Growing Pacific Interest in Blockchain Technology

In June, through Pacific Connect I was fortunate to be able to facilitate a blockchain introduction workshop in Honiara, Solomon Islands, together with Tim Stasse from Ethitrade. This was the first workshop of its kind in the Solomon Islands.

“Not only do Pacific Islanders have an opportunity to lead some World-first use cases in the application of blockchain technology but it could be argued that we also stand the most to benefit from the economic incentives of it, if applied thoughtfully and strategically.”

With over 20 participants from various professional backgrounds including very good representation from the Solomon Islands Government ICT Support Unit, other government agencies, the private sector, and academia, the 3 hour workshop was a success.  

Participants were engaged throughout the workshop and keenly interested in how this “revolutionary” technology is slowly making its way into key sectors like agriculture and fisheries, and into the fabric of the Pacific Islands.

Since 2017 I’ve been fortunate to have a front-row seat to this growing interest in blockchain in the Pacific Islands and, in my opinion, I think this interest is very healthy.  

Not only do Pacific Islanders have an opportunity to lead some World-first use cases in the application of blockchain technology but it could be argued that we also stand the most to benefit from the economic incentives of it, if applied thoughtfully and strategically.

Growing Pacific interest

“This is why, in my view, the growing interest in this technology is such a good thing.  Pacific Islanders armed with enough knowledge and awareness of blockchain technology can start to make good decisions about the technology.”

Just prior to the Honiara workshop I was contacted by ABC journalist Evan Wasuka to comment on Facebook’s new cryptocurrency, the Libra, and what it would mean for the Pacific Islands.  You can read (or listen to) Evan’s article here.

Pic credit: https://timedotcom.files.wordpress.com/2019/07/facebook-libra-congress.jpg

Due to Facebook’s reach in the Pacific Islands (and the World) the potential for the Libra to impact remittances, money transfers, and e-commerce is huge.  There could even be more active Facebook users in the Pacific Islands than the number of people with actual bank accounts – folks in rural communities who don’t have bank accounts often can be found on Facebook.

The potential for disruption of the traditional banking system (not that that’s the goal, of course) and the ability to reach the unbanked is immense.  Unlike our more developed neighbours, Australia and New Zealand, Pacific Islanders often have to physically visit bank branches to access services. These visits are often frustrating experiences in long queues that can take hours.

So, there are obvious benefits of a global currency like the Libra in the Pacific Islands.

With challenges too – our central bank regulators are keeping a keen eye on these developments, the mechanisms to exchange these type of cryptocurrencies for fiat currency and vice versa in the Pacific Islands are non-existent, and the ability to utilise cryptocurrencies in exchange for goods and services are some way off from reality.

This is why, in my view, the growing interest in this technology is such a good thing.  Pacific Islanders armed with enough knowledge and awareness of blockchain technology can start to make good decisions about the technology.

We can begin to develop our own internal capacities to better inform our people and our Governments of the our blockchain-smart future Pacific.

Honiara workshop

Participants of the Honiara blockchain workshop

It was quite exciting as facilitators of the Honiara workshop to see the genuine interest in and understanding of the technology.

A couple of participants held cryptocurrencies and had also received formal training in the technology.  Others had a good understanding of the technology and its potential use cases.

One of the most important parts of our workshop was discussing existing use cases in the Pacific Islands, here’s a snapshot from our presentation:

From the list above, there is already a growing list of very useful use cases of the technology in the Pacific some of which are World-firsts.  

It’s important to share the lessons from each use case and experiences in each country to further inform others who are considering blockchain projects in the Pacific.

Group presentations on potential use cases for the Solomon Islands

Workshop participants got an opportunity to discuss in groups potential use cases, enablers, opportunities and challenges in the Solomon Islands and came up with the following project ideas:

  1. Customary land registration
  2. National digital Identity
  3. A saving scheme for the informal sector

These are a great set of projects and together with the Pacific Connect team Tim and I will keep in touch with participants to help them progress these projects if there is a desire.

The next blockchain workshop will be held in Suva, Fiji on Monday July 29 during the next Pacific Connect dialogue so that we can continue to grow the interest in blockchain technology and help educate Pacific Islanders about its potential as well as its challenges.

A front seat to the blockchain spectacle

I’ve been reading, writing, thinking about, and applying blockchain technology for almost 2 years now.

In that time I’ve been fortunate to participate in, and speak about, the technology in many national (see Regional Blockchain TechCamp), regional (see Blockchain Pasifik 2018), and international forums (see Seafood and Fisheries Emerging Technology Workshop 2018).

In 2018 I was part of the second cohort of the ConsenSys Academy Developer Program and became the first Certified Ethereum Blockchain developer in Fiji.

We now even have a Fiji Blockchain Community group on Facebook that started out with a small group of enthusiasts of the technology.

I’m currently co-authoring an FAO study on the “Application of blockchain technology in seafood value chains” together with a friend and fisheries expert colleague Francisco Blaha.

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