The policy program of the Austrian government includes a section about blockchain. As the government wants to speed up technological development, blockchain could play a more prominent role in Austria’s future.
When the minsters of the economy of Liechtenstein, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria met in Vaduz last October, blockchain and digitalization were part of the meeting agenda. The other countries wanted to learn from Liechtenstein’s experience with the technology, in particular, the structuring of Liechtenstein’s Blockchain Act.
It seems as if the visitors learned valuable lessons. Blockchain has made it into the Austrian government’s policy program. Not that it has been placed very prominently – you have to skip to page 323 to read about blockchain – but at least the technology got a mentioning.
So far, Austria has not impressed the world with exciting blockchain news. At least not compared to Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and Germany. Among the four German-speaking nations, Austria seems to have fallen behind.
The Austrian Masterplan for Blockchain Technology and Cryptocurrencies
The Austrian government wants to speed up the development of new technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence, open data, cloud, quantum computing and also blockchain. To formulate a strategy, the government wants to publish a “Masterplan for Blockchain Technology and Cryptocurrencies.”
As part of the masterplan, the government wants to roll out a range of initiatives to deploy and regulate blockchain technology and its different applications, including cryptocurrency. To enable an interdisciplinary and comprehensive approach, several ministries, such as the ministries of finance, economy, and infrastructure and technology as well as academic institutions, will work together to formulate the masterplan.
Austria also wants to work with the European Union to ensure a streamlined and pan-European approach to regulating and deploying the technology. A key focus area is pushing for uniform European regulations for blockchain-based investment vehicles.
Besides creating a legal framework, the government also wants to investigate opportunities to deploy blockchain to improve its administrative processes. Therefore, the government plans to launch pilot projects to test different blockchain applications such as blockchain-based registries.
Austria has fallen behind, but there might be potential
Whether or not this document will be comparable in size and contents to Germany’s Blockchain Strategy remains to be seen. But the government acknowledges the importance of the technology.
However, the suggestions made in the policy program seem rather neutral and undecided. It’s more about investigating opportunities and risks, rather than making any concrete suggestions. The government also emphasizes regulating the technology to prevent fraud and misuse.
Although Austria has been slow in adopting the new technology, there are some innovative projects in the country as well. For example, the Austrian Blockchain Center (ABC), an R&D hub that is funded with 20 million Euros.
According to the ABC, Austrian companies are “extremely interested” in incorporating blockchain technologies into their business processes. A survey among the ABC’s corporate partners found that more than 50% of surveyed companies had already completed at least a blockchain Proof-of-Concept, and another 22% are currently conducting such a project.
Whether or not these findings are representative of the whole Austrian economy remains in question. Nevertheless, it seems there is some movement in Austria, and it might be worth watching.