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Top Irish Banks Take to Blockchain to Validate Employee Credentials

Ireland's 3 major banks incorporate Blockchain to verify employees' credentials

In an attempt to maintain the regulatory standards of the Central bank of Ireland, three of the “Big Four” banks are collaborating on a new education-based blockchain platform aimed to validate their employee credentials. The announcement was made during Blockchain Ireland week, hosted by government agencies and tech firms.

As reported by Irish Times, AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank are teaming up with accounting firm Deloitte. The platform was built on the Ethereum blockchain by Deloitte’s EMEA Blockchain Lab which is based in Dublin.

Minister of Finance Pascal Donohoe said:

“[The Government] fully supports the development and adoption of new technologies like blockchain, as a way to encourage digitalization and foster innovation.”

All the employees of the banks will be provided with digital wallets which will contain their credentials. This will help them in conforming to the regulations of the Central bank of Ireland for maintaining a certain degree of standard when it comes to senior employees.

Mary O’Dea, Chief Executive of the Institute of Banking, said:

“(It’s) all about sustaining the highest professional standards for the benefit of the customers who are served by the financial services industry,”

Ireland’s Institute of Banking comprises 23,500 employees, and the project is expected to run till the mid-2020s.  The use of blockchain-based technology for verification of qualifications and credentials is experiencing growing popularity.

In another instance, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission took to Blockchain to set up a better verification model to evaluate the government department. In 2018, the Malaysian education ministry developed a blockchain-based platform to eliminate all kinds of fraudulent degrees. Similarly, back in 2017, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) issued Blockchain based digital certificates to implement verification of these certificates by potential employers and other parties.

 

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Blockchain To Bring Transparency and Wealth to Coffee Farmers in Ethiopia

Blockchain To Bring Transparency and Wealth to Coffee Farmers in Ethiopia (1)

Reuters reported earlier today on the initiative of a roastery in Ethiopia under the brand Moyee to use blockchain in supply chain management and improve coffee farmers’ incentive.

Most coffee exporters process the beans elsewhere and among other things, price fluctuations make the business an uphill battle for farmers. Despite the business being a very lucrative one, most farmers in the area are left at the bottom of the earning chain.

More so, “One reason why buyers from faraway places or different countries go through middlemen is because they rely on them to make sure farmers are following these good practices,” says Vijay Kandy whose company will build the blockchain platform.

Co-founder of Moyee Coffee Killian Stokes said “It’s the world’s favorite drink. We drink over 2 billion cups a day,” and being a huge industry, it’s rather bizarre that farmers are treated the worst. “The industry’s worth USD 100 billion and yet 90 percent of coffee farmers in Ethiopia live on less than USD 2 a day,” Stokes added.

In an attempt to bring economic relief to farmers, Moyee created unique digital identities for 350 farmers working with the company. The aim was to create transparency and allow buyers access to how much each farmer was being paid. Despite the prices being 20% higher than market prices, still farmers’ livelihood could still be improved, at least that’s what Moyee thinks since it wants to introduce blockchain to its business.

According to the company’s blog, it had been working on a prototype with bext360 and the FairChain Foundation since November 2017, and said that blockchain will “bring about a revolution in transparency that certification programs cannot currently offer.”

Blockchain continues to offer traceability, transparency, and trust which break barriers in economic distribution, and also promises to be the future technology of supply chain. Further, its underlying asset class – cryptocurrency – creates value as an incentive instrument for most business environments, and now, Moyee intends to apply that logic to the Coffee supply chain.

Blockchain will open up a new economic model for the farmers, allowing buyers to tip farmers, fund projects using a mobile app. Also, every transaction across the supply chain will be logged to the blockchain, ensuring transparency.

In a report by the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization, it concluded that emerging technologies like the blockchain in the agricultural sector shows promise of inclusive market participation for smallholders and Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs).

Blockchain innovations in the agricultural sector transcend technological benefits in managing supply chains alone, however, it has an overwhelming socio-economic impact. “It’s an innovation that is poised to empower local farmers in the Caribbean region,” said Pamela Thomas, executive director of the Agriculture Alliance of the Caribbean (AACARI) referring to the blockchain initiative to be adopted by fruit farmers in the Caribbean.

Apart from economic empowerment, blockchain has phased its way into improving food safety, export security and animal welfare as to be demonstrated by BeefLedger in its partnership with Australia’s National Transport Insurance (NTI) to trial blockchain monitoring of beef handling from Australia to Shanghai.

 

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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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Irish Blockchain for Women Demystifies New Technology

Blockchain Women Ireland has (BWI) been founded in the Irish Republic to further advance awareness of the blockchain sector in the country.

The idea behind the new group is to promote blockchain as a potential career for women and also keep the community up to date with educational opportunities in the industry.

Ireland currently has a forward-thinking approach to blockchain technology. Earlier this year, the 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.

The members of the new group cover a wide scope of financial representatives in the country including the Department of Finance, BNY Mellon and the Science Foundation Ireland-funded Adapt research centre for digital content technology. BWI includes two prominent women from the business sector: Mai Santamaria, a senior financial director at the Department of Finance, and Joyce O’Connor, founding president of the National College of Ireland and chairwoman of the Institute of International and European Affairs’ digital future working group.

The group also includes representatives from the cryptocurrency sector including ConsenSys. Santamaria, a senior financial director at the Department of Finance who leads a working group on blockchain, suggested that one of the aims of the BWI will be to cut through some of the hype that currently haunts the industry and offer further opportunities for women:

“The reality is that it is hard to reach out to the blockchain community, particularly if you are a woman with an interest in technology but who isn’t necessarily a coder or similar. We’re trying to establish a network that will help those who want to know more about blockchain, to demystify it and to open doors for those who may want a career in the sector.”

About 85% of Irish citizens currently know about Bitcoin according to a recent study, a major increase from less than 50% during a 2014 Amarach poll. Some 44% of Irish citizens who own cryptocurrency own Bitcoin, making it the most popular cryptocurrency in Ireland, while 30% own Litecoin and 27% own Ethereum.

 

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Coinbase CEO: Crypto-Space Population Will Grow to 1 Billion in Next 5 Years

Brian Armstrong, crypto exchange giant Coinbase’s CEO, has suggested that the number of people in the cryptocurrency ecosystem will swell to 1 billion over the next five years.

In a recent interview, Armstrong sees the current number of 40 million making such a substantial growth due to the continued development of tokens by commercial enterprises and even charities. He suggested:

“It makes sense that any company out there who has a cap table should have their own token. Every open source project, every charity, potentially every fund or these new types of decentralized organizations [and] apps, they’re all going to have their own tokens.”

He added that his own company is likely to host hundreds of tokens within a period of years, and these could possibly swell into millions over time. He maintains that regulation remains key to such a groundswell of token adoption though, suggesting it is more likely that the majority of these tokens will more than luckily be classified as securities.

The exchange has made some major changes over past weeks. They introduced crypto trading pairs for the users in the United Kingdom through the Great Britain Pound (GBP) with a goal to be the trading platform of choice for UK crypto traders, one of the cryptocurrency’s largest world markets. Last month, the San Francisco Exchange introduced a digital gift card program aimed at revamping old business models, offering European clients other ways of accessing cash for crypto.

It’s also been rumored that Coinbase may apply for a Bitcoin ETF from the SEC, joining an already expanding waiting list, though, this hasn’t been confirmed yet by the exchange.

Last week Coinbase also revealed that it is considering the Irish Republic as its next push to expand local markets around the globe. Dublin has been cited as the exchange’s next target and to that end, they have begun an employment drive in the city taking on customer support, analysts, a compliance officer, and an office manager.

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15.8 Million UK Residents Own or Are Considering Bitcoin

A recent survey by Bitcoin wallet Luno has shown the desire by UK residents for the launching of a “Bitcoin Barometer” which monitors the numbers of those currently involved in crypto.

The barometer, which was launched today, shows that an estimated 15.8 million UK residents either currently own or would consider owning cryptocurrencies in the future.

The recent survey of 2,000 UK residents by Luno indicates that over a quarter could see Bitcoin as becoming a valid currency in the future, used in the same way as traditional mainstream currencies in circulation. Some 23% wanted more information, a figure born out by previous surveys elsewhere, and a fifth of respondent said that they would like to see Bitcoin used online and in-store in retail.

Again, as other surveys have indicated, trust and understanding remain a key issue as a barrier to wider adoption in the community. Luno’s own figures reflected this with 43% of respondents admitting that they hadn’t purchased cryptocurrencies for this reason and over half called for further regulation.

Maya Kumar, company spokesman and head in the UK and Ireland, commented:

“Our survey showed that just under 2 in 5 (36%) had not purchased cryptocurrencies because they didn’t understand the concept. There are public misunderstandings around cryptocurrencies that lead to this lack of trust. We believe by making cryptocurrencies easier to understand through education and offering a user-friendly, safe platform, more people across the globe can trust, benefit from an upgrade to a better financial system.”

What came through clearly, based on the numbers, is that cryptocurrency is well established in the UK, far more so that many other nations in Europe, such as France where crypto uptake is particularly low. South Korea, Japan, and the UK currently lead the way in general cryptocurrency awareness.

Earlier this year, UK city minister John Glen suggested that regulation could be a “significant boost”  to the local cryptocurrency industry should the government be able to find an appropriate level of regulation.

 

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