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OECD to Examine the Potential Impact of Blockchain Next Month

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) announced Wednesday that it plans to host an international conference on blockchain technology next month.

Specifically, the conference will examine blockchain’s impact on government activities, and will feature OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, the prime ministers of Serbia, Bermuda and the Republic of Mauritius and the State Secretary of Slovenia when it is held at the OECD headquarters in Paris on September 4 and 5. The forum is going to be livestreamed.

There will also be “more than 400 senior decision-makers from the public and private sectors” present at the meeting.

Attendees will discuss matters including the potential impact of blockchain on a global economy, privacy and cybersecurity, as well as how to use blockchain to enhance inclusiveness. They will also promote green growth, sustainability and strengthen governance and enforcement practices.

“Blockchain has the potential to transform how a wide range of industries function. Fulfilling its potential, however, depends on the integrity of the processes and requires adequate policies and measures while addressing the risks of misuse. Governments and the international community will play a significant role in shaping policy and regulatory frameworks that are aligned with the emerging challenges and foster transparent, fair and stable markets as a basis for the use of blockchain,” the news release says.

Earlier this summer, OECD’s Directorate for Financial and Enterprise Competition Committee issued a paper titled “Blockchain Technology and Competition Policy” in preparation for the coming conference. The paper points at various applications of blockchain technology for governments and the private sector. It also explains the principles of blockchain and pays attention to consortia for building blockchain platforms, citing R3 as an example.

The paper mentions a number of use cases for the technology, including “helping enforcers to clamp down on avoidance of tax and other laws and regulations; to support monetary and fiscal policy via sovereign-backed cryptocurrency; to create digital land titling and other registries, to help citizens prove their identity and vote, and to increase the efficiency and transparency of public services.”

It also added use cases for paying pensions and social security, as well sharing secure patient information.

OECD image via Flickr

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FOMO for Dogecon: What You Missed At the Gathering of the 'Shibes'

Admit it: you wish you were there.

Dance parties, rap shows, puppy parades – you name it, Dogecon had it.

And, perhaps more importantly, what this untraditional gathering of the crypto community didn’t have was pretty striking considering the circumstances: a panic over falling crypto prices.

Indeed, as Matt Condon put it on Twitter, “radical positivity” was the name of the day at Dogecon.



The four-day celebratory conference about “the social layer of crypto culture” took place in Vancouver, British Columbia. Built around the cryptocurrency with a Shiba Inu at its heart, the conference received overwhelmingly positive reviews both from attendees and those who watched from the virtual sidelines.

Even the sponsors of the event were largely unabashed on social media:

With over 200 participants having attended Dogecon Vancouver, its success – amplified by crypto Twitter – arguably brought a breath of fresh air to a community that, in recent weeks, has been bogged down with concerning news of hacks, bearish market trends and cryptocurrency forks.

As one enthusiast asked (perhaps rhetorically):

The coin behind Dogecon

The event may perhaps be proof of at least one thing: the near-zealous commitment the project still attracts, with recent charts showing that dogecoin transactions frequently outnumber those of bitcoin cash, the fourth most popular cryptocurrency in the world (by comparison, dogecoin is 40th by market capitalization, according to CoinMarket Cap).

So why the attraction? Dogecoin was always more about its community than challenging its crypto-cousin bitcoin, save for its vastly expanded token supply, faster block-times and viral memes. And the cryptocurrency inarguably suffered a blow in the wake of well-publicized scams like Moolah and the pump-and-dump schemes of Wolong.

Indeed, when the dogecoin first launched, it almost immediately attracted a following friendlier to newcomers in the crypto space than the “overly serious” bitcoin community.

Perhaps that’s SmileyGnome’s (likely rhetorical) point – that events like Dogecon seek to offer an alternative to the toxicity on display in the crypto-community on an all-too-often basis.

Or, at the very least, it’s an opportunity to praise Lord Doge.

Shiba Inu image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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At Ethereal Summit, A Human Face On A Blockchain Future

“Raise your hand if you don’t know what ‘bitcoin mining’ actually is.”

At an impromptu Q&A at Ethereal Summit on May 11, Consensys software engineer Ashoka Finley encouraged the audience to ask embarrassing questions they might have about cryptocurrency and the blockchain.

“What’s ‘hashing’? Don’t know what a bitcoin is?” Finley went on, encouraging attendees.

Still, the questions spoke to the atmosphere on day one of the two-day conference hosted by the company, a Brooklyn-based ethereum startup incubator, characterizing the inclusive atmosphere CEO Joseph Lubin appeared to be aiming for with the whimsical conference set in New York City.

Indeed, there was no shortage of eager blockchain enthusiasts onhand to discuss how they hope blockchain can change society and the world.

While cryptocurrency and blockchain technology has so far been relegated to mostly to a community of techies, Lubin drove home the message of inclusion at a press conference around lunchtime. He told the group of a couple dozen members of the media that after attending a number of banking and trading conferences focusing on blockchain, he wanted to put on an event that “really spoke to normal people” – to artists, musicians and others whose primary focus wasn’t blockchain.

He spoke about ways that the uninitiated could learn more about ethereum and blockchain technology, including a “stunning” amount of YouTube videos and ConsenSys’ own Academy offerings, plus Ethereal itself.

Appropriately for a conference hosted at a reclaimed glass factory in Queens, Lubin predicted that Silicon Valley’s dominance over the tech sector would wane, because “as we move forward having large pools of capital is going to become less valuable than having great ideas.”

Network decentralization, in other words, may lead to geographic decentralization, and with it, much needed change.

To that point, he stressed blockchain’s potential to restore ordinary people’s ownership of their personal data through projects such as uPort, an ethereum-based self-sovereign identity play. Rather than forking over massive amounts of data to centralized firms like Facebook, users could monetize their own information, selling it on marketplaces – but only if they want to.

That kind of message may once have appealed only to a cypherpunk fringe, but that seems no longer the case.

Speaking to that increased interest from outsiders, Lubin said:

“Cambridge Analytica is helping our case.”

Driving financial inclusion

True to the mission of inclusion, a number of talks focused on how cryptocurrencies could solve the “financial inclusion” problem.

“The conversation about this tech shouldn’t just be about U.S., China and Russia, because if it is, I’ll be really disappointed,” said Global Blockchain Business Council CEO Sandra Ro, whose talk focused on smaller, Caribbean islands who are looking to blockchain in various capacities.

She continued:

“I think we have an opportunity here to give the small guys a fighting chance.”

Along these lines, Tricia Martinez, the founder and CEO of Wala, which recently launched a crypto token, dala, painted a bleak picture of banking in Africa.

Unlike banks in the developing world which subsist off the traditional savings and loan model, she argued banks across Africa make their money by charging fees for every action a customer makes: opening accounts, buying a coffee, or, perhaps most jarringly, even inquiring about fraudulent activity in an account.

Given all that, it’s no surprise most Africans aren’t using banks at all – 94 percent of transactions on the continent are in cash, Martinez said.

While that works, cash might not be enough, she continued, pointing to digital money’s obvious advantages as a fast-moving form of payment that can easily be sent across borders.

Speaking to CoinDesk in a separate interview, Martinez said the Wala mobile app (where dala is the native cryptocurrency) is trying to do everything the banks do, except without fees.

The company does this by sending the ERC-20 token across the micro-raiden network, a scaling technology launched in December that pushes transactions into channels off the ethereum blockchain.

So far it seems to be working. According to Martinez, there are 50,000 people currently using dala to top up on airtime, pay electricity bills or send money to friends and family.

“Let’s solve this financial inclusion problem,” she said during her presentation.

Offsetting the abstract

Yet, it wasn’t just the mainstage speakers that were pushing the idea that the cryptocurrency community should reach out to those not already versed in the technology.

The Knockdown Center has a number of different rooms and alcoves that the organizers used to showcase projects that are trying to bridge the gap between art and blockchain.

For instance, in an area called “the crypt,” ConsenSys showcased its Cellarius project – a collaborative sci-fi writing exercise (whereby anyone can participate by writing, drawing or rendering a piece of the story and then the community votes on its inclusion) that advances a new genre it calls “blockpunk.”

“It’s a bit more positive, it’s not as dystopian as cyberpunk. There’s room for hope in this world and a bigger emphasis on decentralization,” Frank Apollo, a leading writer on the project, told CoinDesk.

Right outside the crypt was the meditation zone with massages and yoga sessions, intended to provide an anecdote to the high velocity that is typical of industry conferences.

Artistic director for Ethereal, Saraswathi Subbaraman told CoinDesk that the creative side of the event emphasizes experiential, immersive artworks, to offset what is mostly an abstract industry.

“This space is so cerebral. It’s a high pressure, cerebral space,” Subbaraman said.

Subbaraman added that the featured artworks were selected for their critical value, which was divided into two fundamental themes. On the one hand, there was art that illustrates the potential of blockchain technology, for example, a project named “Bail Bloc” that mines monero in order to get people out of jail.

But there were works that spoke to the more dystopic aspects of the industry as well, such as a “CryptoJacked” popup shop for malware themed cryptocurrency mining solutions, and a handful of works that reflected on the occasionally cultish aspects of the industry.

“Art is a moment for critical pause,” Subbaraman told CoinDesk. “I came to this space because I thought I heard ‘human first,’ but I’m not sure I heard correctly. Art can show us where we’re falling short so we can build better.”

Subbaraman’s words seemed to echo those of Aya Miyaguchi, executive director at the Ethereum Foundation, who was the first to take the stage on day-one of Ethereal.

“Ethereum has a community that cares. The level of impact is still not all known but there is a lot of potential,” she said, adding:

“It’s happening guys. It’s happening everywhere.”

Ethereal Summit images via CoinDesk

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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China's Biggest Political Event Sees Talk of Blockchain's Potential

Chinese policy advisors from across various sectors have been weighing in on domestic blockchain development during the first days of an ongoing annual political event.

Commonly known as the “Two Sessions” – comprising the National People’s Congress (NPC) and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) – the event this year has already seen a wide range of comments on blockchain from provincial and municipal representatives to CEOs of major internet firms. The event started on March 3.

The NPC is China’s top legislative arm, which proposes policies and oversees its enforcement, while the CPPCC serves a consultative function for lawmakers, with its membership coming from corporates and political parties, as well as ethnic groups in China. Both events are hosted every spring over the course of 10-14 days at national, provincial and municipal levels.

While the topic of blockchain has yet to make it to the lawmakers’ agenda, comments from CPPCC members have brought attention to the tech to both local and national political events.

Applications are key

While China has already clamped down on initial coin offerings (ICOs) and fiat-to-crypto order book trading since September 2017, the government is still stepping up its support for turning blockchain technology into real-life applications.

Speaking to that effort, Pony Ma, CEO of Chinese internet giant Tencent, said in a press Q&A session during the CPPCC conference that his firm is actively exploring various scenarios that could see the application of blockchain technology, according to a report from Sohu.

Ma commented:

“Although the invention of blockchain is [excellent], the key to its future lies largely in actual applications. Meanwhile ICOs remain highly risky. We do not intent to participate in launching our own cryptocurrency.”

Echoing that comment, Li Yanhong, CEO of search giant Baidu, said that, while blockchain technology is revolutionary, it’s still a very early stage, according to China’s tech news Leiphone.

The comments are largely in line with recent developments of the two internet firms, as Baidu and Tencent have both recently launched blockchain-as-a-service platforms in order to facilitate companies that seek to develop applications using the tech.

Meanwhile, Zhou Yanli, currently a CPPCC member and former vice chairman of the China Insurance Regulatory Commission, doubled down on his belief that blockchain applications promise to play a major role in improving the efficiency of the insurance industry in China.

China has already seen joint efforts in piloting blockchain application within the insurance industry. As reported, in April 2017, a group of 10 insurance companies said it had completed a blockchain trial in the country.

Calls for change

Yet as interest in the technology grows, some policy advisors are casting doubts on aspects of the blockchain industry.

For instance, Zhou Hongyi, chairman of internet security firm Qihoo 360, commented:

“The only real application of blockchain I can see so far is bitcoin. And yet in the history of blockchain development, lots of exchanges and wallets have been hacked, which proves blockchain technology needs serious security improvement.”

Meanwhile, Ding Lei, CEO of internet technology firm NetEase, believes that a lot of the current attention given to blockchain is driven by speculation.

“Applications should be developed in accordance to actual market needs, instead of just using the name of blockchain for speculation,” he said.

Addressing the issue of speculation, Wang Pengjie, a CPPCC member from minor political party Zhi Gong, proposed a regulatory framework that would potentially treat tokens as public stocks, saying, “A regulated cryptocurrency exchange platform under the oversight of People’s Bank of China and Securities Regulatory Commission would serve as a formal way for companies raising funds through ICO and trading cryptocurrencies.”

Cities take a focus

While the event has seen notable comments at the national level in Beijing, city-level conferences have also discussed ways to foster blockchain developments.

According to Leiphone, in China’s Guangxi Province, policy advisors from the provincial CPPCC have already proposed the drafting of crypto-friendly guidelines to attract firms that design, develop and implement blockchain applications.

Similarly, CPPCC members at a city-level conference in Chengdu suggested that the local government should have a policy in place to build an incubation center to foster adoption of blockchain technology in the city’s financial services.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Hangzhou, the city where e-commerce giant Alibaba is headquartered, said the it would make blockchain one of its top priorities for 2018, in an effort to foster quality development in the field.

People’s Great Hall image via Shutterstock

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Crypto's Price Correction Isn't Killing the Industry High

“You should buy crypto in amounts you’re not worried about, and sell it whenever you start thinking about it.”

At least that’s Blockchain CEO Peter Smith’s stance on investing in cryptocurrency, a take issued during just one of a dozen or so panel discussions at Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit Tuesday. Focused solely on cryptocurrencies, the one-day event, curated in part by CoinDesk, paired Smith with Chain CEO Adam Ludwin, who agreed this wasn’t exactly a bad investing philosophy.

The comments, while perhaps amounting to ‘Investing 101’ advice, were notable for their contrast to the “just HODL” movement, an ethos propagated by early investors that has largely encouraged the holding of cryptocurrency – no matter the ups and downs.

But that’s not to say that the panel, as well as the day’s event, didn’t showcase just how captivated investors are with cryptocurrency these days.

Smith told attendees:

“There’s probably never been more hype about a technology or industry than ours.”

And numbers from a survey Yahoo undertook seem to bear that out.

According to Yahoo editor-in-chief Andy Serwer, 40 percent of respondents have bought cryptocurrencies over the past year. Yet, in the same survey, about half still believe they may be a fad or even a hoax.

Both the hype and this confusion has caught the attention of various regulators – two of which, the CFTC and the SEC, were called before a Senate hearing on cryptocurrency just a day before the event. As such, the hearing provided ample fodder for the speakers, many of whom saw the regulators’ remarks as a positive for the fast-growing industry.

Speakers touched on the plethora of new investment vehicles and tools, even as some spoke out about what they feel is the nascent state of the technology.

“Usually nascent technologies out of the lab don’t get this much attention because there’s no way to profit off them,” said Ludwin. “It’s good to never lose sight of that.”

He added:

“You have a capital markets phenomenon overlaid against a very early technology … so time will tell whether this intense capital markets thing around it stunts the growth or accelerates the growth or stunts and accelerates back and forth, which has sort of been the course so far.”

More sophisticated options

But caution aside, much of the focus was on products, including hedge funds, derivatives, futures and initial coin offerings (ICOs) – topics that were all widely discussed during the day’s event.

For example, Barry Silbert, head of crypto investment conglomerate Digital Currency Group (DCG), was there to tout a new fund announced Tuesday by Grayscale, a DCG subsidiary specializing in public markets vehicles offering cryptocurrency exposure.

The fourth Grayscale product, the Digital Large Cap Fund is designed to give investors exposure to the five largest cryptocurrencies based on market capitalization, and it joins the ranks of a whole slew of hedge funds that have launched over the past year to lure more institutional investors.

Not only that but derivatives, futures and ETFs were also mentioned several times.

Bitcoin futures may have made a debut of two large traditional exchanges, CME Group and Cboe, at the end of last year, but there’s talk that more could be on the way.

According to Karan Sood, the CEO of Cboe Vest, the investment management arm of Cboe, the launch of futures has parlayed into more interest from Cboe’s institutional clients.

Speaking to the combination of traditional tools and the crypto market, Sood said:

“To marry those two gets us all excited.”

Cboe also seems excited about the idea of bitcoin ETFs, filing with the SEC to list six in one week at the end of December. Yet, no ETF has been approved so far. And as the SEC has been reluctant to accept the crypto ETF notion in the past, several speakers voiced pessimism that the product would be seen soon.

“A more likely thing is the continuation of the derivative aspect, because at least you have oversight from the CFTC on derivatives, and that’s how you were able to get the first products out,” said Kathleen Moriarty, a partner at Chapman and Cutler LLP.

Yet, Sood said retail investors are still predominantly driving interest in these sophisticated products. And as such, regulators are doing their best to keep up.

Wait up, innovators

On hand representing this group was CFTC commissioner Brian Quintenz, who spoke about how regulators are still trying to get their bearings in the crypto space.

Over the past several months, the CFTC has made headlines on multiple occasions for the role it played in jumpstarting the bitcoin futures market by overseeing a number of regulated products, and Quintenz didn’t exactly temper the mood Tuesday.

“One of the other takeaways from yesterday,” said Quintenz, speaking to Monday’s Senate hearing, “was you didn’t hear either chairman say ‘No, absolutely not, this is not safe, we must stop this at all costs.’ No one said that.”

He continued:

“We don’t want to be saying no to innovators.”

Having said that, though, Quintenz did elaborate on where the CFTC and other regulators would be focusing some of their efforts.

According to him, regulators are looking at the difference between a futures contract and a sale. If the delivery of an asset happens within 28 days, he said, it’s a sale and not a future. As such, the CFTC is currently looking for input on how to protect investors from what he called “look-alike” futures contracts.

Yet, while many speakers tipped their hats to the regulators for their seemingly positive outlook, Perianne Boring, the president of Chamber of Digital Commerce, a Washington D.C.-based advocacy group for cryptocurrency, said the regulatory landscape remains a mess in her eyes.

The CFTC is regulating cryptocurrency as if it’s a commodity; the IRS calls cryptocurrency property for tax purposes; and the SEC sees some cryptocurrencies as securities.

Because of this, she believes cryptocurrency entrepreneurs might leave the U.S. for not only places with lower regulatory hurdles, but those with a more clear regulatory framework for the nascent industry.

“In three years, we’ve really turned this around, to the point where we have a Congressional blockchain caucus, a group of senators coming together to say we’re going to protect this industry,” Boring continued.

But she and many others are hoping the cryptocurrency industry can come together to find ways to self-regulate so that stricter regulatory action isn’t pursued.

“We need best practices so people can delineate good from the bad,” she remarked.

Proceed with caution

Yet, that’s a tricky thing to do, especially since even experts in the industry have trouble figuring out what end is up in the space.

Alex Sunnarborg, a founding partner at Tetras Capital, went through a list of the ever-expanding list of available cryptocurrencies during his fireside chat, highlighting the growing number of token products, which have primarily differentiated themselves in name only (SAFT, ICO, TGE, ICBM).

All these new names have made it challenging for investors to differentiate tokens in an effort to decide which ones to invest in. And not only that but vetting cryptocurrencies and crypto tokens requires some amount of technical proficiency in looking at the teams, the white papers and the economics of the system.

Brad Garlinghouse, CEO of Ripple, whose native cryptocurrency XRP has seen meteoric growth over the past couple months, also commented on the troubles of assessing the token industry. In particular, he said many of the tokens he sees don’t have much purpose, and that as the industry corrects from the hype, “there’s also going to be carnage along the way.”

With that, Boring reminded the audience they shouldn’t invest in things they don’t understand.

“For the retail investor who wants to get involved in the blockchain ecosystem, whether through an ICO or through other means, you really need to educate yourself,” she continued. “For the first time in possibly history, you can have control – but with that increased amount of control comes an increased amount of responsibility.”

Having said that, though, Boring is still a true-blue crypto believer, telling the audience:

“I have more money in cryptocurrencies than in any formal retirement fund.”

Nik De and Michael del Castillo contributed reporting.

Disclosure: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which has an ownership stake in Blockchain, Chain, Grayscale and Ripple. 

All Markets Summit: Crypto logo image via Bailey Reutzel

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is an independent media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. Interested in offering your expertise or insights to our reporting? Contact us at news@coindesk.com.

Disclaimer: This article should not be taken as, and is not intended to provide, investment advice. Please conduct your own thorough research before investing in any cryptocurrency.