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Steve Wozniak Co-Founds Blockchain-Based Energy Saving Firm in Malta

Steve Wozniak has co-founded a company in Malta, which will reportedly use blockchain technology to save energy.

Steve Wozniak, co-founder of American tech giant Apple, has invested in a new blockchain-based company headquartered in Malta. Wozniak is now the co-founder of energy efficiency company Efforce, according to a report by Maltese news daily The Malta Independent on July 18.

Wozniak co-founded the company alongside Jacopo Visetti, who — according to his LinkedIn profile — works in the renewable energy and environment sector. According to this page, Visetti co-founded Efforce in January, 2018 — approximately one year and seven months ago. 

According Efforce’s LinkedIn page, the company provides the first blockchain-based platform focused on investing in energy efficiency, with its stated goal “to be recognized as the first and main platform in the world for tokenized energy savings.”

As per the report, Wozniak recently spoke about Efforce at the pre-launch for the Delta Summit, which is a blockchain conference held in Malta. 

Wozniak reportedly spoke about how he thinks blockchain will be a great boon to decreasing the public’s environmental impact without requiring people to change their habits. Wozniak also spoke on the local government’s pro-blockchain attitude as key to Efforce’s decision to launch in Malta.

As previously reported by Cointelegraph, Wozniak also co-founded a blockchain investment project in October 2018. He founded the venture capital fund EQUI Global to support investments in blockchain solutions.

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How Malta Is Becoming the Global Capital of Crypto | Cointelegraph Documentary

Cointelegraph traveled to Malta for the second time to see the changes on the Blockchain Island.

Some things never change, like the Megalithic Temples built in Malta over 5,000 years ago. These days, however, that may be the only thing that remains unchanged in Malta. With a population of just under half a million and being mostly famous as a destination for European teenagers to study English during their summer vacation, Malta has recently become a star on the crypto map. 

Having already had a positive experience hosting online gambling companies, which makes up a very significant portion (13%) of Malta’s GDP, the island is now turning its head toward the world of crypto in an effort to repeat its previous success. A lucrative tax incentive system, government initiatives, and clear and friendly crypto regulation are bringing fruitful results: Many large cryptocurrency exchanges, such as OKEx and Binance, have already established their headquarters in Malta. 

After the first visit to the so-called Blockchain Island in November 2018, Cointelegraph has traveled to Malta for a second time to see what has changed since then (hint: everything is even better than you can imagine).

If you missed our first video about Malta, watch it here — at least to see a crypto party in the presidential palace. To watch more of Cointelegraph’s videos, subscribe to our YouTube channel!

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Canadian University to Issue Blockchain-Based Diplomas to Class of 2019

The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology has partnered with blockchain marketplace ODEM to issue blockchain copies of diplomas for 4,800 students.

A Canadian tech institute will issue blockchain-based diplomas to its next graduating class, according to an official press release on June 13.

The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) has partnered with blockchain marketplace ODEM (On-Demand Education Marketplace) to provide blockchain-based copies of student diplomas for SAIT’s graduating class of 2019.
SAIT’s class of 2019, which is made up of over 4,800 students, will reportedly be able to use blockchain technology to share their official diplomas as needed, circumventing the need for alumni to request official documents from SAIT to send to recruiters and employers.

The students will receive the digital version of their certifications in tandem with a traditional paper copy.

ODEM CEO Richard Maaghul commented on how this gives students ownership of their diplomas, saying:

“We believe that students should have control over their own records, and blockchain technology makes that possible.”

The blockchain records will purportedly make the hiring process easier for employers, too, since they can easily verify the credentials of SAIT alumni as genuine.

ODEM and SAIT’s reportedly ran a pilot project in December, in which they used the Ethereum blockchain to test the process of issuing blockchain-based diplomas. 25 participants were drawn from the Pre-Employment Automotive Service Technician program.

Universities in other countries, such as Bahrain and Malta, have also begun to issue and store diplomas on blockchains. The University of Bahrain in particular announced that it was partnering with the startup Learning Machine to provide its blockchain diplomas.

Meanwhile in Malta, the entire country is set to store all educational certificates on a blockchain. The Maltese government partnered with Learning Machine as well, running a two year pilot program to keep certification records from all Maltese schools on a blockchain; this included certificates issued by churches, independent schools, and secondary schools in the country.

As recently reported by Cointelegraph, another university in Canada, the University of British Columbia, has begun a blockchain training program for its graduate- and PhD-level students. The program aims to train 139 students, over a six year period, to understand blockchain solutions for the following areas: health and wellness, clean energy, regulatory technology and Indigenous issues.

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Republic of San Marino Issues Regulatory Policies on Tokens, Token Offerings

San Marino officials have issued a governmental decree setting forth regulations for blockchain in business, seeking to provide regulatory certainty for ICOs.

The captains regent of the Republic of San Marino, Nicola Selva and Michele Muratori, have issued a governmental decree on blockchain tech for businesses, according to a recent document.

The new decree outlines procedures for registering a blockchain-based organization with the “Istituto per l’Innovazione della Repubblica di San Marino,” or San Marino Innovation Institute.  

According to the decree, blockchain-based organizations in the Republic of San Marino, the EU, or any country not classified as “high risk” and also considered relevant to the purview of San Marino legislation, may apply for registration with the institute.

The institute sets out to provide regulatory certainty, as well as supervision and enforcement of those regulations — and an anti-money laundering (AML) policy — particularly for initial token offerings (ITOs or ICOs). The institute distinguishes between utility tokens and security tokens with respect to ITOs, which are defined as follows:

”Utility tokens … shall be regarded as vouchers for the purchase of services or goods offered by the Blockchain Entity… Security tokens … shall be digital assets which represent, alternatively, depending on the underlying instrument: a) participating instruments of the issuer; b) debt securities of the issuer.”

The decree also includes tax policies for utility tokens and security tokens. Utility tokens, notably, will be treated as foreign currency for tax purposes. Security tokens, on the other hand, will be treated as participating equity instruments or debt securities, depending on the nature of the security token. Lastly, both types of token will be exempt from standard income tax for the purpose of “income generated through operations” using the tokens.

As previously reported by Cointelegraph Italy, the decree was initially presented in Milan on February 28.

In the United States, a member of congress recently testified before the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee. Congressman Ted Budd argued that cryptocurrencies should have the same de minimis tax exemption accorded to foreign currencies.

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EU: Malta Needs to Improve Readiness to Respond to Cryptocurrency Crime

A letter to member states highlights concerns over the growth in cryptocurrency activity versus law enforcement power.

The European Union has told Malta it needs to improve the resources it has to fight potential financial crime as a result of cryptocurrency popularity, local daily news outlet Malta Today reported on June 5.

In a letter to member states advising how to spend EU funds, the European Commission flagged Malta’s burgeoning cryptocurrency sector as a potential weak link in the fight against financial crime.

“The Commission, in its recommendations to member states for the use of EU funds, said that the size of Malta’s financial and gaming sector, and the efforts to attract crypto-currency operators required an effective anti-money laundering enforcement,” Malta Today summarized.

Additionally, possible conflicts of interest in government should be addressed regarding corruption, while tax obligations should also be reassessed.

“Furthermore, the police’s Economic Crimes Unit is currently understaffed,” the Commission added. It continued:

“In this context, it is important to couple a strengthened legislative framework with timely and thorough implementation.”

Malta continues on its path to create a haven for cryptocurrency and blockchain businesses. As Cointelegraph reported, some of the industry’s biggest names, including exchange Binance, have made the country their home under the government’s highly-publicized “Blockchain Island” plans.

At the same time, authorities are getting to grips with controlling the sector, creating both vetting structures and releasing information for consumers, such as the risks associated with crypto asset investment.

Silvio Schembri, Junior Minister for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation within the Office of the Prime Minister of Malta, wrote a dedicated article for Cointelegraph last month in which he discussed the current state of the “Blockchain Island” project.

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Crypto Trading Platform OKCoin Expands Its Services and Opens Office in Malta

Digital asset trading platform OKCoin has expanded its trading services and opened an office in Malta.

Digital asset trading platform OKCoin has expanded its trading services and opened an office in Malta, according to a blog post published on June 4.

OKCoin has launched its services to non-United States customers, who can now deposit and withdraw euros, as well as participate in euro spot trading for cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin (BTC), ether (ETH), and bitcoin cash (BCH). Per the post, the exchange is planning to add more euro digital asset pairs in the future.

Apart from expanding its trading, OKCoin has opened an office in Malta in the blockchain accelerator and hub dubbed chiliZ Blockchain Campus. The new office will operate in compliance with the Virtual Financial Asset Act, regulated by the Malta Financial Services Authority. Jovan Gavrilovic, general manager of Europe at OKCoin, said:

“Europe is essential to the evolution of the cryptocurrency markets. It is home to many progressive ideas for innovating and disrupting the status quo of the global financial system while maintaining a balanced regulatory approach.”

Last November, OKCoin launched fiat-cryptocurrency trading services in Argentina, also revealing plans to extend its services all over Latin America, adding other local fiats to the list “in the coming months.” At the time, the company was also looking to open an office in Buenos Aires and build up a team to support development in the region.

As recently reported, Star Xu — founder of provider OKCoin and cryptocurrency exchange OKExannounced OK Group’s partnership with blockchain-focused trust company Prime Trust, which will purportedly allow the firm to launch its own compliant stablecoin.

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Maltese Government Awards 19 Blockchain Scholarships Using DLT Fund

Malta’s government has awarded 19 blockchain scholarships from the fund set up by the University of Malta and MITA.

The Maltese government has awarded 19 students blockchain scholarships worth a total of 160,000 euro ($179,000), local publication the Malta Independent reports May 23.

The scholarships were granted by Silvio Schembri, Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation, using the $351,000 scholarship fund that was set up by Malta Digital Innovation Authority (MITA) and the University of Malta in August 2018.

According to the Malta Independent, all the awardees will further apply for a Master’s degree in blockchain and distributed ledger technologies (DLT), with separate groups of students specializing in blockchain studies relating to law, finance, business, and ICT.

The scholarships were announced during the ongoing Malta AI and Blockchain Summit, with Schembri claiming that the given scholarships represent the first awards of its kind.

Along with the scholarship announcement, Schembri also stated that the Malta Financial Services Authority will issue the first licences to blockchain companies this year. He noted that by the end of 2018, the amount of blockchain firms operating from Malta reached 800.

In April, the MFSA approved the first 14 crypto assets agents out of more than 250 entities that applied previously. The approval followed the adoption of the Virtual Financial Assets Act enforced by Maltese authorities in summer 2018.

Recently, Turkish Bahçeşehir University launched a blockchain center at Boston’s Northeastern University to offer informational assistance on blockchain tech.