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The United Nations’ Secretary-General Has Blockchain Firmly on the Agenda

The United Nations has put together a panel of 20 experts in order to investigate how blockchain can impact global economics.

The panel was initiated by The United Nations’ (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres. The group which comprises of 20 figures from major sectors including industry and academia will examine digital technologies in general with a particular focus on blockchain technology.

Executive Director and co-chair of the UN secretariat Ambassador Amandeep Gill, commented the new body, called the High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation:

“You cannot look at ‘web 3.0’ without looking at blockchain or without looking at AI (Artificial Intelligence) […] our hope is that through discussion of these various digital domains […] in terms of human rights, in terms of privacy, in terms of subversion of democracy, we are able to come out with some common principles…of strengthening cooperation across borders.”

It was also revealed that Melinda Gates, founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba Jack Ma were invited to co-chair the new panel. It is thought that Ma was selected due to his work with blockchain, including his raising of $14 billion for development projects.

Secretary Guterres has said that digital technologies are affecting society at an “unprecedented scale” with Ma conceding that “that the impact of blockchain on the future of humans may be far beyond our imagination.”

The UN itself has been implementing humanitarian programs using blockchain for a number of years but admits it can do far more. There are currently 25.4 million refugees in the world and some 3.1 million asylum seekers around the world, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.

Blockchain solutions are in place in many poorer countries working to improve the lives of individuals at community and national levels, but it is noticeable that the worldwide refugee crisis hasn’t as yet been significantly impacted by new technology.

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Bitcoin Still Best Bet, Says Wall St Crypto King

Bart Smith, Wall Street’s very own ‘Crypto King’, has said in an interview on CNBC’s Fast Money that Bitcoin is still the best option for crypto traders.

Smith, who launched a crypto desk which buys and sells millions of dollars in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, maintains this is primarily because people are out there using it. Therefore, its functionality makes it stand out from the range of available cryptocurrencies available today.

The head of the digital asset group at Susquehanna International Group remains upbeat on Bitcoin despite the falls of the last day. The future he says, is positive, recently suggesting that institutional investors will re-stimulate the cryptocurrency market once more regulatory clarity is provided. He commented:

“If you want to own the asset that you can actually use today and that people are functionally using, it’s Bitcoin… The use case for Bitcoin is valid today, which is the currency of the internet.”

He pointed out that cross-border exchanges using Bitcoin is a major use of the digital currency today. This makes it a significant usable medium of exchange.

Only recently, Alibaba Group’s Ant Financial reported that it intended to use blockchain technology to lower the cost of overseas payment after failing a bid to buy over MoneyGram. The Chinese multinational e-commerce conglomerate says the move will benefit the Filipino expatriate population of Hong Kong. They systematically send funds estimated to be HKD 4.4 billion (USD 561 million) annually back to families in the Philippines.

Talking of traditional cross-border payments, Smith argued:

“They use Western Union, traditional banks; It is slow and it is expensive… and there are people that can stop you from sending that money, whether that’s good or bad. With Bitcoin, I can send money. It’s fast. It’s cheap. And frankly, no one can stop me.”

As for other coins, Smith suggested that this may be the future but it isn’t now. He argues that new tokens will face difficulties establishing new “technological advancements”. Hence, despite the initial excitement, it will be Bitcoin that will be continued to be used for practical purposes.

 

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Blockchain Is Becoming China’s Darling, but Crypto Suffers From Beijing’s Distrust

Last week’s comments by China’s president Xi Jinping that the “blockchain was 10 times more valuable than the internet” clearly highlights the direction that the Chinese government is taking regarding the cryptocurrency space, according to Cointelegraph

Adding to those comments, the president referred to blockchain as “a part of the technological revolution”. If this “revolution” is already underway, where exactly does that leave bitcoin, following cryptocurrency’s trading ban in the country enforced earlier this year? Under the ban, Chinese residents can hold cryptocurrencies, but can’t currently trade them.

Add to that the prohibitive attack on China’s mining industry by regulatory bodies and things don’t look too bright for Bitcoin when juxtaposed to China’s new enthusiasm for blockchain.

Given these current conditions, China is still a major Bitcoin player with 50 to 70 percent of global mining taking place in the country, although this number is not comparable with its far more significant figures before the ban was actually put in place. Many miners have relocated under China’s crypto skeptical regime and the bans have made their mark on global markets when Bitcoin dropped to its lowest level in more than a month, with Ethereum (ETH) declining 19% and Ripple (XRP) collapsing 29%.

In 2013, banks and financial organizations were prohibited to carry out any crypto-related operations, and all companies offering any services involving Bitcoin were obliged to register with the relevant authorities and to follow know-your-customer (KYC) procedures to prevent money laundering and tax evasion, as Cointelegraph points out.

The situation has deteriorated even further now that ICO’s have been clamped, and exchanges shut down. With 15  closing, some moving to Hong Kong or staying on and becoming fiat free, to avoid the governments no trade for fiat regulations. Despite this and a further increase in regulation, China still boasts the top 20 cryptocurrencies in the global market in terms of valuation.

No such problems for blockchain, as exemplified by Xi Jinping latest stance, and his proclamation that the internet pales into insignificance alongside the new technology:

“The new generation of information technology represented by artificial intelligence, quantum information, mobile communication, internet of things, and blockchain is accelerating breakthroughs in its range of applications.”

Hangzhou is fast becoming blockchain’s Chinese Mecca, the city where Alibaba was founded, with its new Blockchain Industrial Park and $1.6 bln innovation fund. Also, Hangzhou will gain from the construction of a research institute established to provide academic support for the development of blockchain tech in the city.

Recently Blockchain was heralded for its internet-crushing-value on a China Central Television (CCTV) broadcast by the state-backed TV channel tagging it as being “the machine that generates trust” whilst in the same program making further attacks on cryptocurrency.

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Chinese E-Commerce Giant Says Blockchain Not A Bubble

Founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, Jack Ma, has commented recently that he doesn’t see blockchain as a bubble, unlike sees bitcoin, which is something he has no plans to pursue.

The e-commerce boss made the comments at the 2nd World Intelligence Conference, which was held in Tainjin in Northern China on May 26th. At the conference, he reflected on research that he’d been involved in over the years, saying that DLT has the potential to address data privacy and security at all levels, both private and governmental. He also referred to the current fintech space as an “era of big data.”

Alibaba reported $39.9 billion in its latest Q4 earnings, with a trading volume of “trillions of transactions.”  Its founder went on to say that he was disappointed by the fact that much of the blockchain industry’s interest still comes from speculators, who view the technology as a “huge gold mine”. Speaking with CNBC Shanghai, Ma said that he was wary of bitcoin, even at its recent hiatus back in December 2017, stating:

“I don’t know about Bitcoin at all. I’m particularly puzzled. Even if it can really work, the rules of global trade and the financial system will be completely changed. I don’t think we are ready. So I’m still paying attention to Alipay… to the US dollar, and the euro. We have a team that studies blockchain, but Bitcoin is not something that I want to pursue. We don’t care about Bitcoin.”

Last year, Ma became the richest man in Asia, according to Bloomberg, with his net worth surging to $41.8 bln. Alibaba’s mobile payment app AliPay, reportedly has 450 million users. However, the company hasn’t embraced cryptocurrencies and has recently seen one of its subsidiaries, Taobao, ban ICO related advertising.

Alipay, now the Ant Financial Services Group, introduced blockchain technology in 2016 to improve its accountability while working with the Chinese charity industry.

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