2019 Necker Blockchain Summit — The Fine Print: Corporations, Regulations and the Blockchain
It’s generally agreed that more smart regulation is needed in the blockchain and cryptocurrency space. But what does that look like in practice? We asked our expert panel on Necker Island how they’re working, right now, to build an environment where corporate innovation and government oversight not only coexist but thrive together.
The first step is, undoubtedly, more education for everyone, including consumers who are just entering the blockchain space. Understanding emerging technologies like blockchain is key to understanding the complex web of financial services that influence key decisions in life and business, Tanya Stephens, senior IT Innovation Leader at Procter & Gamble Inc., said today at the Blockchain Summit.
“When you’re talking about financial literacy, you have to talk about technology literacy. We have to empower these communities with the education,” said Stephens on a panel that focused on how government and business can work together to advance emerging technologies. “When you give people tools, they will solve some of the problems happening. One of the ways you do that is telling stories about how to empower people. We have to do it in partnership.”
It’s not just consumers that should improve their literacy, said Annette Nazareth, an attorney and former member of the Securities and Exchange Commission. “It also relates to engaging government. There’s a lack of technology literacy, even at the highest levels of governments. For governments to understand what technology is capable of, and how that can work consistent with their policy goals, is absolutely critical.”
And when it comes to the private sector pushing forward blockchain and other new technologies, “I don’t think we can make progress unless we do partner with the government with the regulators and with the legislators explaining that we are all on the same side,” she said. “We all have the same goals, but we need to translate how these goals need to be accomplished into the new technology.”
These conversations can be mutually beneficial for corporations and governments as well — a better working relationship can come from mutual sharing of information and expertise. For example, Stephens said business can provide valuable sources of information about consumers that will help lawmakers better serve their constituents.
“There’s absolutely a role for us (the private sector) to play in helping legislators understand what consumers are actually asking for,” said Stephens. “The reason there’s beef being tracked is because consumers are really concerned with what’s going in their bodies. If you are a product-based company and are making something that’s going into someone’s body, they’re going to want to know it’s pure. … Consumers also want companies to be responsible. Consumers are asking this, so by extension, we” can help governments understand those concerns. This is a direct result of a more open dialogue between the innovative private sector and the government agencies tasked with overseeing them.
One area that is incredibly important in the corporate-government conversation is working together to build a better digital foundation for consumers — a foundation that decreases risk and encourages users to own their data.
“Digital identity — (it is) crucial that we get this right, to enable a very risk-prioritized and user-controlled construct,” said Dave Treat, Managing Director and Global Blockchain Lead at Accenture. “But one of (Accenture’s) first areas of focus was on those who are excluded from society because they lack any form of recognized identity. 1.1 billion people lack it.”
Despite the known hurdles, Nathan Trail, senior Manager of Technology Policy at the Consumer Technology Association, said it’s an exciting time to work with government officials as they get up to speed on blockchain and other emerging technologies.
“They want to embrace it. But we have a role as educators, we understand this technology and we understand how it can be used,” he said. “And it’s our job to be there. A lot of them know about the capabilities about it, but they want to know how it works. Industry needs to be there as a partner with them.
“One way to do that is to show how it’s worked on a smaller scale. Interesting use cases — show how it’s working and then they can see how it works in their government,” he added.
As more use-cases and pilot projects flourish, governments in turn are looking to the next stage — production. “We’re seeing a big focus on a desire for adoption,” said Adam Caplan, SVP of Emerging Technology at Salesforce. “Maybe we won’t change the world today, but we’ll learn and then we can tackle some of these digital identity and much bigger and broader issues over time.”