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International Women’s Day: Women and Crypto – The Direction in 2019

International Women's Day: Women and Crypto – The Direction in 2019

It is International Women’s Day 2019, and a time for Bitcoin News to reflect on a year in print and celebrate women in fintech, and those women of all ages whose lives still remain largely uncelebrated.

The point of International Women’s Day is to look back over the past year and pinpoint the successes and failures in the promotion of equality between the genders. It is also a time to reflect on how to further combat sexual violence, harassment, domestic violence against women, and examine gender power structures, particularly in business.

A new UK government report has revealed that salary imbalance between the genders when it comes to business is still slow to change. Although one in three entrepreneurs are women in the UK — a hugely improved figure — many of the companies run by women are also half the size of those with male directorship. The report goes on to indicate that accelerating female recruitment into business over the next year could add an extra USD 25 billion to the UK economy alone.

One such entrepreneur is Queenslander Leanne Kemp who was named by the World Economic Forum as one of the most promising tech pioneers of 2018. Kemp’s blockchain startup, Everledger, was founded in April 2015, offering a way of tracking the provenance of diamonds; identifying them, and following their ownership history. She now has 2.2 million diamonds listed on Everledger’s blockchain and has now begun to add art, wine, watches jewelry and even natural resources to the blockchain. She maintained:

“We have a responsibility as next-generation technologists to underpin how this technology will form and inform all of us in our roles as citizens of the planet… There’s an important role to be had in re-innovating existing products in markets to bring transparency and provenance and then also the tracking of their second lives.”

Another Australian, Katrina Donaghy, co-founder of startup Civic Ledger, took her talents to London in 2014 to explore how she could integrate Bitcoin and blockchain into business. She told the Australian Financial Review that on arrival she was surprised to see the degree to which these technologies were already being utilized by London’s large financial institutions.

“If you just look at the companies that have done ICOs, there are very few women, but if you look at the ones that have been built based on customer validation and actually have sales, well most of the good blockchain companies that are still around were co-founded by women in the early days.”

In the US in 2018 ConsenSys teamed up with Black Girls Code, a non-profit organization providing tech training to young black women between the ages of 7 and 17. This established the first blockchain training program of its kind in the US which has plans to branch into US states and beyond. The program will eventually be available in Oakland, California, Atlanta, Georgia and in New York City, with plans to run in Johannesburg, South Africa. Black Girls Code CEO Kimberly Bryant commented:

“The ConsenSys team has consistently impressed me with their commitment to creating pathways for access and inclusion within the blockchain ecosystem and their passion for introducing these tools to the next generation of coders.”

The organization wishes to train a million girls by the year 2040, becoming a high-tech version of the Girl Guides. One aim is to ensure that minority groups in fintech have a space to grow and flourish encouraging innovative outside investments into such groups.

Amber Baldet is a household name in fintech, co-founder of Clovyr, well known for her work at JPMorgan as a leader of blockchain products, and developed the Ethereum based Quorum software designed to accelerate financial databases. Baldet left Wall Street to develop her own software by founding Clovyr and get startups on the road to using blockchain technology more effectively. She says:

“I’ve had the opportunity to talk to people who see things very differently… Being able to transition back and forth, I can help people understand each other and build stronger products together.”

Of gender diversity in the tech world she suggests, “People have tried to call out crypto as being better or worse…Diversity is a challenge across all tech subcultures.”

In the UK last year, the number of women showing an interest in investing in cryptocurrencies leaped from 6% to 13% over a six-month period. A City Am conducted by cryptocurrency firm London Block Exchange, showed that cryptocurrency was most popular with women in the millennials group. Another survey conducted by Reddit at the end of 2017 indicated that one out of five women had considered investing in cryptocurrencies with a huge 96% of Ether users being males.

What then of the uncelebrated names of the past year? Since last year, the United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed cryptocurrency-based food vouchers to more than 100,000 Syrian refugees living in Jordan, bypassing bureaucracy and getting aid to where it’s needed. The new project initiated by the WFP and UN Women was announced supporting the UN Women’s “cash for work” program running at both camps.

The cash for work program was organized by Syrian refugees to support local communities, offering them the opportunity to put something back into their new homeland. Typically, paid tasks included collecting waste, assisting with projects building homes, roads, and local schools, and in some cases working in education and the health industry as assistants. In areas which have seen destruction due to conflict and have since been liberated, refugees also participated with repairing heavily shelled infrastructure.

Cash transfers as part of that scheme enabled women assisting in the UN Women cash program to access their funds directly without a third party with accounts securely stored on a blockchain network. Women were thus enabled to pay for goods at participating supermarkets in Jordan by using one of a network of eye-scanners at their local supermarket, linking their cash to the Building Blocks program which was introduced for refugees at the Azraq camp in 2017.

UN Women continued its program to increase financial literacy rates among women by offering seminars at their “Oases”, encouraging recipients to examine their Building Blocks accounts online. Oases are safe spaces for women and children to congregate in the camps, where they can meet others and learn. They are usually funded through overseas aid and the host nation. UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka explained the thinking behind its plans for women refugees in Jordan:

“We know that women in crisis situations and displacement settings tend to have lower digital literacy than men, and often lack access to the technology and connectivity that are so critical in today’s world.”

Ngcuka adds that such projects are designed to accelerate, as she put it, “progress towards women’s economic empowerment on a large scale”.

Humanitarian organizations have pointed out that women are disproportionately affected by such crises and consequently are often forced to become the primary breadwinners while taking care of their children and families as an extra burden.

Robert Opp, Director of Innovation at WFP, points out that it is a desire for “social good” which is driving the current use of blockchain technology by the organization:

“Blockchain technology allows us to step up the fight against hunger. Through blockchain, we aim to cut payment costs, better protect beneficiary data, control financial risks, and respond more rapidly in the wake of emergencies… using blockchain can be a qualitative leap, not only for WFP, but for the entire humanitarian community.”

 

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IDC Report: Blockchain Spending in 2019 to Soar 88.7%

IDC Report: Blockchain Spending in 2019 to Soar 88.7%

Blockchain spending is on the rise as more companies embrace the technology, with a predicted growth forecast of USD 2.9 billion in 2019, according to International Data Corporation (IDC).

The figures come from IDC’s Worldwide Semiannual Blockchain Spending Guide and indicate that the technology has now moved beyond research and design, and is now increasingly being used by many companies in a practical way.

The largest portion of the predicted figure will be spent in the financial sector according to the research, with an estimated USD 1.1 billion coming from banking, securities and investment services, and insurers. Manufacturing and resources will also gain from increased spending on the blockchain according to the report. The prediction is that these areas could see the largest growth in spending over the entire five year period with a CAGR of 77.6% amounting to USD 653 million combined.

The diversity of industries and sectors now turning to blockchain solutions is rapidly expanding. IDC vice president of the Customer Insights and Analysis program, Jessica Goepfert, claims that the future beckons for blockchain as the technology is still young:

“The use cases that comprise the blockchain opportunity are developing as swiftly as the technologies enabling it. While spending for more developed use cases in the financial sector like trade finance and cross-border payments is still healthy and growing strong, relative to six months.”

The report predicting figures based on a five year period between 2018 and 2022, indicates that the total spent on blockchain could reach USD 12.4 billion by the final year of the sample.

 

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Chinese University to Launch Shanghai Blockchain Research Center

Chinese University to Launch Shanghai Blockchain Research Center

Fudan University in China has decided to setup a blockchain research center in Shanghai. The said university is one of the top-ranked institutes in the country.

According to the announcement, Shanghai Zhongren Information Technology Co, Ltd and Zhongan Online Property Insurance Co, Ltd will collaborate with Fudan University in order to establish the Shanghai Blockchain Engineering Technology Research Center.

The main goal of this initiative is to carry out fundamental level research on blockchain technology. Moreover, the center will provide essential talent training in demonstrating the utility of using blockchain technology in both existing and new systems. It is expected that the center will contribute towards the development of Shanghai economy and help in maintaining sustainable growth and development of the crypto sector there.

In order to promote research in crypto sector, other Chinese universities are offering special scholarships. Recently, the Blockchain Technology Research Scholarship Program (BRSP) was announced by the Institute for Fintech Research at Beijing’s Tsinghua University (THUIFR) in collaboration with Ripple. The program will allow top-notch Chinese graduate students to conduct research regarding international blockchain regulations and its impact on industrial development.

Furthermore, Ripple’s global University Blockchain Research Initiative (UBRI) was joined by the Chinese Institute for Fintech Research (Tsinghua University) earlier in February. Ripple launched the initiative back in June 2018. The aim of this initiative is to promote innovation, academic research and technical advancement in the crypto sector.

 

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Miners Concerned Over Russia’s Planned Internet Shutdown Test

There are growing concerns is Russia’s cryptocurrency community that the cyberwar internet shutdown tests scheduled to take place before 1 April could impact Bitcoin mining.

The Digital Economy National Program, a new law recently drafted, will require Russian ISPs to be able to operate if the country is isolated online and as such the government is planning to monitor its effectiveness through the internet shutdown. The law suggests measures including building a Russian version of the net’s address system, DNS (Domain Name System).

Leonard Levin, the chairman of a Russian government technology committee says argues, “The calls to increase pressure on our country being made in the West oblige us to think about additional ways to protect Russian sovereignty in cyberspace.”

How will the shutdown impact Bitcoin miners who are totally reliant on internet connectivity? Bitnodes figures suggest that there are 10,476 Bitcoin nodes of which 291 (2.78%) are located in Russia, compared to 271 nodes (3.02%) on the Ethereum network.

In theory, Bitcoin mining could connect to Blockstream’s satellite network and circumvent disruptions. The Blockstream satellite is a one-way network, but the user still needs a connection to the Bitcoin network to send transactions, which can include SMS gateways. The network comprises four satellites across six coverage zones including the Asia and Pacific region, allowing users to send data over its network.

The Russian government has agreed to cover any costs for the shutdown, which will be backed up by an intranet, to compensate internet provers needing to modify systems by installing servers to redirect and filter web traffic.

 

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UK Think Tank to Study Crypto Impact on Economic Institutions

According to a recent report by crypto media outlet CoinTelegraph, the Institute of Decentralized Economics (IDE) has opened in the United Kingdom for the study of the economic impact of cryptocurrencies and its underlying blockchain technology.

The source says the initiative is being backed by fintech company Sweetbridge and that the think tank will explore the possible potentials of decentralized and autonomous systems and find real applications within the current economic system.

According to the source, the press release state that IDE will help organizations better understand the economics that underlies the blockchain technology, adding that stablecoins and the interactions between government policies and crypto economics will be included in the study areas. The research scheme will coordinate efforts from experts in entrepreneurial, corporate and political systems.

Hard to ignore, the economic revolution introduced by the blockchain technology continues to gain prominence in mainstream economics on so many levels. Different initiatives designed towards researching the overall impact of the industry continue to prevail.

Blockchain, though considered a nascent technology is about a decade old and as with other emerging technologies, remains an intriguing subject deep enough for its economic impact to draw interest for many years to come.

According to CoinMarketCap data, the cryptocurrency market currently has over 2000 assets with a composite of 16,071 markets; the market had over USD 800 billion in capitalization as at January 2018 and dropped dramatically through the year, and is currently about USD 121 billion as at press time. Moreover, converging market instruments from the traditional financial market such as futures contract, exchange-traded funds continue to surface within the industry.

In the past year, Bitcoin News picked up on a few research niches that involved blockchain technology and its economic impact. The Imperial College London reported its research on how Bitcoin could become a viable alternative to fiat. Relevant to high volatility caused by pump and dump schemes, researchers from the college also developed an algorithm to predict such schemes.

Other relevant blockchain-related researches within the UK included the Law Commission’s exploration into smart contracts with the aim of conforming current laws to reflect their viability. Later on, the government began researching into digital evidence preservation through distributed ledger technology.

In New Zealand, a report by one of its state research agency Callaghan Innovation detailed how the opportunities the emerging technology could benefit the economy, suggesting based on its findings that it could be the second biggest contributor to gross domestic product by 2025.

Earlier this year, Bloomberg reported the opening of a blockchain center in Manhattan by the New York City Economic Development Corporation in partnership with Global Blockchain Business Council. The center aims at being in the front row seat of the emerging changes in the industry and wants to be instrumental in shaping those changes.

 

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UC Berkeley Starts Accelerator for Fledgling Blockchain Startups

UC Berkeley Starts Accelerator for Fledgling Blockchain Startups

The prestigious Californian educational Institute UC Berkeley has just launched an accelerator program for new blockchain startups in the country. The program is 12 weeks long and will help the early stage projects to gain the necessary traction and development to become successful later on.

The new Berkeley Blockchain Xcelerator is partly sponsored by Venture Capitalist fund Berkeley X-lab Fund and includes cooperation between Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology and Haas School of Business and Blockchain, both based in Berkeley. The Haas school is a student-run organization comprising of over 100 members from academia and industry. It has taught over 70,000 tutees online for free and has designed blockchain-based Proof of Concept (PoC) programs for a number of top commercial entities as well.

According to Gloria Zhao, president of Blockchain at Berkeley:

“With such a nascent technology as blockchain, we see that a lot of subject matter experts and people making an impact in the blockchain space are students.  Blockchain at Berkeley strives to foster the entrepreneurial spirit in our students, so we are excited to help lead this initiative and assist the next generation of blockchain innovators.”

While the accelerator program is based in Berkeley, blockchain firms from around the world can apply for it. The selected startups will be mentored by entrepreneurs, alumni, investors and other individuals who have the potential to help the project grow further.

UC Berkeley is gearing up its efforts for blockchain education and entrepreneurship. It had previously partnered with Ripple’s Global University Blockchain Research Initiative to hose blockchain speaker series at the Haas School of Business and Blockchain. The institute is also working with Ripple for cross-departmental courses and funded research projects and a new blockchain hackathon.

 

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Fake Photo Scams Largely Ineffective but Illustrate Need for Cold Storage

Fake Photo Scams Largely Ineffective but Illustrate Need for Cold Storage

With reported instances of the latest ploy for hackers to access user funds, photo scamming is further proof that cryptocurrency cold storage is by far the safest way to keep digital assets secure.

Doctored images are now for sale on dark web forums according to research by Hold Security and warnings from Bank Info Security, and can be purchased for as little as USD 50. A recent example published by the latter showed an anonymous individual holding up a passport and note showing the words “Reset 2FA” along with the date.

Hold Security, LLC is an information security company helping businesses of all sizes to stay secure. Its Chief Information Security Officer, Alex Holden, says that some exchanges’ security is far too lax, not requiring photographic ID at initial registration. He commented:

“Some companies have no ability to assert what their client looks like… It’s not like hackers publish success rates,…But because we know that [hackers who] we are monitoring are actually making money off of it.”

Most larger exchanges have far better security, which makes the success rate of such hacks uncommon, limited to smaller exchanges without rigid security procedures. Most exchanges require new clients to verify their identity with a passport or drivers license before trading on the platform, although with exchanges unwilling to talk about photo scamming events, it could be that even the larger exchanges have seen attempted security breaches through this method.

Hold Security has reported that the dark web is awash with some 10,000 doctored photos which are used as fake verification purposes. The idea is to convince the exchange that a request to reset the often-mandatory two-factor authentication security process required to gain access to accounts is a legitimate one and is coming from the owner of the account. Cryptocurrency exchange giant Binance admitted that they had seen some attempts to breach their security in this way, commenting:

“Unfortunately, we’re no stranger to these types of malicious attempts to gain access… Given the measures we currently have in place, I don’t believe this threat is something for Binance to be particularly worried about at the present time.”

 

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Unpacking Hostile Media Narratives About Bitcoin’s Environmental Impact

Unpacking Hostile Media Narratives About Bitcoin’s Environmental Impact

Rhetoric about Bitcoin’s environmental impact just became too much for one CCN correspondent recently, who wrote an editorial in an attempt to put the record straight; or at least bring some balance to the argument.

A recent Bitcoin News article recently tried to address the same debate after the much-publicized Alex de Vries article last year in Science Direct, forecasting that Bitcoin mining would comprise 0.5% of total global electricity consumption by the end of 2018, and was consuming 2.5 gigawatts (GW). It was the first scientific peer-reviewed paper on Bitcoin mining energy usage and caused much consternation in cryptocurrency circles at the time.

This was combated by a Coin Shares research analysis which claimed that Bitcoin mining consumes 35 TWh annually, 0.14% of global capacity and less than the energy consumption the tiny European nation of Luxembourg. Alex de Vries was then accused of an overly simplistic approach to his calculations.

Too much for CCN’s Wes Messamore, who had to take to task the seemingly “multiple articles castigating Bitcoin as a harbinger of environmental degradation and destruction”. Messamore accused the mainstream media of painting Bitcoin as “one of the four horsemen of the environmental apocalypse”.

He cited one editor’s accusation that mining contributed “20 megatons of CO2 into the atmosphere a year—as much as the whole Republic of Ireland?” as a clear error given that, as Messamore pointed out, “a megaton is not a measure of the mass of a compound like CO2, it’s a unit of explosive energy”. What the writer should have written was a metric ton, not megaton, possibly?

Another interesting comparison to Bitcoin’s atmospheric destruction. Google estimates that it released 1.5 million metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere in 2010, with Facebook’s annual carbon emissions in the 300,000 range, using its own figures. Banks don’t fair to well either, the CCN writer points out:

“Using all of the publicly available information about the global banking system, a very conservative calculation will yield an estimate that the institutional banking uses 100 terawatt-hours of electricity per year while the Bitcoin network’s annual electricity consumption is less than a third of that amount.”

Back to the drawing board; time to get the facts right regarding Bitcoin’s impact on the environment. There’s bound to be another claim along in the not too distant future.

 

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Open Access Publisher ScienceMatters Turns to Blockchain

Open Access Publisher ScienceMatters Turns to Blockchain (2)

ScienceMatters, a Swiss-based scientific online publishing platform, is now developing a peer review process based on blockchain technology.

Plans are currently underway to utilize Eureka, a publishing platform that uses the Ethereum blockchain, which will also enable reviewers of submitted work to be compensated for their efforts with Eureka tokens. The tokens can then be exchanged for other currencies.

ScienceMatter’s editorial director Tamara Zaytouni claims, “Eureka’s crowdsourced scoring will provide researchers as well as publishers with a new metric that can be used to evaluate the work swiftly, thus speeding up the publication process.”

The platform should prove to be a trusted and immutable research management service according to the founder of both Science Matters and Eureka, Lawrence Rajendran, who is also a neuroscientist at King’s College London. Although, as yet ScienceMatters doesn’t actually use Eureka, little will drastically change due to the thoroughness of the peer review process, Rajandran suggests. Once Eureka is employed, however, reviewers will be unknown to one another (with reviewers crowdsourced from Eureka users), although their activities and reviews will be logged for all to see. The only downside, according to some current users of the platform is that upfront fees are liable for manuscript processing, and this doesn’t come cheap at USD 595 and with no guarantee of publication save a partial refund if turned down.

ScienceMatters is not the only publication of its kind using blockchain tech. ARTiFACTS in Cambridge, Massachusetts, presents research which produces a wealth of interesting material — such as data sets, single observations, and hypotheses.

ARTiFACTS provides a forum in which researchers can upload almost anything that they deem worth sharing, logging their finds to a blockchain. Jim Tate, president of EMR Advocate, a health-care technology consultancy based in Asheville, North Carolina, and a member of a working healthcare blockchain group, is positive that there is a future in the new technology in the sharing of research information.

He commented: “The underlying blockchain technology of Artifacts has directly increased the speed and efficiency of our entire project.”

With many other publishers using blockchain now, it is clear this technology has found a place among researchers who need to share their findings and store them safely for posterity.

 

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