Category Archives: Blockchain news

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Draft Proposal from EU Official Proposes ICO Regulations

Initial coin offerings (ICOs) could be receiving acknowledgment toward a legitimized future, according to a draft report on regulations from the European Parliament.

The European Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) has published a draft report that offers insights to new regulatory frameworks for crowdfunding; interestingly, ICOs received a notable mention.

Bullish backing

According to the draft, while the proposed amendments to crowdfunding regulations don’t entirely meet all the requirements to sufficiently regulate ICOs, the report positively writes that “it takes a much-needed step towards imposing standards and protections in place for what is an excellent funding stream for tech start”.

Ashley Fox, an MEP representing the UK who spearheaded the draft, has been somewhat bullish on blockchain since 2016. After a Blockchain Conference and Expo held at the European Parliament, ECON voted against “hasty regulatory steps” due to the lack of understanding what blockchain can do.

Fox was quoted saying, “There is a consensus in the Parliament, that policymakers should be careful not to regulate the technology out of existence.”

His proposals now indicate that a better understanding of the space has been achieved to some degree, and now appropriate inroads towards regulating token sales with a proper legal framework are underway.

Right direction

The proposal offers a solution to the notoriously fraudulent waters of the ICO markets, and also opens up the chance for ICOs to prove their worth. The paper writes, “At present initial coin offerings are operating in an unregulated space and consumers are at risk from fraudulent activity taking place in this market. This Regulation gives the opportunity to ICOs that want to prove their legitimacy to comply with the requirements of this regulation.”

The new rules proposed state that crowdfunding service providers “should be permitted to raise capital through their platforms using certain cryptocurrencies”. Furthermore, the report details that the newly proposed regulation applies only to public sales which raise less than EUR 8 million.

Positive proposal

There is an emphasis on the need for regulation in this space and once this regulation is implemented, it will generate a new level of protection for the crypto-community, which could generate positive world-views of the nascent industry and boost it as a whole.

The draft proposal, however, is not binding nor is it final. Fox acknowledges that there will need to be changes made should the proposal be put into an official motion.

 

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China Releases Blockchain Guidebook for Bureaucrats

The Communist Party of China (CPC) has published a blockchain guidebook that observes the technology’s key features scientifically, the origins and future applications, as well as approaching challenges.

An official’s guidebook

The publication was announced on 13 Augus in a press release on the CPC website. The book, ‘Blockchain – A guide for Officials’, covers many facets of the nascent technology which will offer counsel to government officials.

In an excerpt from the book in the chapter ‘From Internet Thinking to Blockchain Thinking’, Ye Hao, president of People’s Network writes:

“We call on the industry peers to continue to look at the blockchain technology with a development perspective. Looking at the blockchain label from a scientific perspective, look at the blockchain industry with a strategic eye, look at the blockchain business opportunities with a calm eye, promote the sustainable and healthy development of the blockchain industry.”

The introduction of the book allows for the CPC to assist other government authorities on how to better understand blockchain, establish a common ground from which they can work together and drive adoption of the distributed ledger technology on a national scale.

Looking ahead

The publication arrives at a time when huge levels of funding directed at blockchain are pouring in across multiple mega-city projects in China: USD 80 million for blockchain startups in Shenzhen, USD 1.6 billion in Hangzhou and USD 1.48 billion for Nanjing City.

Furthermore, the “number one urban project” in China, Xiong’an, is now set to become a “dream city“; this is thanks to a recent partnership between the latest mega-city and blockchain development firm ConsenSys.

International language of learning

Comprehensive studies that call for the widespread understanding and adoption of blockchain are emerging from every corner of the world. China’s Ministry of Industry and Information (MIIT) in collaboration with Tencent Holdings released a report detailing the numerous economical enhancements that distributed ledger technology (DLT) offers.

In Scotland, a paper was recently released, bullishly calling for the Scottish government and industries to rally around this tech and innovate alongside the rest of the world with it. Similarly, the United States Chamber of Digital Commerce also published a guidebook in a bid to generate discussion and understanding of virtual tokens, urging that regulatory policies need to develop sooner rather than later.

A top senior economist from the Bank of Canada also released an extraordinarily-detailed research paper describing the potential benefits of a central bank digital currency (CBDC). A US-based, world-leading IT industry trade association released another guidebook that gives focus to blockchain applications in the public sector.

Educational literature, backed by the world’s largest governments and industry representatives, is a boost to the credibility of blockchain. Perhaps they will also serve as a means for a global blockchain consensus at some point in the future.

 

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Academia in China Receive Millions for Blockchain, E-Payment, AI Research

More funding is being pumped into the blockchain infrastructure in China as four universities are receiving a grant for an interdisciplinary research effort to examine artificial intelligence (AI), enhancing the security of electronic payment systems and blockchain technology applications.

Collaboration

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) Business School has partnered with the University of Hong Kong (HKU), the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), and the City University of Hong Kong (CityU) to work on the research project; the project grant value sits at HKD 157 million (approximately USD 20 million).

According to a local media outlet China News, the project is to be captained by professor Tan Jiayin, a renowned academic. His most prominent work, ‘Strengthening Hong Kong’s Strategic Position as a Regional and International Business Center’, places him as a perfect candidate for the role as it gave focus to network security, blockchain and AI.

The academic institutions will be studying these emerging industries and challenges to explore and discuss the future of Hong Kong’s bid to become a global financial hub. Additionally, Tan welcomes the participation of banks as there will be relevant research into digital currencies, financial product design and distribution services.

Crypto skeptic, blockchain savant

China is taking a radically different path to the rest of the world when it comes to the multi-faceted world of blockchain technologies. The nation notoriously banned cryptocurrency trading and initial coin offerings, which led many to believe that this would be a nation untouched by the blockchain boom.

This year, however, this has come undone to some degree. Recent surveys have found that almost a quarter of Hong Kong residents have some interest in purchasing cryptocurrencies, despite the ban, with some respondents citing lack of regulation as a contributing factor to their skepticism.

There has also been a dramatic increase of blockchain-related companies emerging in China. Recent research figures show that companies with the word blockchain in their title name has risen from 555 in 2017 to 3,078 in 2018.

That figure comes as no surprise as major Chinese cities have seen eye-watering levels of governmental and private funding pumped into blockchain startups as well as other blockchain-related projects.

The city of Hangzhou received USD 1.6 billion for blockchain projects with some of the funding opening a blockchain industrial park in the city, and Nanjing City obtained USD 1.48 billion to support academic innovations, startups and established companies seeking to integrate blockchain technology into their business.

 

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Colorado Governor Democrat Candidate Lists Blockchain on Policy Issues

The US State of Colorado has a Democratic candidate who has positioned blockchain technology policies as a key component of his campaign in the upcoming gubernatorial elections.

Early adopter

Democratic nominee Jared Polis has held a bullish stance on bitcoin and blockchain for quite some time. In 2014, the congressman was an early crypto-evangelist. At the time he was making satirical arguments to ban the US dollar as a response to a Senator who was calling for bitcoin to be banned outright.

The entrepreneur turned politician has a distinctive modern-technology background; being an early adopter of the internet he founded American Information Systems, a dial-up internet service provider in the mid 90’s. Additionally, he has founded several cyber-businesses and was reported to have received USD 2,500 in Bitcoin campaign donations in 2014.

Now the pro-blockchain nominee has declared his intentions to turn Colorado into a “national hub for blockchain innovation in business and government”.

Polis said, “It’s still the early days in the evolution of blockchain, but we should take the opportunity to get out ahead. I’m thrilled to have worked with blockchain leaders to implement this bold, innovative vision that will make Colorado the best place in the country to start or grow a blockchain company.”

Blockchain policy highlights

The candidate believes that the security, transparency and efficiency of blockchain technologies can bring even higher standards to governance and election systems. Another part of the blockchain policy includes the implementation of new legislation that protects cryptocurrencies that can be used to buy goods or services.

Another policy is the integration of blockchain solutions to the energy grid, with hopes of making energy cheaper and more reliable for the state; he also wishes to digitize government records through the blockchain and boost transparency, allowing public access to Colorado contracts and expenditures.

Finally, Polis will collaborate with various financial, public and governmental entities, lawmakers and local communities, pushing the advancement of blockchain technology.

Blockchain pioneer

Polis is also a founder of the Congressional Blockchain Caucus, a bipartisan platform for both industry and government to study and research blockchain technology. The caucus is presently attempting to push the ‘Cryptocurrency Tax Fairness Act of 2017‘ into law.

At a recent event in Boulder, Polis said that if the act is passed, it would make everyday cryptocurrency purchases easier. He said, “…we’re going to continue to fight to pass that into law to make it easier for people to not have to worry about tax liability or paperwork simply for using their currency of choice.”

At the event, he also bullishly compared to the boom of the internet to blockchain saying, “It’s clear that blockchain-based technologies and cryptocurrencies have great potential to truly transform our 21st-century economy probably in the greatest way since the internet did.”

 

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South Korea Blockchain Association Presses for Regulation Efforts

The South Korean Blockchain Enterprise Promotion Association (BEPA) is demanding for the government to speed up blockchain and cryptocurrency adoption and regulation efforts.

Time for urgency

A report from a local news outlet, Korea Joongang Daily, has said that the association filed this demand to curb the government’s focus on “negative short-term side effects” and instead urges it to observe the global blockchain race and adopt a means to reap the economic benefits sooner than later.

Yoo Joon-sand, president of BEPA told a press briefing: “Countries around the world are applying blockchain technology to all aspects of society including health care, retail and logistics.”

He adds, “But instead of welcoming the people’s fervor for the technology, the government is focused on controlling it to address negative short-term side effects. This is essentially kicking away the economic opportunities that lie in front of us.”

The blockchain push

The association, formed on 17 July, is comprised of ex-politicians and academics with significant members such as former Prime Minister Lee Soo-sung and Professor Kim Hyoung-joong, head of Korea University’s Cryptocurrency Center at the Graduate School of Information Technology.

Furthermore, with their combined technological and governmental experience, members of the association wish to also push the regulation of blockchain technologies so that they can be applied to “diverse industries”, which is expected to be a catalyst for job creation and reduce financial burdens for small business owners.

According to the report, the members of the association believe that should the nation be ready with a full-body of regulations, then South Korea can witness explosive job creation and “pave the way for Korea to lead the world in the fourth industrial revolution“.

South Korea has already made vows with the United States to collaborate on a multitude challenges and facets of this coming era, with blockchain being one of the technologies in focus.

Embracing the future

This is not the first time that the government in South Korea has been pushed by politicians and prominent organizations to ramp-up the effort to regulate the space. For two weeks in early July, the South Korean National Assembly saw a maelstrom of political parties submit draft bills to create clarifications on initial coin offerings (ICOs), cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology.

In late July, the head of the virtual currency response team for the country’s Financial Services Commission made calls for adequate legal frameworks to be implemented; this would be in order to protect cryptocurrency investors and domestic blockchain enterprises.

Recent changes to tax rules for “new-growth technologies” included tax cuts for companies engaging in blockchain and cryptocurrencies. The new rules were announced in mid-July, however, there is a chance that these benefits will not be extended to cryptocurrency exchanges.

 

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Blockchain and IoT Tech to Revive Polluted River in the Philippines

Tackling environmental challenges is becoming a widely-acknowledged coupling with blockchain. Bitcoin News looked into how the government in the Philippines is tapping this potential to clear one of its most polluted rivers.

The list of novel blockchain innovations is growing. From financial services to the human genome, the technology is penetrating every facet of the modern world, and an emerging popular use is to save the environment.

River clear-up

The Pasig River Rehabilitation Council (PRRC), a state commission in charge of preserving the 27-kilometer long Pasig River, has partnered with CypherOdin, a blockchain startup with an environmental protection focus to save the river.

This is the first proof-of-concept (PoC) from the company, the Pasig River being an ideal candidate as it is one of the most polluted rivers in the Philippines.

In an interview with Cryptovest, CypherOdin and BOTcoin CEO Mariano Jose Diaz Villafuerte IV selected Pasig River after the government shutdown Boracay Island, which was to be its first “showcasing” of blockchain solving real-world problems.

He said, “So we looked at the Pasig River instead as the next most important body of water in the country.”

New technologies in tandem

CypherOdin will install Internet of Things (IoT) devices throughout the river, both above and below water level. Speaking with Bitcoin News, chief technical officer Andrew Margetts went into details of how this would work.

Margetts explained: “IoT Sensors will give us a real-time picture of the river, things such as nitrate levels, water flow speed, bacterial levels, objects in the water, microplastics levels and flora and fauna. This will enable us to have targeted clean-up efforts using the right tools and techniques, it’s a big problem to tackle so the insight makes it manageable.”

The CTO added that machine learning would analyze and categorize data to identify patterns, giving further insight into areas for improvement. The data would also allow for a “drone-based flora reclamation initiative” to run in areas where water had reached acceptable cleanliness levels.

The company will be utilizing drones with Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) technology to map plastics in the riverbed.

It has more plans in the pipeline for the future of environmental protection in the Philippines. Margetts revealed, “We do have plans to work with both the private and public sector in tackling the waste problem in the Philippines, we already have high-level discussion[s] under way.”

Efforts to protect the planet through blockchain technologies are popping up everywhere. For example, Ben and Jerry’s and the UK city of Liverpool are using the tech to offset carbon emissions in a big way, and there are even eco-friendly projects that reduce the environmental impact of crypto-mining itself.

It appears as though blockchain and perhaps cryptocurrencies themselves are going to be informing the future of our planet. While these technologies are well within their early stages, the pace of progress is astounding, as is the cutting-edge quality of the innovations themselves.

 

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US Overseas Military Personnel to Vote via Blockchain Mobile App

West Virginia State is to pioneer a blockchain-based voting application for smartphones, which allows for its military troops serving overseas to vote in the midterm federal election ballots this November.

Whilst the United States still wrestles with the notion that Bitcoin could have played a role in the operations of Russian hackers during the 2016 elections, it appears as though progress is being made on the side of blockchain technology adoption.

We use smartphones perform many practical functions like banking, shopping and navigation, so it was perhaps only a matter of time that smartphones would have the capacity to be a part of governmental procedures.

Voting on the blockchain

There are several companies exploring the potential use of mobile apps as viable voting systems, and some are applying blockchain to the concept, a technology that is popularized by its anonymous, transparent and secure nature.

The project is a partnership between West Virginia state and Boston blockchain startup Voatz. To utilize the app and vote, users will be required to register by taking a photo of their government-issued identification and a video of their face. One uploaded, facial recognition software will verify the photo and video and approve voters.

In March 2018, it was reported that West Virginia Secretary of State Mar Warner was trialing blockchain voting for the Mountain State’s Senate Primary election on 8 May. It was decided that should it prove successful, the state would allow for all 55 counties to participate with this new method in the November 2018 general election.

Upon the conclusion of the pilot, it was reported from Warner’s office that no problems were found after four audits of the software, which included components such as cloud and blockchain infrastructure.

At that time, the pilot was offered to those serving overseas in the military and families within two state counties. This was to remedy the issue of late receipts and lack of voter anonymity caused by “absentee ballots” provided to those serving overseas.

Despite its success, the blockchain voting system will be limited to those serving abroad. Warner said, “There is nobody that deserves the right to vote any more than the guys that are out there, and the women that are out there, putting their lives on the line for us.”

Blockchain and cryptocurrency in politics

There is, however, skepticism. A chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology was quoted by CNN as saying that “mobile voting is a horrific idea”.

Blockchain and cryptocurrencies persist in their boundless potential to penetrate traditions of modern life. Political endeavors in the United States would appear to persist with a love-hate relationship with cryptocurrencies.

Recently, North Carolina denied cryptocurrency campaign donations, a candidate in Wisconsin is going ahead with accepting digital currencies for his campaign despite the controversy surrounding it. A 2020 Presidential election candidate is also accepting multiple cryptocurrencies, a decision that has yet to be met with scrutiny.

 

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Research Paper Advocates Use of Blockchain for Public Services in Scotland

The Scottish Government has released a five-point recommendation paper regarding a robust introduction of Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), better known as blockchain, into public services.

Public sector meets blockchain

The research report titled ‘Distributed Ledger Technology in Public Services’ published on 6 August was conducted by Wallet Services, a blockchain development specialist, which was commissioned by the Scottish Government’s Digital Directorate in 2017.

The report writes that the researchers discovered an “overwhelming international consensus that DLT will have a significant role in underpinning future digital government”.

It makes note of the “popular narrative” of DLT being a decentralizing technology, “disintermediating central institutions like governments and banks”. Despite this appeal, the study believes in the future benefits of the technology in the public sector such as streamlining of data governance, public service delivery mechanisms, economic models and economy ecosystems.

The report insists that “Scotland join the international ecosystem as an active participant”. To do so, it will need to utilize universities and businesses for small-scale projects in the Scottish public sector, with the goal of developing a Scottish vision for DLT and sharing these findings with the international community.

Five “broad” recommendations

The report offers a set of guidelines that together, will allow for this new effort to come to fruition. It covers areas such as, putting together a group of DLT representatives to drive projects under this new vision, improve knowledge and skills around disruptive technologies, engage proactively with other nations’ governments, educate leaders across multiple industries and designate leadership to a group of progressives who will work diligently to deploy DLT in the public sector

It takes note of several international countries that have completed public-sector Proof-of-Concept (PoC) projects and have integrated DLT into their systems. Estonia is the first mention in the report, which perhaps due to its relatively similar population size.

Success stories

Estonia, with just over a million inhabitants, has managed to implement e-governance to great success and according to the report, “e-Estonia” has allowed for a streamlined experience between citizens and the state. Despite its small size, the integration of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies has revamped the country from digital identity and economy to sustaining home-grown tech startups.

Kersti Kaljulaid, President of Estonia said, “…we can make ten million payments, perform ten million requests and sign ten million contracts in just ten minutes. Even ten times larger states cannot beat us.”

It also makes note of the Netherlands, which has had eleven blockchain pilots underway since 2016, the give focus to processes and services that were in need of modernization across different governmental organizations.

This report arrives in timely fashion; Scotland finds itself in the fortunate position of being part of the United Kingdom, which is presently going strength to strength in the blockchain race. This is especially with the Bank of England completing a major DLT PoC, prestigious academic institutions offering blockchain-related courses, major cities such as Liverpool utilizing the technology to reduce carbon emissions, and other notable blockchain projects to name but a few.

 

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Crypto Donation Proposal for Election Campaigns Declined in North Carolina

The North Carolina electoral campaign finance board has denied a proposal made in April 2018 for cryptocurrencies to be allowed as campaign donation funds.

No crypto

Republican candidate Emmanuel Wilder asked the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement to provide guidance on whether or not he could accept donations in cryptocurrency for his campaign.

In an email to the board, he wrote, “I know that this is new, but there is a great opportunity to show that North Carolina is truly open to new emerging markets.”

Unsurprisingly, Kim Westbrook Strach, the state elections executive director, responded in July, writing, “We do not have the confidence that we could adequately regulate contributions to a political campaign in North Carolina in the form of cryptocurrency.”

The board officially ruled that only US dollars can be used as campaign financing due to monetary limits detailed in state campaign finance regulations.

Wilder replied with some optimism despite his disappointment, writing in a statement, “Blockchain and other technologies hold the ability to improve how business and public institutions operate day to day… Although it might not be today, there will be a day when this technology will have a place in the political process.”

Bitcoin in campaign funds

In 2017, the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission declined to allow Bitcoin campaign contributions; at this point in time, perceptions of the soaring coin were skeptical at best. The response came after a candidate had queried the board on the legality of the accepting the digital currency as campaign contributions.

Executive director of the commission, Mark Skoglund said, “There is no physical manifestation of this currency in any way. It’s just alphanumeric characters that exist only online. It is not backed by any government. The value is subjective and highly volatile.”

In July 2018, candidate for state Governor and Chairman of the Wisconsin Libertarian Party Phil Anderson announced that he would be accepting Bitcoin campaign donations. However, his request for “formal guidance” from the Wisconsin Ethics Commission (WEC) was met with similar skepticism but not an outright ban.

The WEC responded after consulting the Senate and Assembly election committees, describing crypto donations as a “serious challenge” to the state’s law. However, the WEC has made no official challenges or complaint as of yet.

Anderson is undeterred by the cynicism and remains adamant that he and the Libertarian Party will “push all the way back” if the WEC does file a complaint.

Talk of cryptocurrency donations on the campaign trail comes at a very interesting time. A Democratic candidate for the 2020 US Presidential Elections has announced that he will be accepting Bitcoin, Ethereum and other ERC20 cryptocurrencies for his campaign.

There is yet to be any particular backlash at a federal level, which is a surprise considering that Bitcoin was utilized to tamper with the 2016 presidential election.

 

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Mexico to Conduct First Public Procurement Procedure on Blockchain

A blockchain project birthed at a Mexican hackathon in April 2018 has, in turn, led to the Mexican government to begin conducting a public procurement procedure via a blockchain network.

The project

This will be Mexico’s first use of the technology for this purpose and is a bid to bring transparency to a public tender; the organizers will be publicly releasing the white paper and object of tender in late August.

According to Mexican business news outlet El Economista, the governance model of the network is a collaboration between several government entities, notably the Coordination of the National Strategy and the Digital Government Unit as well as the consultancy of Mexico’s blockchain industry and international experts.

Additionally, public institutions, universities and civil societies will be part of the model’s horizontal structure; these parties will supervise and validate the transactions within the blockchain.

The project is to utilize Ethereum to create several smart contracts that operate at each level of the procedure. Firstly, the “Buyer Unit” is a registration contract for the government agency purchasing services or goods, while the second is the registration of suppliers and it stores the data of companies looking to take part in one or several bidding processes.

Within the second contract, another then verifies the reputation of a participant based on the data of their previous bidding actions. After this, a fourth smart contract stores the important data, beginning from registration to the tenders results, and a fifth contract executes to evaluate the registered proposals requirements and awards the project to the winner.

Promoting trust

The project began at the Talent Land 2018 hackathon. Coordinator of the National Digital Strategy, Yolanda Martinez Mancilla, said, “The objective is to continue strengthening the prototype that was presented in April of this year, within the framework of Talent Land 2018, and to launch in August the model of governance of the public network.”

She added, “It is a joint action aimed at developing an open governance network where it does not cost users the development of applications and continue as a pioneer government in the inclusion of emerging technologies to improve public services.”

The project to increase transparency in public contracts has been in a matter of discussion since December of 2017 after a high-profile scandal involving a South American construction firm and the then-president Enrique Pena Nieto.

The Mexican government appears to have a reinvigorated interest in blockchain solutions and is beginning to ramp up efforts to improve its poorly-rated global blockchain ratings.

 

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