New Scholarship Opportunity: DC Blockchain Summit

Consensus Scholar Malena Lopez speaks with Martine Niejadlik. Photo Credit: CoinDesk

Since joining the MIT Media Lab’s Digital Currency Initiative (DCI) last year, I have been impressed by the passion exhibited by members of the cryptocurrency community regarding the future digital currency economy. The potential that this disruptive technology possesses is impressive, and I am eager to see more people from underrepresented backgrounds join the conversation.

This is why I am excited to announce a new scholarship opportunity for people of color and women interested in cryptocurrencies. The Chamber of Digital Commerce, a trade association representing the digital asset industry, in collaboration with the DCI, will be providing 30 diversity scholarships for the Chamber’s upcoming event, the DC Blockchain Summit, on March 3rd at Georgetown University. The Chamber of Digital Commerce has donated 10% of tickets (worth $100 each) to the event and will be working with the DCI to identify students and young professionals to attend the summit.

The scholarships are being offered to people of color and women between the ages of 18–25. The summit will be the first of its kind held in D.C. and aims to provide insight into policy challenges facing the new technology. The conference will include thought leaders and companies like Microsoft and NASDAQ, among others. Click here to apply to become a DC Blockchain Summit Scholar. Applications are due February 24th and scholarship recipients will be informed of their acceptance into the program by February 29th.

I’m eager to expose more people from underrepresented backgrounds to the ongoing dialogue around cryptocurrencies because I remember my own experiences first learning about this new field. One of the most powerful ideas that initially attracted me drew a parallel between Bitcoin and the Internet. Just as the Internet changed the way we communicate, so to will Bitcoin and its underlying technology change the way we transact. That’s a powerful statement. It brought back memories of me begging my parents to get Internet access for the home computer because “it was the next big thing.”

While I don’t miss those early days of dial-up and getting yelled at by my older brother for tying up the phone line, learning about digital currencies has brought back that “futuristic feeling” I got when clicking on the AOL icon. A portion of my life I was accustomed to (reading printed encyclopedias for research projects, writing letters to communicate with long distance friends, etc) was being turned on its head.

So, what everyday events will be impacted by this new technology? What types of transactions may look very different in the future?

How about using the architecture / ledger underlying Bitcoin, known as the blockchain, to store single instances of electronic tickets to concerts and sporting events? This would make purchasing tickets from 3rd party websites like StubHub less nerve-racking as it would mean the person you bought the tickets from couldn’t also sell it to someone else. No more holding your breath and crossing your fingers the next time you walk up to the venue. You will know you are the sole owner of that ticket — that it’s legit.

I also find it exciting to see people from different backgrounds, including in developing countries, explore ways this technology can benefit their communities.

“In my community, there’s a trust for smartphones, there’s a trust for social media, and a desire for better money management and investment,” says Malena Lopez, a first-generation Mexican-American who received a DCI diversity scholarship to attend the Consensus digital currency conference last September. “There’s a general mistrust of financial institutions…. Digital currency, I know, is here to equalize things in a completely groundbreaking manner.”

Malena’s insights are especially interesting given an article recently published by Bitcoin Magazine. The article discusses why Mexico’s demographics are aligned with the benefits of Bitcoin. I look forward to hearing more from Malena as she explores these kinds of opportunities and engages more in the community.

“Attending the conference gave me the knowledge and jumpstart I needed to explore opportunities…and I can’t wait to be a part of what’s next!” said Malena.

I share Malena’s enthusiasm and look forward to tracking down more educational opportunities for people of color and women in this field. I also look forward to fostering a more diverse cryptocurrency community in the process.