‘Harness blockchain to power innovation-based economy’

MUSCAT, NOV 11 – Blockchain is a powerful platform that can enable countries like Oman to make the switch to an innovation and knowledge-based economy, according to one of the world’s best known pundits on the breakthrough technology.
Don Tapscott (pictured), co-author of the bestselling book ‘Blockchain Revolution’, and co-founder of the Canada-based Blockchain Research Institute, urged authorities in the Sultanate to harness the transformational power of this revolutionary technology for development and growth.
“We all need to move away from the traditional resource and industrial type of economies to one based on entrepreneurship, innovation and knowledge,” said Tapscott, underscoring the potential for blockchain application in, among other areas, financial services, supply chain, governance, and so on.
The renowned figure made the comments in a videotaped message to an estimated 700 participants in attendance at the Oman Blockchain Symposium, which concluded in the city on Thursday.
The Internet is now entering a “second era” with the advent of blockchain technology, said Tapscott. “What we are seeing now is the Internet of value; Anything of value — money, stocks, bonds, loyalty coins, intellectual property, credit, identities, and even votes — can be managed, sold, or transacted in a private and secure way, where trust is not secured by a powerful intermediary necessarily. It is achieved by cryptography, by collaboration, and by some clever code,” he explained.
Referring to blockchain as the ‘trust protocol’, he said the technology represents the “first native digital medium for trust”, with the impact from this platform likely to be “extraordinary”.
“This is like 1994 (the birth of the worldwide web) all over again, but I think this one is even bigger. For sure it’s the biggest innovation in computer science in a generation,” he stated.
Listing some of the many advantages of the technologies, blockchain has the potential to dramatically lower the cost of transacting business, the expert said.
“Throughout the industrial age, we had vertically integrated companies that did everything inside the boundaries of the corporation; Blockchain is beginning to devastate these transaction costs. Likewise, consider the cost of contracting — we now have smart contracts on blockchain — contracts that self-execute — which will drop contracting costs significantly.”
Furthermore, with blockchain, entrepreneurs and developers can innovate new ways of creating goods and services and conduct business with the rest of the world, said Tapscott.
“Think about the possibility of blockchain cooperatives where essentially the functionality of a company like Uber or Airbnb can be replaced by a distributed application and some smart contracts and autonomous agents in a blockchain, enabling the owners of rooms and apartments to be a cooperative where they receive all of the wealth they create.
The Internet of Things (IoT) can become smart communicating devices with all of the devices doing transactions on a blockchain. The Internet of Things will seem to be like a ledger of things with machine languages and machine currencies, where machines are conducting transactions,” he elaborated.
Blockchain also has a major role to play in supply chain management, said Tapscott, noting that some of the biggest supply chains in the world, notably Walmart and Foxconn, are moving towards this new technology.
The impact of blockchain will be most profound on the financial services industry, he stressed.
“Say, you (swipe) your card in a coffee shop, and clearing and settlement occurs three days later. But in blockchain, there won’t be any clearing and settlement because the payment and settlement is the same activity — it’s just a change in the ledger.”
But successful deployment of blockchain will ultimately depend on the strength of commitment of those in charge at the helm of authority, said Tapscott.
“It ultimately comes down to leadership — finding the leadership to make this happen in your company, your government and your country. After all, this is new paradigm — and new paradigms are often received with coolness by vested interests. To fight against change, leaders of old paradigms can have difficulty embracing the new. So it’s up to each one of us to find that leader within us and make this happen.”

Conrad Prabhu