Having discovered and bought Bitcoin in the early 2010s, I initially had a hard time convincing my peers in the Middle East about the benefits of the underlying technology. Even harder was finding a way to buy Bitcoin if you lived in a region where people at the time were predominantly underbanked and dealt almost strictly with cash transactions.
Any discussion with those who worked in the financial industry ended up with hyperbolic accusations of Bitcoin being a currency for sex-trafficking on the deep web, and Blockchain being nothing more than a vaporware hype.
Today, I ironically see that the Middle Eastern Blockchain ecosystem is a completely different story. The same people working in the financial sector that joked about Blockchain being a fad are now propping it as the future of finance.
For example, Dubai’s endeavor to become the world’s first Blockchain city has picked up serious momentum halfway through 2017, and as with everything else “Dubai,” the UAE city-state is doing it in the flashiest way possible.
Just hours ago, the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) and the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) in Hong Kong cemented an agreement on fintech cooperation between the two authorities, with the intention to pave the path for startups in the MENA and East Asian markets. In a press release, Mr. Ian Johnston, the Chief executive of the DFSA, said that providing a regime that “fosters innovation in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is a strategic priority.”
This agreement with Hong Kong’s SFC is the newest step in setting the foundations for fintech in Dubai, subsequent to the recent inauguration of the FinTech Hive in Dubai’s financial hub.
This fintech accelerator was created with the intention of connecting technology innovators and startups with a network of regional and international financial leaders such as the Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, HSBC, VISA, as well as governmental Islamic Financial development organizations.
Over the years, Cointelegraph reported on several crypto-related Middle Eastern startups, ICOs and exchanges, but only recently has the interest in Blockchain in Dubai’s governmental and private sector exploded to the euphoria we are currently witnessing. In fact, not a day goes by where I do not read about Blockchain being in the news in Dubai’s newspapers, with a special focus on the developments of Smart Dubai’s Blockchain strategy. There are also several conferences lined up in Dubai before the end of 2017, some of which are about to sell out.
This wave of digital innovation comes as part of the government’s plan to become the first Blockchain government by 2020. Some of Dubai’s recent Blockchain ambitions by 2020 include:
- Reducing the cost of document processing by billions of dollars through eliminating manual processing of residencies, passport documentation and visas through a partnership with ConsenSys.
- Improving governmental operations and Islamic banking by moving inter-governmental paperwork onto the Blockchain through a new local startup called ArabianChain.
Several other Blockchain prototypes are currently being deployed by the Dubai government and the tech giant IBM, using Hyperledger’s Fabric tech.
It is, therefore, safe to say that Dubai no longer views Blockchain as a fad, and will likely be the world’s first in deploying fully functional governmental Blockchain services.