Blockchain: The Path Forward

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What began just over 10 months ago as high-level conversations around blockchain technology culminated this week with what was arguably the world’s most significant blockchain conference. Hosted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and designed for regulators and industry participants, the OECD Blockchain Policy Forum was the most important discussion around the deployment of blockchain in dozens of industries to date. The OECD is an intergovernmental economic organization committed to democracy and developing best practices across domestic and international policy that lead to improved social, economic, and environmental health on a global scale.

As a premier sponsor for the event, SALT is proud to say that our Co-Founder and Director of Global Strategy, Benjamin Yablon, has not only served as Special Advisor to the OECD for the past year, but also that he had the opportunity to represent SALT this week as a company leading the global conversation around blockchain.

According to Ben, the forum led to three major positive outcomes, all of which illustrate the promise of blockchain and the international community’s ability to work together to fulfill that promise:

“The sheer fact that three heads of state attended the forum speaks to the fact that a broader audience is recognizing the value of blockchain technology,” said Benjamin Yablon. “This level of international participation is unheard of in this emerging space and I’m grateful to both José Ángel Gurría Treviño, Secretary-General of the OECD, and Greg Medcraft, Director of the Directorate for Financial and Enterprise Affairs of the OECD, for allowing me to contribute in an advisory capacity with a platform starting to address the OECD directorate in such a direct way. Our collaborative work is what made this Forum happen.”

Ben is looking forward to continuing to serve as an advisor to the OECD, helping to shape the global narrative around blockchain, and execute on many of the ideas and proposals that came out of this week’s Forum. “There’s more interest and excitement around this topic than you can imagine, and the

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OECD was the perfect conveyer to have this type of discussion, primarily because the global ecosystem values the OECD as a neutral standard setting body that is uniquely positioned to bring our voices together for the greater good — an environment that others just can’t offer,” he said.

As Ben noted in his panel discussion earlier this week, achieving mass adoption of blockchain technology and digital financial assets will require the development of a taxonomy — an agreed-upon set of terms and definitions that will enable us to speak about these concepts in way that drives understanding and alignment among industry and governmental leaders. “Once we have a true taxonomy, principles-based regulatory frameworks will to start to exist,” Ben noted.

It’s clear from this week’s forum that a lot of progress has been made in the past couple of days, but it’s even more evident that there’s still a great deal of work to be done. It will take years to bring this process to maturity, but as long as we have solid leaders in place to guide discussions, propose solutions, and make decisions, we can feel confident that we’re heading in the right direction.

OECD Blockchain Policy Forum: Maximizing the Potential of Blockchain will require LEADERSHIP

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“The opportunities of the long-term developments of blockchain far outweigh its risks.” 

These are the words with which Prime Minister of the Republic of Mauritius Pravind Kumar Jugnauth kicked off the OECD Blockchain Policy Forum. Not only did these words set the stage for the event, but they reflect the very sentiment of it — it’s not about whether we should take blockchain to the next level, but how we should go about doing so. Leadership was the recurring theme throughout the day’s discussions and, more specifically, how we as leaders have a responsibility to leverage blockchain technology in ways that benefit the greater good.

As Editor of The Economist and today’s emcee, Anne McElvoy, so elegantly put it, “At first we thought this technology was the engine of security, then it was thought to be the engine of trust — and it is all that — but I think of it as the engine of innovation.” While blockchain has changed the way we think about security and trust via trustless transactions, it now calls on us to continuously develop new ways to apply the technology to our everyday lives. How can we leverage blockchain technology to positively impact our societies and economies? How can we continue pushing the limits of innovation when there are still so many variables? What steps can we take as an international community to drive universal alignment and understanding as it relates to blockchain tech? Collaborative leaders — people committed to working together to effect change — will be paramount to pushing blockchain technology to its full potential.

As an advisor to the OECD for the past year, it was exciting to see SALT’s co-founder and Head of Global Strategy, Ben Yablon, foster discussion around these challenges during his panel, titled “Building a Global Policy Environment for Digital Financial Assets.” Of note, he touched on the need to develop a single lexicon as an initial step toward creating a framework around how we describe blockchain technology and digital financial assets. It’s an ongoing discussion, and I’m proud that Ben will continue to offer his leadership to the OECD on how to begin working through some of blockchain’s biggest roadblocks. While there were numerous panelists and speakers at the event, all with different expertise and perspectives, the underlying theme of all of them was the same — we must take it upon ourselves to ensure we are leveraging blockchain technology in the best ways and remaining open-minded as we think about the opportunity it creates for the world.

-Jennifer Nealson, SALT CMO

How Blockchain Can Improve Democratic Elections

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If you can “vote” for Bitcoin on the blockchain, why not vote for leaders, worldwide?

Blockchain technology is reshaping the world before our eyes at an exhilarating pace. Many people are familiar with blockchain through Bitcoin, the world’s first cryptocurrency. However, the power of Bitcoin comes from the underlying technologies of advanced cryptography and decentralized data storage. The combination of decentralization and cryptography enables data to be securely stored, transparent, and permanent. The combination of these features is seemingly perfect for many industries to the extent that governments and corporations around the world are investing billions of dollars with projections of $2.1 Billion in 2018 alone.

One of the earliest brass rings to be identified was to establish a system of fair voting. Given the virtues of the right to vote, it is essential that every measure is taken to ensure that votes are cast without coercion, are recorded accurately, and counted fairly. Many people remember the disaster of the “hanging chad” that marred the 2000 US presidential election and resulted in litigation before the Florida Supreme Court. Paper voting systems are being phased out to be replaced with electronic voting systems. Many of which present a variety of new hurdles.

With new technology comes new problems. Independent studies have revealed serious vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers to manipulate voting data. In fact at DefCon, a hacking conference, a revelation demonstrated that with hackers can invade practically every machine with alarming ease.

Enter Agora, a Swiss foundation focused on digital solutions for voting. In March, Agora was permitted to be an independent observer by Sierra Leone’s National Electoral Commission (NEC) to test their blockchain technology. While Agora didn’t provide the capability for each vote to be recorded initially on a blockchain, voting results were handed off from the NEC to Agora to be displayed publicly. A statement by Agora mentioned that the goal was to demonstrate their capabilities and serve as a foundation for future cooperation with the NEC.

Today the blockchains of Bitcoin and Ethereum record votes relating to each transaction in real-time. This fact enables a future voting system where the electoral process is transparent and void of disputes. This goal of making a better world through increased empowerment and lessened corruption is in alignment with many leaders in the blockchain world. It’s just this one guy’s opinion that since the world is moving to smart phones where you can easily purchase Bitcoin, being able to vote on your phone is a natural progression. With increased access and ease of voting, more voices will be heard which is how things “should be”.

It’s been fascinating to learn about this. To read more from some of the (unaffiliated to SALT) sources I’ve been reading lately, please visit: https://goo.gl/Nmnasyhttps://goo.gl/jkQw6B, and https://goo.gl/zsoaUh

Written by Sten Wie, PhD — SALT Customer Experience