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Blockchain, regulation and ethics to be debated at the Global Blockchain Congress 2019

 

  • Málaga hosts the global event dedicated to blockchain technology and the convergence with other disruptive technologies.

 

Telefónica has actively participated in the first edition of the “Convergence: The Global Blockchain Congress”, held in mid-November. More than 1400 attendees from 25 countries from all regions of the world have come together to share their visions, uses cases and concerns around this promising technology that Telefónica has already adopted.

The event was organized by Alastria, the Spanish blockchain consortium whose goal is to promote the development and adoption of this technology in Spain and INATBA, the international association sponsored by the European Commission that promotes dialogue between companies, regulators and lawmakers.

Convergence event has had the participation of Gerard de Graff, Director of Digital Single Market and Peteris Zilgalvis Head of the Digital Innovation and Blockchain Unit, both from the European Commission. And on behalf of Spanish Administration, Carlos San Basilio, Secretary General of the Treasury and International Financing, Enrique Alonso, permanent advisor of the State Council, Rogelio Velasco of the Junta de Andalucía and Francisco de la Torre, mayor of Malaga, among others.

United Nations was represented by Nikhil Seth, UN Deputy Secretary General and Executive Director of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).

 

Logo Convergence

 

The three days event was divided into two separate acts. The first day hosted a hackathon on the use of blockchain around UN Sustainable Development Goals. The next two days took place the institutional part of the event, with a dialogue between companies, organizations and administrations with the objective of sharing visions and concerns of the public and the private sector to foster a responsible adoption of this technology.

Blockchain, a name that represents de facto any solution of a Distributed Ledger Technology in which all participants have a reliable copy of the entire database, has flourished in an open environment like Bitcoin or Ethereum. Therefore, it allows anyone to see all the data contained in the ledger. So, depending on the nature of the data disclose, it might arise concerns on key aspects of digital life such as privacy and concerns on the data usage. It is of concern for both public and private sectors.

One of the most relevant discussions was about the encryption of data and how such encryption resists reverse engineering in regard of personal data and privacy protection. This topic coincides with the recent release of a report signed by the Spanish Data Protection Agency and the European Data Protection Supervisor about the use of the hash function as personal data pseudonymisation technique.

Many uses of blockchain for a sustainable society were presented, such as the use of community cryptocurrencies (silos) that multiplies local economies with difficult access to physical money and how it also allows interaction with other communities. Examples on how the optimization of processes allowed by the use of blockchain decreases the carbon footprint in supply chains. Facebook Libra coin and state backed cryptocurrencies announces also took the centre of the scene. Last but not least, it was also discussed how blockchain may disrupt platforms and the monopoly of the data they hold, paving the way to a renewed and decentralised (again) Internet.

The impact of technologies in regulations, laws and ethics pervaded all the discussions and revealed how important a multistakeholder governance in the convergence of as many disrupting technologies is.

 

 

One of these panels was moderated by Christoph Steck, Director of Public Policy and Internet at Telefónica, titled Big Data, AI, and Blockchain: A Match Made in Heaven? . The participants discussed about the role of blockchain as a trust anchor to promote a responsible use of these other technologies to avoid bias in the results encouraging the development of the data economy.

Finally, the role that the administrations should have in the impulse for the development and adoption of this technology was discussed, from the own use by the administrations, to the modernization of the laws and regulations that promote the innovation and adoption of blockchain. In this sense, Carlos San Basilio said we will have a sandbox in Spain of blockchain in 2020 in order to experiment and learn how to face the challenges that this technology presents.

There has also been a space where the companies, such as Telefónica, that are using blockchain have been able to present our use cases and open up to questions from the public. Most of the presentations are still projects and proofs of concept or are suppliers presenting blockchain products, or consist merely of the use of public blockchain as a hashes on things that happen off chain, except the case presented by Telefónica. Eusebio Felguera Garrido, Public Policy Manager at Telefónica, presented our case in Brazil; the real implementation in our supply chain of routers, decoders and fiber optic terminal equipment, etc, of a blockchain as a reliable database, forming part of our production processes and integrated with existing tools.

Pnael Convergence

Eusebio Felguera (Telefónica) during his intervetion in the panel "Blockchain and the Supply Chain: Myth or Paradigm Shift?"

 

This case of use of Telefónica (which is not the only one within the company) aroused much interest and questions precisely because it is a real case in a real business, especially about the difficulties we had encountered in the process of including blockchain and the results we were obtaining.

 

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