With its focus on “Globalisation 4.0” and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, this year’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) from 22-25 January in Davos, Switzerland, saw plenty of conversations about blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies.
The WEF gathering also overlapped with the Blockchain Economic Forum, which met in Davos from 24-26 January.
Blockchain technology was among the topics discussed during WEF sessions on topics such as data-driven decision making, developing technology for the common good and digital identity issues.
For example, during the session “Governing Data in our Daily Lives,” Nara Lokesh, Cabinet Minister for Information Technology, Panchayati Raj (local administration) and Rural Development in India’s Andhra Pradesh, talked about how better land and agricultural data is vital in a region where so many people still depend upon farming for their livelihoods. The government has organised “a lot of hackathons on land records,” he said, and an Indian firm – Zeb Data India – has done “amazing work in our new capital city where all land records came into blockchain”.
Blockchain is one of three technologies – the other two are artificial intelligence and cloud computing – that will “permanently change the banking sector”, Infosys’ Mohit Joshi wrote in an article for the WEF meeting.
“The details of blockchain technology are somewhat complex, but the benefits for financial markets are very clear…,” he wrote, naming benefits such as disintermediation, transparency, security, unhackability and automation. “For example, Infosys Finacle has formed a blockchain-based trade network, India Trade Connect, that is being used by a group of banks to run a blockchain-based trade finance-processing solution. It will enable increased automation and transparency, while helping efficiently manage risks in trade and supply chain financing operations.”
Blockchain also made an appearance on Davos attendees’ dinner tables, thanks to a new blockchain platform – OpenSC – recently launched by WWF and BCG Digital Ventures. Designed to “track the provenance of food from source to table”, OpenSC was deployed at the WEF gathering so leaders could scan a QR code with their smartphones to see the origin of their meals.
Among the other crypto developments making headlines during this year’s WEF meeting were the appointment of BitPesa founder Elizabeth Rossiello as one of two chairs of the Global Blockchain Council, comments by BCG Digital Ventures founder Jeff Schumacher that Bitcoin’s value will “go to zero”, a new partnership between Distilled Identity and Emerge to develop a blockchain-based digital identity platform for the world’s refugees and displaced people, and the announcement of a new UAE research centre focused on new technologies such as AI and blockchain.