Precincts within Melbourne’s CBD, such as the Docklands, could pilot a new type of digital economic infrastructure, which would see local retail, residential and commercial tenants come together to collect and utilise people flow and other data that would help all stakeholders optimise resource allocation, increase efficiency and ultimately revitalise the city, a new report by RMIT suggests.
The report — The Docklands DAO: Reimagining precincts in a digital CBD — aims to outline how Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAOs) could benefit stakeholders in various CBD precincts impacted by the long-term effects of COVID-19 and hybrid working, by providing targeted economic stimulus, community governance and community engagement.
A DAO is a governance model popularised by Decentralised Finance (DeFi), where members buy governance tokens to vote on how the DAO operates and spends its money. At the end of 2021, DAOs had more than 1.6 million users globally, up from just 13,000 at the beginning of the year.
The report by RMIT’s Blockchain Innovation Hub, the Centre for Cyber Security Research & Innovation and the Digital Ethnography Research Centre, proposes a strategic pilot for collecting and utilising data to help create organically successful regions in the CBD. The collected data is particularly useful to the small and medium-sized businesses that have been impacted by the economic shocks of the past two years and who need patrons to maintain the working capital to survive.
The report’s author Dr Max Parasol from the RMIT’s Blockchain Innovation Hub said the Docklands would be an ideal precinct for the first proposed pilot and would empower local stakeholders to revitalise economic and cultural activity in the area.
“A Docklands DAO would encourage community buy-in and engagement as a way to regenerate the precinct,” he said.
“The beauty of a DAO is that it provides greater levels of transparency, openness and democratic governance so every member of the DAO (the community) has a voice and voting power.
“DAOs are being successfully spun up around the world and now is the time to really stamp our mark not only as an emerging digital city but this is also a great opportunity to make the Docklands a thriving place to live, work and visit.” he said.
The report identifies the key challenges for SMEs in the Docklands, including:
- Retailers/food & beverage businesses can not forecast inventory and perishable stock due to large working-from-home populations;
- The negative economic impact from tenant rental discounts and vacancies;
- The Docklands is disconnected from Melbourne CBD
It then proposes a two-part plan for its rejuvenation.
In Stage 1, the report proposes a pilot for people flow and other data collections in the Docklands, including anonymised local people traffic data to be collected and analysed with clear metrics.
The goal is to assist SMEs with their economic forecasting and inventory, helping to forecast working capital for businesses, by observing changing labour markets.
The proposal would also help stakeholders to understand property rental and ownership dynamics and in turn assist in creating a rental market with clearer working capital predictive models for retail, commercial and office tenants and landlords.
With a return to hybrid models of work, which may result in large fluctuations in people flow, and as people return to new patterns of weekly work, this will help provide some predictability in forecasting for a designated pilot region, the report says.
In Stage 2, the Docklands DAO would become the gatekeeper of all collected data and use it to value-add to the precinct through generating cost reductions, optimising resource allocations and increasing efficiencies and opportunities, via information sharing, transparency, and community driven placemaking.
The report also proposes that there could be a “Docklands DAO digital currency,” which could be easily converted to Australian dollars.
Co-Director of the Blockchain Innovation Hub, Distinguished Professor Jason Potts, said the second report, in a series of five reports, which will make up the Victorian government-funded Digital Infrastructure and Digital CBD Project, focuses on digital precincts and proposes “a big new idea for regeneration”.
“The big idea is to build a new type of digital economic infrastructure – a DAO, or Decentralised Autonomous Organisation – that will create and manage a new local resource for the city data and will develop a new model for community participation and governance, not just of that data but of all the value that is discovered in that resource,” he said.
“While there is a novel technology aspect to what this report proposes, in reality, the technology is just a vehicle for a new approach to community-led and community-owned discovery of new resources and opportunities with which we can continuously reinvent the local economies that make up our cities, and that has never been more important than right now,” Potts said.