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Blockchain beyond fintech

Blockchain beyond fintech

Singapore launches first official Blockchain Challenge to drive development and application of the technology.

IMDA Blockchain Challenge
Ms Veronica Tan, a director from IMDA, explaining the Blockchain Challenge.

By KC Soh

IMDA Blockchain Challenge
Get cracking now: The IMDA Blockchain Challenge offers prizes totalling $150,000.

Blockchain is famous for being the technology behind cryptocurrencies – Bitcoin, anyone? – and for causing disruption in the fintech sector.

While it has grown explosively in that sector, people are starting to see how the technology has the potential to also shape other industries.

In sectors such as food and beverage, and entertainment, the digital distributed ledger technology is being explored to reduce costs, expand connections and overhaul business models.

To promote awareness and adoption of the technology as well as encourage the development of blockchain solutions beyond financial applications, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) announced on 29 March 2018 a Blockchain Challenge with prizes totalling $150,000.

About 300 people from technology companies and start-ups packed the launch of the Challenge, which was held at SGInnovate – IMDA’s strategic partner for the Challenge.

IMDA Blockchain Challenge
The discussion panel that explored the impact of blockchain on a range of industries.

“Through the IMDA Blockchain Challenge, we will drive awareness and spur development and adoption of this promising technology throughout our economy, including non-fintech segments,” said Mr Philip Heah, IMDA’s senior director (sectoral transformation).

Blockchain technology made its debut in 2008 with its most famous application to date, Bitcoin – the mother of all cryptocurrencies.

Building on the momentum generated from pioneering other applications in the fintech sector, such as for cross-border payments, blockchain is expected to grow even more and faster, with a potential compound annual growth rate of up to about 79% from 2017 to 2022. The technology is now being used in areas as diverse as ride-sharing, logistics and social media.

Conversation on blockchain

At the launch, a panel discussed the impact of blockchain on a range of industries, from legal and enterprise consulting, to food supply chain and healthcare.

Mr Shaun Djie, co-founder of DigixGlobal, moderated the panel comprising Mr Paul Neo, COO/CFO of Singapore Academy of Law (SAL); Mr Vinay Mohan, director of ConsenSys; Dr Marcus Tan, clinical lecturer at the National University of Singapore (NUS); and Mr Kenneth Bok, co-organiser at De/Centralize 2018.

The panellists agreed that there is a massive opportunity for blockchain to disrupt the status quo and put in place new and better paradigms for various industries.

IMDA Blockchain Challenge
(From left) Mr Shaun Djie; Dr Marcus Tan; Mr Vinay Mohan; Mr Paul Neo and Mr Kenneth Bok.

For instance, according to Dr Tan, the next five years will see a large pace of change in the healthcare sector. “The medical field will be bringing AI (artificial intelligence) capabilities to blockchain technology to revolutionise healthcare,” he said.

Similarly, certain legal statutory services could also be rolled out using the technology within the next few years, suggested Mr Neo. “There is a very strong push for the legal industry to get up to speed on technology,” he noted.

Mr Mohan highlighted that the government has been proactive with blockchain technology. He pointed to the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s Project Ubin as an example of the government’s efforts in leading a consortium of academics, companies and other stakeholders to harness blockchain technology in the financial regulatory sector.

Still, there are issues to be ironed out.

Dr Tan pointed out that in the healthcare industry, for example, maintaining privacy on a public decentralised platform is a delicate balancing act.

There are also ramifications surrounding trust issues, for instance, because data on the blockchain can be seen by all. “And blockchain is right at the centre of this conversation,” said Mr Bok.

Mr Neo assured attendees that although game-changing technologies such as smart contracts were being developed, they would still operate within the larger legal framework and that legal principles will still apply.

Are you up for the challenge?

IMDA Blockchain Challenge
Participants interested in the IMDA Blockchain Challenge having a chat with Ms Veronica Tan from IMDA.

Following the panel discussion, IMDA director Veronica Tan laid out the framework and timeline of the Blockchain Challenge.

Participants are invited to choose from two project categories – Enterprise or Transformation – to pitch a potential solution.

Projects in the Enterprise category should improve operational efficiency, such as process enhancement, automation of manual jobs and reduction of reconciliation tasks. The Transformation category seeks projects that can enable business model innovation or have implications on how businesses, the government and society interact, with the ability to make institutional changes.  

All entries must be submitted by noon on 28 May 2018.

Shortlisted projects must then work on a Minimum Viable Product or Proof-of-Concept that solves industry challenges. Successful projects will receive prizes of $50,000 (Enterprise) or $100,000 (Transformation).

Find out more about the Blockchain Challenge


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