Blockchain Ireland Week 2021 was an unqualified success, as more than sixty events and hundreds of speakers and participants over the course of the week generated more than 4,800 registrations from 60 countries.
With the broad theme of blockchain as a foundation of trust for a new era of digital services and applications, clear themes emerged across the full spectrum of perspectives represented, from start-ups and small business through to enterprise, academia and pure research. Coming as it did with the end of the pandemic in site through the global mobilisation of unprecedented vaccination programmes, the event week captured the optimism to have technology drive the economic recovery that will not just seek to restore what existed before, but to build back better, sustainably and inclusively, with blockchain technologies at the heart of recovery.
The security and integrity of the supply chains that made the vaccination programmes possible were highlighted by former president of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves in the opening keynote. He said these were key considerations for governments and industry currently and will remain so in the future, but blockchain and distributed ledger technologies (DLT) can play an important role in providing both.
The Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe TD, praised the work of Blockchain Ireland, and acknowledged the ambition and scope of the event week.
“One of Ireland’s strengths is our ability to innovate and adapt to emerging trends across finance and technology and I have spoken before about the importance of nurturing Ireland’s knowledge economy,” said the Minister.
“As a Government, we have tried to ensure that Ireland is prepared to take the advantages of technological opportunities though a number of interconnected initiatives. These objectives underpinned the Government’s Future Jobs Ireland strategy.
“Our vision, as set out in the Ireland for Finance Strategy to 2025, is for Ireland to remain internationally competitive and a top-tier location of choice for specialist IFS.”
Video of the opening session may be seen here.
Accenture Technology’s global lead for Technology Sustainability Innovation, Sanjay Podder, talked about “Technologies for Sustainability – Innovation where it’s needed most.” He described the transformational power of blockchain and multiparty systems, amid the emergence of what Accenture describe as four new realities in “#1 Human Experience, #2 Technology, #3 Work and #4 Sustainability”.
Podder cited the Accenture Technology Vision 2021 report, which says: “It’s become clear that there is no leadership without technology leadership. The recent rapid digital acceleration has placed technology as the cornerstone of global leadership.”
The vast majority of enterprise executives (90%), agree, said Podder, that “multiparty systems will enable their ecosystems to forge a more resilient and adaptable foundation to create new value with their organisation’s partners.
“People are ready for something new and it’s time for enterprises to join them. Let there be change,” said Podder.
A key focus of the event week was tracking how the traditional world of finance is adapting to the digital era. An international panel, hosted and moderated by BCCS Cluster managing director Andrius Petkevicius, described this “Next-generation Digital Economy”. The panel discussed that while there are current technology and regulatory barriers, blockchain, in combination with artificial intelligence (AI) and Know Your Customer (KYC) measures are solving these issues, paving the way for widespread adoption of the new digital technologies.
Inclusivity and accessibility of technology is a key focus for many in the blockchain ecosystem. It is the mission of the Algorand Foundation, founded by MIT Professor Silvio Micali. The foundation provides a protocol and open-source software to allow the establishment of open, public and permissionless blockchains.
A panel hosted by the foundation’s head of European Communities, Johanna Moran, explored various use cases, such as Monerium, the first licensed eMoney for Euro; PlanetWatch, a first of its kind climate monitoring technology; Café Barbera, a sixth generation, innovative, global coffee distributor; and Bleumi Pay, a first in Payments Orchestration Platforms, built for fast-growing business owners to stay ahead on customer payment preferences.
The topic of inclusion was explored by the World Economic Forum’s Nadia Hewett, where she leads the Data for Common Purpose Initiative. Under the theme of “Redesigning Trust: Inclusive Deployment of Blockchain Technology, ” she highlighted various use cases, to ensure that blockchain systems are “inclusive, well-designed and trustworthy,” highlighting resources and information such as deployment toolkits, to aid developers and operators.
IBM’s Anthony Day, a partner in the UK and Ireland Blockchain team, described how the company’s Digital Health Pass is being used by governments, airlines, entertainment venues worldwide, with blockchain at its core, providing a “frictionless passage through credential checking”.
One of Ireland’s success stories in blockchain, EdQ, was explored by a panel of industry and academia. The innovative learning credentialing platform was developed by IOB, the largest professional education body in Ireland, in partnership with Deloitte, and brings benefits to students, education bodies and financial services firms.
With other topics covered ranging from Jillian Godsil’s “Why blockchain needs women” to how blockchain is supporting victims of domestic violence and abuse through the HeHop app, the audience gained an understanding of the increasing social impact of the technologies. HeHop founder Sandy Beckett explained and discussed how the app enables victims to record, timestamp and certify proofs of violence on blockchain. While the recorded data is invisible on the victim’s mobile phone and is secured on an encrypted server, it is retrievable to be presented as inalterable evidence in court.
The event programme concluded with an address from the Minister of State at the Department of Finance Sean Fleming, who described Ireland’s unique position to take advantage of the global interest in blockchain.
“As Minister at the Department of Finance with responsibility for Financial Services, these issues are of strategic importance for the future development of our economy. My team at the department has been following this area closely and look forward to continuing to work with Blockchain Ireland, through the action plan for our Ireland for Finance strategy.
“The Ireland for Finance strategy is a partnership between the state and the industry that has technology and innovation as one of its key pillars. The strategy recognises that Ireland is uniquely positioned to benefit from the massive global investment in FinTech and disruptive technologies, like Blockchain,” said the Minister.
As just a brief sample of the huge range of events over the week’s programme, Blockchain Ireland Week sought to highlight the range of applications and the depth and strength of innovation in the field, not just in Ireland, but around the world.
As a founding member of the Blockchain Association’s Forum, Blockchain Ireland is part of a vibrant international community of groups working to further the understanding of these important technologies.
The week also saw the announcement of the SkillsBuild free Blockchain Learning Pathways. A joint initiative with IBM, this learning plan is under 7 hours and looks at the application of Blockchain across industry sectors today, allowing participants to gain an understanding of the role and types of Blockchain developers, as well as the key responsibilities for blockchain developers and administrators.
While at the other end of the scale, the latest intake for the Technology Ireland ICT Skilnet and DCU Masters in Blockchain has a deadline of 30 June 2021.
Blockchain Ireland would like to thank the event sponsors, Technology Ireland ICT Skillnet, Accenture and Algorand Foundation, without whom the programme could not be delivered. Thanks go too to the event team who worked tirelessly to coordinate the generous contribution of the broad range of speakers and panellists who gave so freely of their time. And finally, Blockchain Ireland would like to thank all the attendees who made the week such a vibrant conversation and shared experience.
Blockchain Ireland looks forward to the rest of 2021, that will hopefully see a return to in person monthly meetings, and to planning for Blockchain Ireland Week 2022.