. But if you understand the true value of that water, then we would probably have a different relationship with that asset, particularly around returning it to the environment, sustainability, better public policy…
We found that that experience was really quite interesting for us, and that led us to working with IP Australia, looking at rights, patents and things like that. Anything that is a paper-based transaction that is a good use case, potentially has a blockchain application. It’s about everyday life, everyday!
Abheeti: Do you mean for example, if I’m getting a bill from the water board and it says to me ‘You’ve used x units of water’ and I want to contest it because I don’t think it’s true? Is that what you mean by transparency?
Yeah, that’s right. I’m going to just introduce a few new words and I’ll try and make sure I define them correctly. Blockchain technology relies on verified data. You just can’t say that Blockchain’s going to solve the problem of data, of truth.
“A lot of people think that Blockchain will create truth, but it won’t. It’s there to store the relationship in that transaction. It’s a neutral place for a transaction to happen that is verifiable and transparent.
If we’ve got clean data and the data is what we call ‘federated’. That means that it’s gone through a process, everyone agrees, you get consensus and then it goes onto a registry. Then that data becomes the source for transactions to occur outside of government.
Now just bear with me because this is where some of the exciting stuff is happening. When we talk about open market places and sharing economy and stuff like that, everyone’s really interested in the government providing services, but also getting out of the way.
So is government, but they’re dealing with traditional legacy systems that make that a bit hard.
“We’re working with government agencies that are interested in the question saying, ‘…if we create registries that are secured by the Blockchain, so we can say that ‘this is the truth, this is accurate data’, then how does that open up to new marketplaces?”
We hear about open data by government all the time, but that data is very difficult to understand, it’s unstructured, we don’t know where it’s come from, it’s not verifiable.
So, if we start to say ‘Yes, this is the right data. This is the right transaction. This person has that asset’ and that person wants to take it into a marketplace, then the marketplace actually trusts that data. Therefore, you can create these new economies, or these merging economic propositions. That to us is very exciting.
I’m going to dip over to the concept of ICOs. There are reasons I’m taking you over this journey. When we think about initial coin offerings, we’re starting to see less interest because of the problems that we’ve seen, and more now to security tokens. That means that you have an asset-backed token. When you think about government, everything that they transact with is an asset. It’s backed by the government, therefore it’s valuable.
Governments issue assets to you in paper, it’s not liquid. If we digitalise that relationship, digitalise that asset, or that transaction, it becomes liquid.
And if the rules permit, then they can go into marketplaces for exchanging, for transfer or for consumption. I guess what I’m saying is that tokenisation, securitisation asset-backed token, is going to be a very interesting conversation over the next 12 months. I’m hoping that the word ‘Blockchain’ is going into the background, and we don’t have to talk about what it is anymore, how it works, rather we’re going to start talking about good use cases and how it’s creating efficiencies and reducing costs.
I’m listening to you and I know how much time and money the government can save yes and they know that everything has to be digitalised. It sounds like the perfect relationship, why aren’t they jumping on it and saying ‘Civic Ledger come and save me!’
It requires a lot of education. You’ve got to realise too that the technology has been around only since Satoshi Nakamoto released the Bitcoin white paper in 2008, and the first Bitcoin was actually transferred in January 2009.
It’s all been about cryptocurrency, and that puts a lot of fear into leaders who are responsible for tax payers’ money, as well as politicians. This is about education, but it also takes leaders within departments or government to stand up and say, ‘Hey, let’s go do some exploration and discovery around this technology to realise this potential and then let’s build out a strategic roadmap.’
It’s about being pragmatic. It’s saying ‘This is a potential, but how do you start?’ That’s where we come into play. We show them how you start thinking about it. It’s also tied up around regulatory systems because the technology is only about 25 percent of the solution.
“The barrier too is that no leader in government is wanting to tell politicians that they are likely to lose jobs.”
This technology will start to remove jobs out of the equation but will start to add new jobs as we start to understand the potential for this technology….it’s going to create an awful lot of automation and there will be a lot of job changes so governments are going to have to understand the fourth industrial revolution, the future of work…
So much more is explored in the interview with Katrina, including the role of children in future technologies, the importance of introducing developer education into schools, and how dependent we all are and will increasingly continue to be on Blockchain coding developers.
We discuss also Katrina’s role in facilitating Women in Blockchain Meetups in Brisbane, including reference to some of the amazing women she invites to the stage to speak to the audience, men and women alike, about Blockchain projects unfolding in the world.
We’re blessed as women and as Australians, to have Katrina Donaghy forging pathways with Civic Ledger, finding efficient ways of creating value/ asset exchange systems between government and citizens, customers and businesses.
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