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Ireland Organizes Hackathon to Explore Feasible Blockchain Use Cases

Ireland Organizes Hackathon to Explore Feasible Blockchain Use Cases

In an attempt to fully integrate the blockchain ecosystem into the economic stream of the country, the government of Ireland organized a blockchain hackathon –  with the aim of understanding and assessing the potential of the industry and its economic relevance.

The hackathon hosted by the department of expenditure and reform in collaboration with the department of finance was scheduled to be held on the weekend of 25 – 27 January at Dublin.

The conference will feature an important subject on how the blockchain can be utilized in public service areas such as health, security, transport, and information gathering systems to improve current processes, development, citizen user experience, efficiency and more, according to a news post.

The news source quoted Paschal Donohoe TD, minister for finance and public expenditure and reform as saying: “Blockchain technologies have proposed new economic, business, social and technological models that have the potential to significantly impact business and society.”

The conference will enable teams to brainstorm on feasible solutions to different problems faced by businesses using blockchain. And, the team that comes up with the best solution will be offered a prize of 8,500 euros (USD 9,690.42), along with an opportunity to implement it. Results will be based on innovation, relevance, solution, and proof of concept.

It would seem the conference is a part of a national economic reform dubbed Our Public Service 2020, which is aimed at developing and innovating solutions in digital delivery of public services in the Ireland economy.

Ireland is doing a whole lot to create a synergistic workflow between different parastatals, to include the government, academia, and the private sector towards blockchain research. Last year, an internal working group was set up to monitor the development of cryptocurrency and the underlying blockchain technology.

Blockchain trials have been successful in the region also. In March of last year, Bank of Ireland and Deloitte completed a joint proof-of-concept trial using blockchain technology which revealed a cost-effective approach in integrating the technology with legacy banking systems and still provide what they called “next generation client experience and regulatory oversight.”

Last September, Fintech Fusion, an Irish research program was created to facilitate the research into blockchain and obtain data to assist in the assessment of the impact of current financial technology on both wholesale and retail businesses.

Lately, it would seem that the hype for cryptocurrencies have dwindled, while the demand for blockchain has taken center stage for several industries.


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Ireland Needs Blockchain Workers but Few are Listening

Despite some Irish universities’ push to promote blockchain technology through education, it appears the industry and general public aren’t getting the message if the results of a recent survey have any credibility. Tech PR firm Wachsman has released the results of a survey which indicates that, although the industry is crying out for manpower, three-quarters of Irish people wouldn’t consider a career in a blockchain-related industry.

Ireland currently has a forward-thinking approach to blockchain technology. Earlier this year, National University of Ireland (NUI) authors of a study on the adoption of blockchain approached the government to promote a more widespread use of the technology in the country.

One of the findings of that study showed that only 40% of companies in Ireland had embraced blockchain technology, which the researchers felt was relatively low, despite Ireland’s 13th position on Bloomberg’s 2018 Innovation Index, with high productivity scores and advanced IT infrastructure.

With the latest Waschman commissioned survey it appears that the situation isn’t changing. “People in Ireland don’t know yet how transformative a technology blockchain is and that it’s such a wide-ranging technology,” claims CEO David Wachsman, suggesting that many feel that the potential for risk is too great.

The problem of “education” has arisen previously in other survey’s illustrating that there is still a lack of industry and public knowledge about DLT and how it functions. This recent survey indicated this lack of understanding was still a prevalent factor in blockchain adoption, with over half of the 1,000 respondents citing the education gap as a barrier. 10% simply thought that they didn’t have the necessary educational backgrounds to work in the industry. Wachsman argued:

“I think there is a risk that Ireland could fall behind, even though it has so many advantages, if people aren’t even willing to consider a career in one of the fastest growing industries. The education gap is real. It’s a severe challenge considering Ireland is a tech hub and should be embracing novel technologies.”

Research leader at NUI Galway, Dr Trevor Clohessy, sees the need for a national initiative to promote the new technology, particularly in the light of, as yet undecided border rules, between Ireland and the north following Brexit:

“…Beyond business, other beneficial uses of this technology would be in voting machines and ballot boxes to address electoral fraud and potentially looking at a blockchain enabled technology-controlled border identification system that could provide a possible solution to the current North/South Brexit border challenges.”


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Coinbase Secures Ireland Office as Brexit Safety Net

On Monday, major cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase announced the opening of a new office in Ireland’s capital of Dublin. The move is said to prevent any risks to the company associated with the UK leaving the European Union (EU).

With the UK scheduled to break off from the EU and possibly its entire regulatory framework, Coinbase has been forced to relocate its European hub from its London offices, although the London branches will remain in place to service the UK. According to Coinbase, the EU was its fasted growing market in 2017 and Ireland was most well equipped to provide the expertise needed to take this on.

Ireland’s Minister for Financial Services and Insurance, Michael D’Arcy T.D, praised the cryptocurrency exchange’s decision, saying it is a reflection of the country’s growing competitiveness in the financial services industry.

Speaking to UK-based news outlet the Guardian, Coinbase’s UK CEO Zeeshan Feroz said that in the case of a so-called hard Brexit that sees the UK leaving the European Customs Union, the exchange cannot risk not being able to provide the same level of service to customers located in Europe.

Feroz added that in addition to providing a Brexit contingency plan, the Dublin office will be well-placed to benefit the burgeoning Irish cryptocurrency economy and provide a number of skilled tech jobs, alongside growing the national technology sector.

While the Dublin branch assuming the role as EU leader may come as a blow to the UK, Feroz believes that there is a way the government can make Brexit work in its favor for the cryptocurrency industry.

”I am of the view today that there is an opportunity for Britain post-Brexit to perhaps take the lead in offering “balanced regulation” for the sector,” he told the Guardian, adding “In general, and outside of Brexit, I think crypto should be regulated as a service. There are businesses out there like ours that handle billions of dollars or pounds every day.”

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UK Finance Minister Sees Blockchain Solution for Post-Brexit Irish Border

The UK’s finance minister Philip Hammond thinks he may have found an answer to the issue of trade across the Irish border after Brexit takes place: tracking cross-border trade with blockchain.

At the Conservative party conference in Birmingham, Hammond said that despite his lack of expertise in the area, blockchain seemed to be the ”obvious” choice of technology to manage the Irish border once Great Britain leaves the European Union and, as Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal looks now, also the EU Customs Union.

The border is a particularly intricate issue in the Brexit dealings as it resembles many inter-state borders in the EU in being both inconspicuous, and having 200 public roads crossing into Northern Ireland. The free passage of people has been allowed since 1923 and of goods since 1993, but leaving the EU customs union means that some form of border controls would need to be established.

Blockchain could be seen as part of a solution to the issue, as it would enable the relevant government departments to track the movement of goods in a transparent, immutable, and non-invasive way. Similar logistics projects have sprung up over the globe in the last few years, including one such service from computer technology giant IBM and a sustainable sugarcane project looking to track sugar cane entering Australia.

Irish academics are on board with the idea, with the National University of Ireland (NUI) publishing a report earlier this year calling on the government to promote blockchain in Ireland. NUI offers several ways that awareness and adoption of blockchain can be encouraged in Ireland while arguing that this will enable economic growth.

As a leading nation in blockchain technology, the UK’s reputation in the field would also benefit from such a large, state-run project such as that proposed by Hammond.


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Coinbase Goes on Wall Street Hiring Spree as Part of Global Expansion

Coinbase has cut the ribbon for its new New York office with plans to expand the staff profile to 150 employees over the next 12 months.

As part of the company’s expansion plans, the current staff of 20 have been acquired from the New York Stock Exchange, Barclays, and Citigroup, which indicates the level of seriousness on its part in infiltrating the banking system. Adam White, general manager of Coinbase Institutional, explained the staffing direction the exchange was embarking on:

“We have to create a bridge between financial services and technology,” he added, “In order to do that, we need to pull from some of the best and brightest minds that have worked their whole careers in other kinds of traditional financial firms.”

With an expansion into the Irish Republic and now NYC, crypto exchange giant Coinbase is clearly on a push to amplify its influence around the globe. In its push to raise its corporate and institutional investor client base, the office is following the NYSE with its new staffing profile. According to Christine Sandler, the company’s head of institutional sales, its focus on institutional investors should sit comfortably with its retail investment trade. She commented:

“We want to partner with appropriate institutions to help the whole ecosystem grow.” She further said, “It’s not ‘institutional or retail,’ because a lot of these institutions will be distributors.”

White argues that they had expected an exodus of institutional investors when the market corrected but claims, “It was exactly the opposite.” White sees Coinbase as having the capability to “light up more countries and more fiat rails” with a new office in Tokyo planned and a move into South America. White further said: “we’re committed to not being a U.S. company.”

Coinbase has also joined a new Washington-based lobby group called the Blockchain Association who intend to convince governmental bodies to give the crypto space some well-needed regulatory leeway in a bid to foster innovation.

Along with Coinbase other leaders in the sector include Circle, Protocol Labs, and other crypto investment firms, like Polychain Capital and Digital Currency Group,

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