CSIRO’s digital arm Data61 has partnered with the Commonwealth Bank to develop an app that could bring blockchain-based programmable money to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

The app has been developed as part of a trial, dubbed ‘Making Money Smart’, that intends to improve the experience of NDIS participants and service providers using ‘smart money’.

‘Smart money’ – otherwise known as programmable money – allows for conditions to be attached to payments to allow tracking of who spent what, where and to identify merchants.

The prototype app, which is currently being tested with NDIS participants and carers, allows “participants to manage their plan by enabling them to find, book and pay for services from NDIS service providers within the need for paperwork or receipts”.

It enabled by a blockchain token solution, allowing for integration with Australia’s New Payments Platform.

The NDIS is the first case study of the proof of concept, and was chosen due to its “highly personalised payments conditions”, with NDIS plans personalised to individual participants.

CBA’s head of experimentation and blockchain Sophie Gilder said “programmable money represents an opportunity to re-envisage how we think about money and how payments function across the economy”.

“The potential of this technology for the NDIS is exciting, ranging from greater empowerment for participants, reduced administration costs for businesses and greater visibility for Government,” she said.

She said a “diverse range of government and industry leaders” had been collaborated with on the research project, including the Digital Transformation Agency, Department of Human Services and the Reserve Bank of Australia.

Data61’s software and computational systems program senior principal researcher Mark Staples said the project had been interesting to see “how blockchain technology can integrate with new payments technologies to provide more choice, control and flexibility for conditional payments”.

“We’re particularly interested in the broader research opportunity around programmable money, because it should reduce friction in business transactions, and enable companies to create new business models and innovative ways of delivering and paying for products and services,” he said.

“This would benefit customers and reduces the administrative burden involved in managing payments.”

Data61 and CBA will release a report that examines the benefits and limitations of the system for NDIS payments in November.

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