Blockchain Cryptocurrencies

Sheila Warren: Blockchain Awareness is Growing but the Technology is not Quite there yet

The World Economic Forum’s head of Blockchain and data policy, Sheila Warren, discussed Blockchain’s potential to solve real world problems. In a Hyperledger global forum 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona, she started by explaining that conversations about crypto had evolved over the past two years.

“In 2018, no one understood what Blockchain was. While the technology had some obvious attributes, government leaders still didn’t understand it’s potential. And although people were talking about supply chains as the first business use cases aside from money, a lot of the conversations centered around the idea that we have systems we can put a blockchain on and then catapult those into space.”

Decline of the Blockchain Hype

Warren said that the Blockchain space had evolved so much in just two years.

“The best thing to happen in this space was the collapse of the hype. We finally have regulations around initial coin offerings and don’t have a rush to get money as funding.”

She did however make it clear that she did not think that Blockchain technology was a silver bullet. She was vocal about the need for stronger regulations and more clarity.

“We have to start rethinking the foundational building blocks of the tech stack and the way we allow interactions to happen using Blockchain.”

Warren also showed excitement for Blockchain initiatives that are environment centered. She mentioned a 2018 WEF paper (“Building Block(chain)s for a Better Planet) that focused attention not just on Blockchain technology but also on policy aimed at increasing Blockchain’s positive contributions on the planet.

She went on to highlight Blockchain use cases that create a positive impact in society.

She mentioned a project that the WEF is conducting in Columbia meant to explore how the technology can improve public transparency and integrity in school meal procurement. She explained;

“For this project, we are focused on trust and transparency that the Blockchain can provide. We are breaking down what makes a Blockchain unique and combining that with government policies.”

She added that while transparency was key, it wasn’t the end goal policy was.

“You can create new incentives and put technology to work once policy is brought in the mix. In fact, we view that Blockchain may not be necessary for this use case, but it will provide better levels of transparency, and the educational aspect will provide for its broader accountability.”

Blockchain Technology not quite there yet

She ended her address by stating that though the Blockchain offered many potential benefits, the technology isn’t quite there yet when it comes to effecting revolutionary changes. She said that a strong digital identity is needed before the technology can reach its peak potential.

“Once we have real traction on a digital identity later, then we will see Blockchain unlocked. Until then, we are limited in what we can do.”

Secondly, she explained that the space lacked a code of conduct. She revealed that the WEF is working on a Blockchain code of conduct set to be released next week on Github for comments.

Finally she added that the technology’s return on investment was still questionable. She explained that she had co-authored a paper in conjunction with Accenture last year on best business cases for Blockchain with good ROIs. She noted that the paper had informed the business community and governments how the Blockchain could solve certain problems.

She ended by stating that she expected 2020 to be a year of “tremendous explosion in public awareness of what’s happening with institutions, and how they will use Blockchain.”

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