Connect with us

Tech

London Blockchain Week Spreads Into Day Two Despite Coronavirus Scare

Published

on

The second day of Fintech Worldwide’s Blockchain Summit kicked off to unusually glorious sunshine. But you’d be hard pressed to notice that in the venue because there was no natural light filtering through to the handful of attendees that braved the ongoing coronavirus scare.

Despite COVID-19’s spectre looming large over the conference, panelists spoke about an impressive range of topics, including how Blockchain can help local women in the Maasai Mara, to the day’s debate on the state of adoption.

As MakerDAO’s Gustav Arentoft told me during the conference, speakers in London often come from a more institutional perspective that naturally tilts toward a critical perspective of the industry. While yesterday witnessed panelists clashing over decentralization, volatility, and more, today was mainly about cutting through the fluff that surrounds so many projects in the industry and thinking pragmatically about how to move forward.

Compelling use cases in Africa

Any international Blockchain or crypto project worth its salt is turning its attention to Africa; a continent abundant with use cases for Blockchain. Africa’s huge market and the fact that many millions of people on the continent are considered “unbanked,” seems to indicate that Blockchain is a good fit for many of the complex challenges faced in the region.

Technology entrepreneur John Kamara said that, in Africa, women are one of the most important economic driving factors for growth. Kamara explained that groups formed by local women currently represent a multi-million dollar informal lending economy:

“One of the most important economic driving factors is women. Savings groups. Saving informally among themselves, to borrow themselves so they can survive in the markets. We’re talking about millions of women. All of these women have 4g phones. I was in the Masaai Mara and I could use my whatsapp. They can borrow money at a reduced interest rate among themselves. There are millions of dollars circulated in these groups, they just don’t know it because they are siloed.”

But an emerging use of technology is not contained to the women of the Maasai Mara alone. Kamara gave a fascinating insight into the growth of Opay, a Nigerian startup that received around $120 million in Series B funding from Chinese investors last year. According to Kamara, Opay has revolutionised the motorcycle ride hailing sector in Nigeria:

“Opay went to these guys and said “we’ll take every motorcycle and we’ll pay you 5 percent if you get the consumer to pay with Opay.” That’s probably like 30 cents, but, to the drivers, that’s a shitload of money. Now they’re saying “you need to pay Opay”, it’s the only currency I’m taking. The drivers will help you download the app and pay you to use it. They’ve built an economy using over 4 million people.”

Getting blockchain done: Governments & blockchain

For many people, whether passive observers or innovators working at the coalface of Blockchain development, there is too much talk going on and not enough action. The reasons for this are many. Technologies like Blockchain suffer both from being quite hard to explain to anyone not involved in tech. It can also be difficult to gauge how long it will take for Blockchain projects to turn a profit.

For Laura Bailey, governments and companies alike need to get stuck in with trialling real-life solutions using Blockchain. As Chair and Founder at Qadre, Laura worked on the first ever Blockchain pilot to be used by a government (Isle of Man):

“There’s talking about Blockchain and talking about Blockchain innovation, and then there’s actually investing, doing, trying and getting things wrong. You need to look beyond the initial KPIs and metrics of what we’re trying to achieve, then smash it out of the water and prove them wrong.”

Lavan Tharasarathakumar, vice president of blockchain services at Chainyard, told the audience that government services are outdated are crying out for effective tech solutions:

“Current government services are not fit for purpose. Blockchain is an enabler to provide better services for citizens. If we look at welfare, the hoops people need to jump through to get their payments, it leads to people being underpaid or for the system to be gamed. If we implement Blockchain, we can give one easy and efficient distribution of welfare.”

Mass Adoption

The ambitious goal at the heart of cryptocurrency is that it will one day replace traditional methods of conducting finance. But panelists discussing prospects for mass adoption were split over how this would happen and even questioned whether mass adoption would ever occur.

Sometimes, philosophical arguments about the fundamental nature of cryptocurrency and Blockchain can hold back promising projects from gaining traction. A cursory glance at any kind of crypto media shows that division runs rife between fans of particular tokens and those that identify with certain ideological camps.

One panelist, “Customer Devoted” founder James Sandberg, took a different approach. He stated that the vast majority of people simply don’t care about the philosophical intricacies behind most emerging technology. Over the question of Libra and where CBDCs would first emerge, Sandberg said that adoption will be driven by consumers, not idealogues:

“As a customer, I want it to be good, to be safe, and to do the job well. I don’t care if it’s going though China, Turkey, Europe, or the UK. If the question is currency, the only question that drives me is “Does it get the job done?” On that basis, central banks will try to do a bit of a land grab, but it is driven by customers and that will drive adoption.”

Barry James, founding chair at the BBFTA, was a lively moderator, playing the panelists’ views against one another and posing provocative questions. One such question put to the panel was whether CBDCs are “reverse Bitcoin.” James’ question drew a skeptical response from Fintricity founder & CEO Alpesh Doshi, who took a dim view about the prospects for widespread crypto adoption:

“I don’t think it’s reverse bitcoin. It’s a defensive mechanism. I think mass adoption of digital currencies will happen. I don’t think mass adoption of cryptocurrency will happen, not yet.”

The question of CBDCs soon turned political. Speakers throughout the summit found it hard to divorce the race to create the first CBDC from its undeniable political connotations and this panel was no different. Caroline Thomas of the Innovation Advisory Objective Group didn’t mince her words when laying out her analysis of CBDC development:

“The biggest amount of content is coming in from china. Major chinese Blockchains are demonstrating the use cases. When we talk about central banks coming together. It’s not just Facebook and Libra and so on, it’s geo-politics.”

Fintricity’s Doshi said that the adoption of digital currencies is directly linked to the ongoing battle for the ultimate financial prize: The world reserve currency status. Doshi told the audience that from a geo-political perspective, China’s ascent to pole economic position seemed certain:

“Look at it from a geopolitical, payments perspect. China is moving faster because the reserve currency is the dollar and they want to maintain this. China want it to be their currency. It will do this because it’s easy to move it around the world. China has the second biggest economy. It will become the reserve currency and that is why China is doing it.”

Regarding who would come out on top in terms of owning the customer in a world of mass adoption, there was clear consensus among the panelists: Libra. Customer Devoted’s Sandberg said that it all boils down to who can offer the best service through data insights:

“Who’s got the most data? That’s the answer. I care about using a product that is more personal to me. Facebook are able, through their algorithms, to understand the next product that customers should be recommended. The experience will be superior.”

For Doshi, it’s about reach and ease of use. Doshi outlined his view that the sheer number of users that Facebook already has, combined with the potential for Libra to undermine state fiscal sovereignty places the tech giant firmly in the lead:

“Libra is the one, there are 2 billion people on Facebook. You just go online, find someone and pay them. That is much easier than trying to send 10 dollars to the same person. It’s going to get adoption. Central banks are scared because the reach Facebook has is so great.”

More days of blockchain discussion to come

The two-day FWW blockchain summit may have drawn to a close, but Blockchain Week here in London soldiers on, despite the COVID-19 hysteria that continues to grip the country. There might not be toilet paper, hand sanitizer or much in the way of public sanity, yet CryptoCompare’s Digital Assets Summit is still scheduled for Tuesday. Stay tuned for live Cointelegraph coverage, interviews, and features from the event.

However, with news of the Washington D.C.’s blockchain summit cancellation due to Coronavirus fears breaking only hours ago, it feels like the fate of London Blockchain Week could change at a moment’s notice.



Source link

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Tech

Hats off to the UK for smartphone unlocking laws, and more tech news today

Published

on

By

Your tech news digest, by way of the DGiT Daily tech newsletter, for Tuesday, 27 October 2020

1. UK bans locked phones, hooray!

The UK has announced a ban on the sale of network-locked phones, finally ending one of the vices that carriers try and use to keep you loyal to them.

  • The BBC reported that while it typically costs about £10 to get a locked smartphone unlocked, studies showed that’s not the full story, with half of all those who try to do so experience difficulties:
  • “These [difficulities] can include facing a long wait to receive the code needed to trigger the process, as well as then finding that the code does not work.”
  • “We know that lots of people can be put off from switching because their handset is locked. So we’re banning mobile companies from selling locked phones, which will save people time, money and effort — and help them unlock better deals,” Ofcom connectivity director Selina Chadha was quoted as saying on the regulator’s website.

Finally: 

  • This is a welcome change, with most reactions saying finally, this is long overdue, and so on.
  • While some carriers in the UK were already keeping phones unlocked, the likes of giants including Vodafone and BT were not, and will now need to comply by December, 2021. Which isn’t soon enough really, but at least it will come into place.
  • The whole practice was a great scheme for carriers but really made little sense in any other business model in the world, where consumers pay for devices they can only use while paying a certain company. Telecommunications is unique, and carriers will always wield power when they can get away with it.

Elsewhere?

  • In Europe, this is generally the case already, and in Singapore, for example, locked phones are banned.
  • In Australia phones are generally unlocked too, except in some cases with prepaid phones where phones are often affordable but made cheaper through locks.
  • In South Africa, major carrier Vodacom started adding locks as recently as a year ago, reversing previous unlocked phones.
  • And of course, there’s the US, where locked phones are much more common. Some devices may only be compatible with specific networks too. For example, some phones like the OnePlus 7T require a specific Verizon variant as the standard unlocked model doesn’t work on Verizon. Which is strange!
  • Verizon, for example, keeps a lock for 60 days after purchase before then unlocking. And it’s completely legal to unlock a phone, which leads to guides like ‘How to unlock a Verizon phone’ being popular, for Verizon’s pre-paid devices.
  • Otherwise, unlocking a phone locked to AT&T on a contract may require that you’ve paid out a 24-month plan already and jumping through various hoops.
  • It may be that moves like this commendable one from the UK regulator heaps pressure on other countries, too.

2. The OnePlus Nord N10 and N100 were announced yesterday with the leaks right on the money. They’re more affordable or budget phones with headphone jacks, and with microSD card slots for the first time for OnePlus phones. We don’t know pricing yet but it’s going to be in a battle with the likes of the Google Pixel 4a and iPhone SE for the N10 (Android Authority). And wait, wasn’t every OnePlus phone supposed to have a high refresh rate screen? (Android Authority).


3. Samsung Galaxy S30 Ultra specs leak: An S20 Ultra with a new coat? Oh, and don’t expect a charger or earphones in the Galaxy S30’s box (Android Authority).


4. Fairphone 3 Plus review: Sustainability comes with compromises (The Verge).


5. Facebook is the latest to jump into mobile cloud gaming. I had a look, the games on offer are …extremely Facebook. Plus, digs at Apple’s iOS policies (Android Authority).


6. Microsoft adds mouse and trackpad support to Office apps on iPad (Engadget).


7. iPhone 12 drop test confirms the new screen helps durability, to an extent (Engadget).


8. Roku Ultra 2020 review: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, which makes it a tough sell over the Roku Streaming Stick Plus which is half the cost (CNET).


9. AMD agrees to buy Xilinx for $35 billion in stock, which may open up 5G and automotive electronics as Xilinx invented the FGPA (NY Times)


10. “Sometimes I think of how cakes are a miracle.” (Twitter)


11. Moon holds more water in more places than ever thought — but don’t overdo it. “To be clear, this is not puddles of water,” stressed lead researcher Casey Honniball (AP).


The DGiT Daily delivers a daily email that keeps you ahead of the curve for all tech news, opinions, and links to what’s going down in the planet’s most important field. You get all the context and insight you need, and all with a touch of fun. Plus! Rotating daily fun for each day of the week, like Wednesday Weirdness. Join in!



Source link

Continue Reading

Tech

Apple to charge more for apps in India and five other countries

Published

on

By

By: Tech Desk | New Delhi |

October 27, 2020 11:43:30 am


apple app store price hike, app store price hike india, app store prices revision, apple app store controversy, apple app store tax, app store tax on developersApple App Store prices set to be increased in six countries (File Photo)

Apple announced on Monday that it will charge more apps in India, Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia, Russia, and South Africa in the next few days. This change will apply to in-app purchases as well and the developer will receive updated price tier charts informing them about the change in prices of their apps. Specifically for India, there will be an increase of two per cent in addition to the goods and services tax of 18 per cent which is already in place. On the other hand, in Indonesia foreign developers will have to bear the burden of an additional 10 per cent tax.

“When taxes or foreign exchange rates change, we sometimes need to update prices on the App Store,” the Cupertino-giant said in the announcement posted on its developer website.

There is no confirmation whether the increase in prices will be applicable or not for other services like Apple Music, Apple TV+ and iCloud. On the other hand, this increase will apply on auto-renewable subscriptions as well. Also, it is yet to be clarified as to when the App Store users will be able to see these changes.

The statement further mentioned, “You can download the updated price tier charts now. Once these changes go into effect, the Pricing and Availability section of My Apps will be updated, and your proceeds will be adjusted accordingly and calculated based on the tax-exclusive price. You can change the price of your apps and in-app purchases (including auto-renewable subscriptions) at any time in App Store Connect. If you offer subscriptions, you can choose to preserve prices for existing subscribers.”

ALSO READ | Fortnite controversies timeline: All the news about the world’s most popular video game

In the near future, the prices of Albania and Iceland as per the other markets with value-added tax selling in US dollars. However, this is not the first instance where Apple has made changes in App store prices for specific countries. The prices were revised in Japan last year. Also, the last time India prices were revised was in the first quarter of 2017.

Express Tech is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@expresstechie) and stay updated with the latest tech news.

📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines

For all the latest Technology News, download Indian Express App.

© IE Online Media Services Pvt Ltd

Source link

Continue Reading

Tech

Italy has reportedly blocked a 5G deal between Huawei and Fastweb

Published

on

By

Italy has reportedly blocked a 5G deal between Huawei and Swisscom-owned telco Fastweb.

According to multiple sources for Reuters, the Italian government stepped in to block a deal for Huawei to supply Fastweb with 5G core network equipment.

Many European countries have either banned or restricted the use of Huawei’s equipment but Rome is yet to announce its stance. If the reports are true, it would seem Italy looks set to take a strong stance against the Chinese vendor.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Italy in September and warned that Huawei poses a threat to national security.

Back in January, the UK decided to allow Huawei’s gear but with restrictions on the percentage of equipment which can be used in any network. Another stipulation was that Huawei’s equipment cannot be installed near sensitive locations such as military bases and nuclear plants.

However, the decision received significant backlash from allies, several MPs, and even human rights groups.

“Huawei is not a sort of ordinary international telecommunications company, it’s an intimate part of the Chinese state,” former MI6 head Sir Richard Dearlove told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge in July. “And if you know anything about Chinese military strategy, they talk about the fusion of civil and military capabilities.”

Following another security review, the UK decided to ban Huawei’s equipment after deeming the risk too high in the wake of US sanctions which prevented the vendor’s access to American technology.

Several other countries announced bans on Huawei’s equipment in the months after the UK reassessed its position.

Last week, Sweden banned Huawei and ZTE from its rollout of 5G networks. In a statement, the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority said that the “influence of China’s one-party state over the country’s private sector brings with it strong incentives for privately-owned companies to act in accordance with state goals and the communist party’s national strategies.”

The UK has launched consultations with its close allies – particularly those within the Five Eyes security relationship – to fund and procure alternatives to Huawei’s equipment.

Huawei has rejected all the allegations that it poses a security threat and has offered in several countries, including Italy, to undergo any scrutiny to prove its equipment is safe to use.

The Associated Press is reporting that Bulgaria, Kosovo, and North Macedonia have joined the so-called ‘clean network’ effort launched by the US. The EU has so far avoided taking an official stance on the matter.

(Photo by Christopher Czermak on Unsplash)

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this? Attend the co-located 5G Expo, IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo, and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London, and Amsterdam.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending