Some of the noted personalities from the Indian tech world discussed one of the most nagging questions of the recent times: why are the two technologies, blockchain and cryptocurrency, regarded in such different light?
Delivering a special address at the Blockchain Conclave held in Bengaluru on Thursday, Priyank Kharge, Minister of IT, BT and Tourism for Government of Karnataka, said, “Blockchain is a highly disruptive emerging technology and the goal of the event is to see how Blockchain technology can solve real-life problems. Today’s conclave is a gathering of truly exceptional minds on blockchain from India and abroad and the idea is to see if blockchain technology can be used to help the government and its functions.” He also highlighted the role played by Karnataka government to ensure an all-round development in the state and focus on job creation.
The inaugural session began with the key question: What came first? Bitcoin (cryptocurrency) or blockchain?
To begin with, blockchain is a digital, decentralised ledger that keeps a record of all transactions that take place across a peer-to-peer network. It has potential applications far beyond just bitcoin and cryptocurrency — for example, fund transfers, settling trades, voting, etc.
Bitcoin, on the other hand, is a type of unregulated digital currency or a cryptocurrency which was launched with the intention to bypass government currency controls and simplify online transactions by getting rid of third-party payment processing intermediaries.
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But since Bitcoin was the first application of blockchain, people often inadvertently use Bitcoin to mean blockchain. That’s how the misunderstanding started. Blockchain technology has since been extrapolated for use in other industries, but there is still some lingering confusion.
Nitin Sharma, founder and VC at Incrypt Blockchain, Anirudh Rastogi, partner at TRA Law, Sudin Baraokar, head of innovation at SBI and Benson Samuel, chief technology officer at Coinsecure, evaluated these two technologies, their exponential rise and adoption in a panel discussion titled, “Cryptocurrencies, FinTech and the rise of a new economics”.
Baraokar, who is an emerging tech innovator and has worked in GE, IBM and Barclays before, said that while the financial sector, particularly public sector banks, had nothing against cryptocurrency, regulatory sandboxes were needed to keep a check on the transactions in these areas.
Rastogi, who helped with the set-up of Koniex — India’s first multi-cryptocurrency exchange — had a simple solution to the quandary: Let the industry come up with the solution for the frauds and artificial bubbles created by people who deal with cryptocurrency.
Discussions around the current and future state of Cryptocurrencies in FinTech comprised the majority of this session. Rastogi added, “There are a lot of challenges and there will be some problems which might cause a knee-jerk reaction from the government. However, the government does seem like it will regulate the [blockchain] technology in the future to align itself with the global and local developments in this technology.”
Samuel, a Bitcoin and blockchain evangelist said during the panel discussion that resistance and hesitation was only natural while adopting new technologies. He added, “It happened with the internet…it happened with Linux… After loans and EMI, cryptocurrency is a natural step.”
He told AIM:
Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia Corporation, which makes core processor and graphics processor for gaming devices and professional market, had also famously said, “Over time, it [blockchain, Bitcoin] will become quite large. It is very clear that new currencies will come to market.”
An initiative of the Bengaluru Tech Summit and Government of Karnataka, the Blockchain Conclave was attended by over 200 policymakers, industry professionals, and blockchain experts, who discussed and debated innovative ways of using blockchain in governance.
The conclave focussed on three main themes: Cryptocurrencies, FinTech and the rise of a new economics; blockchain in governance and service delivery; and, the social impact of blockchain.
The Blockchain Conclave was held right after the highly competitive, and first-of-its-kind Blockchain Hackathon organised by the Government of Karnataka and the Bengaluru Tech Summit. The hackathon saw students, young professionals, bureaucrats, academicians and others coming together to ‘hack governance’. The hackathon was aimed at solving long-term governance problems and service delivery gaps using technology.
During the event, the Bengaluru-based SAP SE also announced a collaboration with the Department of Information Technology, Biotechnology, Science and Technology (ITBT and S&T), Government of Karnataka, to impart the latest and the most employable Information Technology (IT) skills to over 5,000 socio-economically underprivileged youth across the state in 2018 under the programme Yuva Yuga.