Category Archives: Columbia University

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IBM, Columbia University Support Startups with New Blockchain Courses

IBM’s almost frenetic blockchain charge continues with the multinational giant’s announcement of plans to combine with Columbia University to provide two accelerator programs for blockchain-based firms.

The Ivy League research university’s Columbia Blockchain Launch Accelerator is an eight-week program designed for pre-seed formulating companies with affiliations with either Columbia or any other New York universities. IBM’s press release explained the usefulness of the new program for other participating universities should they choose to sign up:

The goal of these programs is to help network founders develop their ideas into sustainable and scalable companies offering blockchain solutions. For those already further along in their journey, the programs are designed to help them achieve scale and build successful business networks.”

IBM added that the accelerators would “will offer entrepreneurs and blockchain network founders around the world access to the expertise and resources they need to establish blockchain networks”.

The two programs are each to target ten startups and will involve mentorship using technical, academic and business mentors from IBM and Columbia, plus enrolling student will have access to IBM’s agile design workshops as well as use IBM’s Cloud technology. Students will be offered extra support through connection to researchers from Columbia as well as other students.

The second of the two programs, the IBM Blockchain Accelerator, another eight-week course, is designed for companies at a more advanced stage of growth, taking place in New York and San Francisco. Of the two accelerators, Columbia Blockchain Launch Accelerator Executive Director Satish Rao said:

“Early- and late-stage teams will undoubtedly benefit from IBM’s technology resources, expertise and established network coupled with Columbia’s ground-breaking research and talent in blockchain and data transparency, all while benefiting from rapidly growing NYC blockchain communities.”

As IBM continues to demonstrate its determination to use blockchain research and development in a number of sectors and play an active role in pushing the technology into mainstream use, Columbia itself has been no slouch in expressing its opinions on DLT. In a recent edition of the university’s Columbia Journalism Review, a report on the events of its most recent panel discussion entitled ‘Blockchain in Journalism: Promise and Practice’ outlined its findings in how blockchain could impact journalism.

The panel found that key resistance to blockchain adoption was a general lack of knowledge. The panel felt that the stigma of cryptocurrency was still there to be overcome, including public fears of volatility and its past connections with criminal activity. They also felt that the dearth of available information to the public regarding blockchain’s workings and its numerous potential applications across all sectors was still a barrier to adoption.

 

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Columbia University Examines Future of DLT in Journalism

New York’s prestigious Columbia University has been examining blockchain and its impact on the world of journalism.

In the most recent edition of the University’s Columbia Journalism Review, a report on the events of its most recent panel discussion entitled ‘Blockchain in Journalism: Promise and Practice’ outlined its findings.

The panel was held at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, part of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. The Tow Center explores the ways in which technology is changing journalism, its practice and its consumption – particularly as consumers of news seek ways to judge the reliability, standards and credibility of information.

The 19 October panel included important players in both blockchain and journalism including Civil Foundation CEO Vivian Schiller and ZigZag podcast’s Manoush Zomorodi. Also attending were Columbia researcher Eran Tromer, Forbes head of Product & Tech Salah Zalatimo, New York Times researcher Nellie Bowles Po.et CEO Jarrod Dicker.

The panel agreed that central to blockchain’s success in the field of journalism were three areas offering the greatest challenge, with the greatest being to differentiate between cryptocurrency and DLT. The former still offered resistance in the eyes of the general public due to a general lack of knowledge. The stigma of crypto is still there to be overcome, including public fears of volatility and its past connections with criminal activity.

In the same way as cryptocurrency, blockchain suffers from the same dearth of available information to the public regarding its workings and numerous applications across sectors including journalism, despite already making impact in that area. However, flawed designs were identified by the panel, such as “Nieman Lab’s John Keefe calculating that it takes 44 steps to purchase CVL, the token that powers Civil”.

The panelists felt these factors were enough to cast a degree of muted optimism over journalism’s future unless they were addressed as the industry moved forward with further blockchain solutions.

Civil recently announced that it was casting its eye on the Asian news market and, as a result, the company has raised USD 1 million to create 100 media projects there over the next three years. In order to facilitate its ambitious plans in Asia, the company has teamed with Splice, a Singapore-based media startup, which will manage the new fund.

 

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Students Now Expect Blockchain Courses at Universities

As blockchain courses become of a feature on university campuses around the world, so does the expectancy from companies and students that these courses are there to provide a future for the burgeoning industry.

Educational institutions in the United States are mounting an academic response to the emerging industry, which, due to the cautious public and skeptical governmental approach to cryptocurrencies and blockchain, may come as a surprise. However, now that the markets have cooled off, the monetary value of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies comes second to the value of the underpinning tech.

The industry realizes this and as such has been putting its money where its mouth is with increasing investment going into education from some of its leaders. Ripple is just one, announcing a USD 50 million University Blockchain Research Initiative (UBRI) this year partnering with 17 universities around the world, reports Business Wire.

Some big names were on the Ripple educational hitlist, including Princeton University, MIT, and University College London (UCL). Several universities across the US, along with others in South Korea, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, India, Brazil, Cyprus and Australia are also included in the project, giving the initiative a distinctly international flavor.

Both Columbia University and Stanford University opened blockchain research centers this summer, hot on the trails of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Add to these, Miami University in Ohio, Montclair State University, and the University of Pennsylvania, among others and the direction of the industry in the US alone is very clear; there’s no way but up.

This is what students expect to see now, realizing the importance of new technology and how it’s a perfect fit for numerous sectors, with the potential to offer a range of employment opportunities. As University of Pennsylvania legal studies and business ethics professor Kevin Werbach indicates, this is the new direction in education for many:

“There is rapidly growing student interest… They’re seeing opportunities with companies that want students to work in this area, which include both blockchain-focused startups as well as major companies. Wharton [School of the University of Pennsylvania] sends people to all the Fortune 500 companies, and investment banks and technology firms. A very high percentage of those leading firms now have blockchain or distributed ledger projects, and they’re looking for expertise in that area.”

Job search site Glassdoor.com now lists more than 2,700 blockchain-related positions, indicating that the work is there if students can gain the skills. However, running the courses is not always easy according to Andrew Myers, a computer science professor at Cornell University:

“Blockchain as a technology requires that you understand a bunch of other things first: cryptography, distributed systems, operating systems… Before you know it, you’ve got a pretty long prerequisite chain. To really teach a full-blown blockchain course, you need textbooks, and a lot of that knowledge just hasn’t been distilled into a form that lets you really teach a good undergraduate-level course yet.”

It’s unlikely that colleges trend towards providing these courses is likely to abate though, and some major educational institutions are already realizing that undergraduate courses in blockchain will add even more credibility to an industry which is gaining respect by the day.

 

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Embarrassment for Aussie Bank with $530M AML Fine After Positive Blockchain Spin

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) is to pay settlements of USD 530 million for breaching anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorism financing laws, writes the BBC.

The Commonwealth Bank is one of Australia’s big four banks along with Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), National Australia Bank and Westpac Banking Corp.

The settlements are being paid to the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) for failing to report 53,506 bank transactions, improperly monitoring 778,370 accounts for money laundering red flags, and filing 149 suspicious matter reports over a period of three years.

The CBA argues that a single coding error had led to the failure to report the 53,506 transactions and that it wasn’t aware that the bank had violated AML laws, although it did admit to lack of due diligence.

“Our agreement today is a clear acknowledgement of our failures and is an important step towards moving the bank forward. On behalf of Commonwealth Bank, I apologize to the community for letting them down,” said CBA current chief executive, Matt Comyn.

Given bank demands for tougher regulation on cryptocurrencies because of digital currency’s perceived susceptibility to being used for money laundering, this news comes as somewhat of an embarrassment for those banks calling for tougher AML legislation on crypt assets. Endless media reports have suggested that Bitcoin is used for criminal activity.

A recent panel held by the US Senate Judiciary on modernizing anti-money laundering laws discovered that only a small percentage of such activity involves cryptocurrency. Columbia University’s economics professor Edgar Feige cited last month that 50% of the world’s fiat currencies contribute towards illegal activity such as drug and arms trafficking, writes Bitcoinist.

A further embarrassment to the CBA is the fact that two years ago, the now-ousted CBA executive, Ian Narev was extolling the “transformational” potential of blockchain for the bank’s customers:

“Our intention is to be right in the middle of the early stage R&D, because it has the potential to be that transformational for the business – both for customer benefits and for processes and costs,” adding that DLT tech could be, “…more significant than anyone even thought they were. That is something we would expect to pan out over the next couple of years [for distributed ledger technology].”

A CBA ledger built on the blockchain would’ve made it much more difficult to conceal 53,506 transactions, saving AUSTRAC a lot of time and money investigating the breach.

If a court approves the fine, it will be the largest civil penalty in Australian corporate history. The bank, Australia’s largest lender, said it would also cover AUD 2.5 million in legal fees accrued by investigators, according to the BBC.

 

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