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Blockchain Technology: A Work in Progress

Ross Kelly

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blockchain technology

DIGIT attended the third annual ScotChain conference yesterday at RBS Gogarburn. The event brought together industry experts and academics to discuss and explore some of the groundbreaking developments in this revolutionary emerging technology.

During his opening remarks at ScotChain 2018, MBN Solutions Chairman Paul Forrest said blockchain can bring ‘transformational opportunities’ to a broad spectrum of industries and throughout society.  

Most importantly, he noted, Scotland can play a crucial role in the continued development of an emerging technology that is casting off the ‘buzzword’ shackles to disrupt a number of industries and facilitate greater innovation among other emerging areas – such as AI and machine learning. 

On the day, more than 200 delegates, along with a host of speakers, explored the ongoing development of distributed ledger technology , as well as its implementation and applications in financial services, healthcare, accounting and government.  

A Work in Progress 

Much of the hype and hyperbole surrounding blockchain was cast aside and the event, instead, focused on a grounded approach – addressing some of the key issues affecting the adoption of this emerging technology. Rather than being tied down by its synonymous links with cryptocurrency, blockchain is becoming a technology through which the fundamental building blocks of day-to-day life could be radically changed.  

Speakers such as Susan Ramonat, CEO of Spiritus Partners, outlined the potential for blockchain to revolutionise patient care in the healthcare sector, in combating illegal trafficking and for streamlining administrative processes in government. 

Greater transparency in democratic processes, as well as improved oversight in the financial services sector, are all areas in which blockchain is playing a transformative role.

Fundamentally, there was a perceived common wisdom that although this technology is still in its infancy, by cultivating the appropriate regulatory and developmental environment, the possibilities for blockchain are immense.  

“You’ve got to treat this as a work-in-progress,” Forrest said. “We are not at the end game, and we are unlikely to be at that stage for a significant period of time.” 

Similarly, Ramonat noted that for those in academia and industry it is important to consider the “last step” in the development of blockchain – that final goal and outcome – in order to understand where to begin in the development process. 

Regulatory Challenges 

Another area of focus is the regulatory environment in which blockchain operates – particularly in regards to differing regulatory frameworks, as Deloitte’s Kent Mackenzie explained. 

While Mackenzie acknowledged that regulators, such as the Financial Conduct Authority, are helping to cultivate a regulatory environment that enables blockchain, there could be significant challenges ahead.

Operating transnationally could pose difficulties for organisations adopting blockchain technology and so efforts to ensure global standardisation and regulatory consistency are essential.  

This will require increased collaboration between regulators in order to overcome challenges. In tune with the theme of the day, Mackenzie conceded that this will take time and is an ongoing development. Ensuring that companies or organisations adopting blockchain technology adhere to recent regulatory changes is also crucial, especially when one considers the importance of GDPR in monitoring and regulating the handling of personal data.

Mackenzie suggested that regulation must be posed in such a way to ensure the environment is ‘conducive and supportive’ of blockchain technology. Regulators in the financial services sector, and also government, must accept that blockchain is here to stay, Mackenzie added.

“It’s happening,” he said. “And we need to get our arms around it” to enable greater levels of innovation.  

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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