When the Internet first entered the zeitgeist, the number of disbelievers was legion. No one would ever put their credit card information online, detractors contended. When Jeff Bezos launched then-bookseller Amazon in 1994, he was a laughingstock. Some 20+ years later, he’s the world’s wealthiest man. Given the volatility surrounding cryptocurrencies, the naysayers are back in force, now targeting blockchain.
When people hear blockchain, they immediately think “Bitcoin,” or more generally, cryptocurrency, or even some vague over-hyped future technology we’re told will miraculously change everything. Cryptocurrencies, or tokens, are just one instance of blockchain technology – an open, distributed ledger to efficiently record transactions between two parties in a verifiable and permanent way. While use cases are numerous and growing, the benefits remain the same: transparency, immutability, irrefutability, redundancy, and security. All touchpoints of Interfor’s DNA.
With all of the press cryptocurrencies receive, it’s easy to forget that blockchain technology is already deployed across many industries. Even sovereign nations recognize its value and critical necessity.
Governments: Verification and National Security
Estonia was the first country to build its own blockchain platform. According to E-Estonia, which Wired named the most advanced digital society in the world, “the KSI is a blockchain technology designed in Estonia and used globally to make sure networks, systems and data are free of compromise, all while retaining 100% data privacy… With KSI Blockchain deployed in Estonian government networks, history cannot be rewritten by anybody and the authenticity of the electronic data can be mathematically proven. It means that no-one – not hackers, not system administrators, and not even government itself – can manipulate the data and get away with that.” 99% of public services in Estonia are available to citizens as e-services.
Finland has used blockchain to revolutionize financial services for refugees, who often lack official documents and bank accounts. Says Reliefweb, “This makes it easier for refugees to find employment and receive money from jobs, and also allows them to pay bills electronically – ultimately speeding up their process of becoming established in Finland.” In Switzerland, Zug Citizens have begun Digital ID Registration on an Ethereum Blockchain, enabling access to e-services such as proof of residency and online voting. The Netherlands has set up over 40 Blockchain Pilots to explore its usage in various verticals, from healthcare to finance, to combating fraud and organized crime.
Big Tech on the Blockchain
Big Tech is embracing this trend head-on. Microsoft partnered with Consensys to offer Ethereum Blockchain as a Service (EBaaS) on Microsoft Azure – Enterprise clients and developers utilize a single click cloud-based blockchain developer environment, providing businesses with access to smart contracts and blockchain applications in a secure hosted environment.
Google parent company Alphabet is developing a proprietary distributed ledger for its cloud-based businesses, that will allow third parties to store data. A white label version is also in the works.
The Blockchain is Here
Healthcare, medical records, real estate deals and land registry, the oil industry, advertising, shipping, endangered species protection, energy, insurance, even diamond verification are some of the industries already embracing blockchain.
Given the lack of trust in many existing institutions and governments, with Greece devaluation of its currency a few years back by fiat and the current unbridled inflation in Venezuela, plus the massive data breaches experienced by Yahoo, Equifax, et al, that we’ve heard about, (in Yahoo’s case, years after the fact) privacy, security and trust are growing concerns. An Edelman report cited by CNBC found that four in ten people have deleted their social media accounts in the past year due to privacy worries – we’re witnessing a trust cascade.
All this provides for the blockchain. Interfor has been watching this development closely, given the blockchain’s potential for offering the world privacy, security, and data ownership, along with the many social benefits the Internet has provided -this time in a distributed environment, with users in control of their data. It’s not going to happen overnight, but it’s coming fast – and Interfor is watching with much more than just token interest.