Blockchain Could ‘Speed up the Economy,’ Says Nigerian Presidential Candidate

The presidential candidate of Nigeria’s leading opposition party has promised to support blockchain and cryptocurrency, local news outlet the DailyPost article reported Nov. 24.

The Nigerian news outlet reportedly analyzed the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Atiku Abubakar’s “Get Nigeria Working Again” policy that he reportedly promised to enact if he is elected president February 16, 2019.

DailyPost reports that in the document, the politician declared that “he aims to speed up the economy positively through blockchain and cryptocurrency.”

According to DailyPost, Abubakar stated that to unlock “the potentials of the new economy” PDP “shall promote the production of a comprehensive policy on blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies.”

DailyPost also quoted Abubakar platform as stating “regulation will provide clarity” in this “industry that consists of 1,800 currency types.” The terms of the mandate are also promised to be “managed in a way that provides job opportunities as well as income for the government and people of Nigeria.”

As Cointelegraph reported in mid-October, the Nigerian government has been partnering with local startups to develop blockchain in the country. In March, Nigerian regulator Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) warned against the use of cryptocurrencies because transactions are not insured.

IMF Vows to Continue ‘Devoting Attention’ to Blockchain, Cryptocurrency in Fintech Drive

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said it plans to use its ongoing research and experimentation with blockchain as an “anchor” for its future policy on the technology in comments Nov. 12.

Speaking on a panel with Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse during the Singapore Fintech Festival 2018, IMF Deputy General Counsel Ross Leckow highlighted three areas the organization has been “active” in regarding blockchain, cryptocurrency and more.

“The IMF is devoting a lot of attention to fintech and in particular to blockchain,” he told the audience, continuing:

“But we think that it’s difficult to talk about blockchain without considering it in light of the other new technologies that are forming part of the fintech debate.”

For Leckow, these include artificial intelligence (AI), so-called distributed ledger technology (DLT), cryptoassets and several others.

He further underscored the continued research efforts underway at the the IMF regarding cryptocurrency and blockchain, referring to the various documents published in recent years.

Member banks and governments, he added, were demonstrating considerable interest in guidance on how to handle and regulate the emerging sector.

“Given the demand for advice in this area, at our annual meeting in Bali last month, we and the World Bank jointly launched an initiative called the Bali Fintech Agenda, which we think is the first comprehensive framework of issues that countries need to think about when designing policy around fintech,” Leckow said.

“This will be an anchor for much of our work going forward.”

Africa too: Must Embrace Blockchain to Avoid “Cybercolonization”

On September 27, the EU Competitiveness Council met in Brussels to discuss how to support Europe’s digitization, particularly with regard to artificial intelligence — an area that has tremendous potential, but also faces extreme global competition. AI, of course, runs on data. The unfortunate reality is that U.S. tech companies control and exploit large amounts of European data, in turn monopolizing our digital economy.

That’s why I, among 16 other executives, signed a letter to the council’s ministers—who engaged in a public policy debate and “competitiveness check-up” at Thursday’s meeting—urging a focus on these monopolies and the unfair business practices they get away with, from the exclusion of third parties to spontaneous changes to terms and conditions to unjustified interference, to name a few. There are alternatives to giving away the data, and thus, sovereignty,—something I emphasized as part of the National Digital Council in France and as the leader of numerous working groups focused on AI and privacy.

France, for one, has worked hard to attract major foreign investment in this space, opening AI hubs while seemingly ignoring the fact that Google, Apple, Facebook and the like don’t pay taxes in the country, yet still extract significant wealth from it. This hurts innovation and many local startups working hard to improve the region. London, Paris, Berlin, and Zug are popular tech destinations, yet they often get overshadowed or pushed out of the market because of the dominant U.S. players.

Google, of course, dominates web search market, conducting 77% of all internet searches and processing 400,000 every second—gathering significant amounts of data in the process. Such dominance means, as AI specialist Cedric Villani aptly put it, that large foreign companies threaten Europe with “cybercolonization.”

Online platforms that mediate buying and selling account for a whopping 60% of the private consumption of digital goods and services. Europe cannot be lax and blindly open its market to foreign platforms who are only creating monopolies. Their goal is to lock both buyers and sellers into their ecosystem—to be the central point of the majority of digital transactions. This level of centralization has become synonymous with a dependency on tech oligopolies, and a lack of country sovereignty. Even the “local” companies we think we have working in AI are often very dependent on U.S. tech.

The good news is that every problem that exists with closed, proprietary marketplaces and platforms can be solved easily with blockchain. Through the GDPR, Europe and France have already been the first to regulate data privacy, protecting both individual rights and digital sovereignty from foreign tech giants. Blockchain—which in fact has developed faster in Europe than in Silicon Valley—can take this a step further, and can transform Europe in to the next Crypto Valley. Decentralized AI means that algorithms run directly on end-user devices, preventing sensitive data from being sent to the cloud at all.

Also, rather than having an intermediary between people buying and offering digital goods and services, blockchain allows peer-to-peer marketplaces. These marketplaces often have no fees, meaning all of the value can be captured by buyers and sellers. On the other hand, when U.S. tech giants hold a monopoly they can charge significant fees, force certain types of payments, and coerce end-users in a myriad of other ways. With a decentralized approach, no single person or company controls the content. The suppliers and buyers decide for themselves what should be included in the marketplace.

It can be tempting to want to make Europe attractive to some of the biggest names in tech and AI, but we must recognize what we are sacrificing by doing so. Many local startups can’t compete because having a monopoly means you can, more or less, do whatever you want—even if that means engaging in unfair business practices or doing things that are good for your bottom line but bad for actual users. One way to avoid such cybercolonization, though, is to embrace decentralized technologies. They’re the key to both innovation and sovereignty.

IBM CTO Tells US Congressmen ‘Let’s Get Government Ready for Blockchain’

IBM and members of the U.S. Congressional Blockchain Caucus discussed the use of blockchain for ID systems, payments, and supply chains during a meeting today, September 24, according to a press call attended by Cointelegraph.

IBM recently published a report entitled “The Impact of Blockchain for Government: Insights on Identity, Payments, and Supply Chain” made in collaboration with the U.S. Congressional Blockchain Caucus.

The report summarizes a series of roundtable discussions between U.S. Representatives Jared Polis (author of “The Cryptocurrency Tax Fairness Act,” which proposes to abolish crypto taxes below $600) and David Schweikert, along with Thomas Hardjono, technical director at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Jerry Cuomo, vice president for blockchain technology and CTO at IBM.

IBM and MIT held three meetings with members of Congress, discussing the need for government funding of blockchain innovation and regulatory sandboxes, in which the state would be able to test different solutions before they are brought to the market.

As Cuomo said during the press-call, experts could study blockchain “the whole day”, but eventually it must be made available to citizens. He stressed that it was “time for the [U.S.] to start acting” on blockchain integration in daily life. “Blockchain is ready for government, let’s get government ready for blockchain,” he added.

Rep. Polis, who previously proposed making Colorado a “national hub for blockchain innovation in business and government,” said that the state has only begun to see “the promise of blockchain technology,” which exceeds cryptocurrencies and tokens.

He stressed the importance of creating the best legal  framework for innovation and blockchain implementation, which could significantly improve the quality of life of Americans. Polis also added that blockchain might address “the real lack of trust in centralized institutions.”

Polis further mentioned the importance of relevant crypto taxation. “We want to make sure that people using cryptocurrencies won’t pay taxes for buying a cup of coffee or a magazine,” he said. However, when later asked on tax holidays for crypto startups, IBM CTO Cuomo said that was “a really big question” that had not yet moved much beyond “small dollar amounts.”

During the call, Rep. Schweikert — who previously urged the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to clarify crypto taxation — said that medicine and social projects would see the most benefit from blockchain solutions. However, he noted that specific encryption standards should be elaborated to protect data — an aim pursued by the caucus’ partnership with several institutions such as MIT and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

As Cointelegraph reported earlier this week, U.S. Congressman and Blockchain Caucus member Tom Emmer announced that he would introduce three bills to support the development of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies, as well as establish a safe harbor for taxpayers with “forked” digital assets.

Dubai Department of Finance Launches Blockchain-Based Payment System for UAE Gov’t

The Dubai Department of Finance (DoF) has partnered with the Smart Dubai Office (SDO) to launch a blockchain-powered payment system. The news was reported on by a local news site Zawya, September 23.

The new platform, called “Payment Reconciliation and Settlement,” was officially launched Sunday, September 23. It is reportedly geared towards government entities, such as the Dubai Police, Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), Dubai Health Authority (DHA), and others.

According to Zawya, the Dubai DoF and SDO intend for the system to provide for a more accurate and transparent governance process, as well as to enable real-time payments within and between government structures.

As Zawya reports, the currently existing process for transactions in Dubai government is time-consuming, requiring up to 45 days to complete any given operation.

The new system is reportedly already in use by the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) and the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), with a total number of test transactions amounting to more than five million.

Dr. Aisha Bin Bishr, Director General at the SDO, commented that blockchain is “one of the most promising of [emerging] technologies.”

In 2017, the SDO group was granted the top honors at the Smart Cities Expo and World Congress in Barcelona, acquiring the City Project Award from among 308 other teams for their Dubai blockchain Strategy.

The Smart City project was reportedly introduced by Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of the Dubai Emirate Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid in 2013. Supported by the government, private sector, and institutional partners, the organization’s goal is to provide a smart ecosystem for cooperation between government entities and residents and visitors.

Smart Dubai is not the only government-backed initiative that intends to employ major emerging technologies such as blockchain in the country.

In April of this year, the UAE Vice President and Prime Minister launched the “UAE Blockchain Strategy 2021” initiative, with a goal to achieve the position of a global leader in adopting the technology.

In July, the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) announced its partnership with Smart Dubai to develop a “Court of the Blockchain.” The organizations aim to explore the potential of the technology in addressing the shortcomings of the UAE’s legal system, for example by introducing blockchain-based verification of court judgements.