Dubai Claiming Position at Forefront of Blockchain Technology

Dubai has announced several initiatives in practical applications of distributed ledgers, with the intention of positioning itself as a hub for blockchain technology and digital financial innovation, Gulf Business reports.

The Global Blockchain Council was established in February by the Dubai Museum of the Future Foundation ‒ also known as Dubai Future Foundation ‒ to promote innovation and use the next generation of technologies to enhance the position of the United Arab Emirates (UAE)  as a leading center for innovation and knowledge economy. The council has about 40 members from different industries, partnering in blockchain technology advocacy and experiments. There is a working party and an executive group, which are roughly the same, but differ in the frequency of meetings.

The council has been established to develop innovative solutions and next-generation services for smart cities, help the UAE authorities and corporations understand the potential and the regulatory implications of distributed ledgers and to run pilot projects.

“The Global Blockchain Council will launch different initiatives under its umbrella to highlight and promote Blockchain and digital currencies, and explore its advantages and disadvantages,” said Saif Al Aleeli, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Museum of the Future Foundation. “It will also draw a roadmap for best uses of this emerging technology.” Al Aleeli added that, as indicated by several studies, the global market for digital transactions and the global investments in blockchain technology are expected to skyrocket in the next few years.

In May, the foundation announced a strategic partnership with the Keynote Conference to host the conference in Dubai on May 30, 2016. At the conference, the Global Blockchain Council launched its first pilot projects in digital financial transactions.

Bitcoin Magazine reached out to Moe Levin, founder of Keynote Events, to find out more. Levin, a member of the Global Blockchain Council, created the largest financial technology conference in the Gulf region. He is an entrepreneur and futurist interested in the growth and future of the greatest innovation since the internet ‒ the blockchain. He also consults for companies globally developing blockchain-related strategy. Prior to founding Keynote Events, Levin was director of European business development at BitPay and ran large Bitcoin conferences in North America.

“It shows great initiative from the United Arab Emirates to be spearheading innovation, making these innovations accessible to all, and promoting growth in all emerging sectors,” Levin told Bitcoin Magazine. “The route that many governments take is that of skepticism and caution, rather than prototyping and experimentation. The Emirates, then, stands as a reference for other governments on how to approach the future.”

According to Levin, Dubai and more broadly the Emirates, has the resources and experts needed to extract value out of blockchain technology. As a world center of banking, finance, trade and more, the UAE is in a unique position to be the world leader in this technology. “Their aim is to research, rapidly prototype and implement if the technology makes sense based on the use case,” explained Levin.

Levin is enthusiastic about Dubai as a location to establish new blockchain and digital fintech businesses.

“Dubai is an incredible place to establish any business,” he told Bitcoin Magazine. “An international community, world-class international airport and airlines, beautiful beaches and busy financial districts. The corporate tax rate is zero percent, and the speed in which people do business is faster than anywhere in the world.

But there are some caveats, he said. Dubai has a small but growing local talent pool which may make it hard to grow locally.

“This is trending positively upward but still needs work,” he said. “The Middle East on the whole has a somewhat more cautious approach to investing than its Silicon Valley counterparts, but offers much more in terms of network. That is, while the rounds might be lower in UAE, the network which investors bring to the table can turn a company profitable faster than anywhere else.”

“Regulation necessarily needs to follow innovation,” explained Levin. “It is seldom the case that regulators are also the innovators. However, the regulators in UAE are looking at blockchain fintech and seeing what, if anything, needs oversight. Currently, the pilot projects are simple, and do not impact regulators or regulations in any way. It is my hope that as things develop, the right regulators and regulations will be brought into the room, and will work side by side to develop regulations that do not stifle progress.”

The council doesn’t have preconceived positions on current debates in the blockchain sector, such as Bitcoin vs. Ethereum or permissioned vs. permissionless blockchains.

“I think that everyone on the council is taking a practical ‘if it works, it works’ approach to blockchain discussions,” he said. “There is very little politically charged discussion in the group, but rather ‘how can we prototype this fast and reliably.’ Some projects work on Ethereum, some on Bitcoin, some on Hyperledger, some on custom-built blockchains. What we’re trying to do here is prove a concept, not start a philosophical discussion on what is better or worse.”

The pilot projects launched at Keynote 2016 are outlined in a review published by CoinDesk. “These projects will beget more projects,” said Levin. “After the conference I was approached by many companies asking for advice, or by other companies telling me that their calendars just became completely full with new projects. These companies are not startups; the companies approaching me and working on pilots have thousands of employees and are world class. I think that some of these pilots will succeed by not trying to be the solution to all things at one time, but rather by trial-and-error and sharing best practices so others can do the same.”


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