The Future of Blockchain in Asia-Pacific

—A summary of panel discussion at 2nd Global Blockchain Summit 2016

While there are still concerns about issues brought by digital currencies, we have witnessed an upsurge in the popularity of blockchain in the financial sector in Asia.

Large banks and financial institutions, especially in Japan, Korea and Singapore, are launching or supporting initiatives that involve the application of blockchain. In addition, corporations and government have also, in various ways, been engaged in the application of the technology.

Prof. Lee from Singapore pointed out at the panel that a cryptocurrency and blockchain association named SAS has been established. It has become the very first bitcoin company in Asia-Pacific and has cooperated with central banks and other financial, logistic and trading institutions to promote Fin-Tech, namely, to accelerate startups in the sector and optimize business infrastructures.

However, the rapid evolvement of the blockchain technology still faces great challenges, ranging from technological barriers, government regulations, and integration issues to cultural fit.

As blockchain brings new ways of doing things, it has raised significant concerns among policy makers, regulators, and senior directors at large financial institutions. At the panel, Jay Hong mentioned the impediments enforced by current legal system, such as the Real-Name Registration System which runs against the idea of distributed ledger essential to blockchain.

Similarly, Yamashita explained the reluctance and hesitation of large financial organizations in adopting blockchain -- “it costs too much; we will have to overthrow the whole system and start from scratch.”

At the same time, Prof. Lee brought up the short supply of blockchain talent pool. For countries with a smaller population, they risk falling

behind due to lack of blockchain experts. For this reason, Prof. Lee advocated for more government resources to be allocated to propel learning and application of blockchain.

Experts remain positive about the future of blockchain in Asia, though they all agree that the technology and social approval need time to develop. Referring to the current situation of bank loans in Japan, Yamashita anticipated that a wider adoption of blockchain would improve and benefit the payment segment. Blockchain could be used to streamline and strengthen the banking process and thus enhances efficiency and effectiveness.

Jay Hong believed that blockchain has the greatest potential in identification and authentication. Companies could leverage blockchain for identity (both human and non-human) verification and information storage in a much easier and more secured way.

Last but not least, building on previous opinions, Prof. Lee believed that blockchain would power international trading through the elimination of inefficiencies from trade execution to payment. Moreover, the platform blockchain provides can broaden the participation in the international market.

Author: River, a Stanford Anthropology Student who studies tech entrepreneurship.

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