Much has been published in recent months about Blockchain and its transformative potential on the economy and society, but why should a digital ledger that has its roots in crypto currencies be all the rage? Well, the answer may lay in the hyper-connected landscape that is upon us.
The global economy is increasingly being reshaped by the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), collaborative and open approaches, and the growing demand for instantaneous and unfettered exchange of value that is anchored in trust. It is estimated that by the year 2020 over 50 billion smart devices will be detecting, transmitting, and sharing intelligence on everything from consumer markets and financial services, to health care. Turning this data and algorithms into value and money is where Blockchain comes in. This transformative technology is reshaping traditional markets and empowering a new era of global business enablement for governments, and the industry at large.
At the heart of this technology is a distributed virtual ledger coupled with a trusted global consensus mechanism that is profoundly speeding up transactions, reducing overall costs, eliminating the need for intermediaries, and opening new avenues to scale businesses globally. This decentralized digital ledger can in essence be coded to record virtually everything of value to our civilization – from tracking of heritage artefacts, administration of deeds and titles, to the management of copyrights, just to name a few. Examples of its applications can extend to a manufacturer wanting to have improved traceability of the material in a supply chain, a consumer seeking confidence in the origins of the merchandise purchased, governments aiming to identify titles and landowners after a natural disaster, and health care professionals seeking accurate and faster sharing of patients’ records. However, like many other nascent technologies, Blockchain has its growing list of design challenges that are currently being tackled. These range from energy consumption and scalability to standards and interoperability with legacy systems, to name a few.
The democratisation effect of this emerging economic enabler is also empowering everyday entrepreneurs to enter markets that are traditionally held by incumbent businesses, creating new economies of scale while fostering labour market expansion. According to the Transparency Market Research (TMR), the global blockchain market is growing at a CAGR of 58.7%. This remarkable growth is destined to create new economic wealth and jobs for many nations around the world. Our own analysis at ICTC points to a Blockchain market in Canada that is growing to be around $2.5 billion CAD by 2024, with an estimated 107,000 high paying jobs.
The intersection between Artificial Intelligence (A.I) and Blockchain is also interesting. While A.I is considered as the next frontier of innovation, much of its future success is potentially dependant on the availability of reliable data sources that inform its predictive analytics engine. Blockchain will paly a critical role in the future as to the data sources provenance and help in enabling increased artificial trust.
The bottom line is that virtual distributed ledgers have the potential to propel Canada’s innovation prospects and deliver significant value for all sectors of the economy. To fast track Canada’s entry in this space, ICTC in collaboration with key partners have established a Centre for Blockchain Innovation. The aim of this centre is to stimulate research, adoption, commercialization, partnerships, capacity building, policy and regulatory development in this space, and to position Canada as the destination for Blockchain innovation and investment. Understanding the inherent and impeding value of this technology as it continues to grow and crystalize is pivotal for Canada’s economy. Over the next year, ICTC will monitor and track developments in this space, culminating in a research paper outlining the full potential of this technology for Canada’s economy and society. While Blockchain is not the panacea for all business solutions, it holds great promise in deriving value and trust from an increasingly hyper-connected global economy.
Namir Anani is President & CEO, Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) serving as a member, CATA National Innovation Leadership Council.
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