Myanmar holds its first blockchain roundtable

Last week Facebook released the whitepaper for its new cryptocurrency Libra, attempting to link its social media platform with a blockchain payment ecosystem.

There are some 2.6 billion Facebook users around the world, and almost 20 million in Myanmar – that’s a lot of potential cryptocurrency users.

With these astonishing numbers in mind, and with the rapid growth in blockchain research over the past few years, Phandeeyar hosted Myanmar’s first ever blockchain roundtable event last week.

“The event is an excellent way to broaden awareness of blockchain technology in Myanmar, and to attract interest for our Startup Challenge at the end of the month,” HtunKhaing Lynn, Phandeeyar’s Tech Community Manager, said.

A blockchain is a series of digital blocks that are distributed across many devices. Transactions on the blockchain need to be approved by all the participants, and the rules for new currency (coins or tokens) are determined by software protocol – rather than a central authority, like a bank or private company.

The benefits of this new form of technology was discussed by the first panelist Theodor Beutel, a blockchain Governance Specialist at GIZ Blockchain Lab. He spoke to the audience from his office in Berlin via webchat, and gave a useful overview of the technology. Blockchain could become “an ethical backbone for emerging technology,” he said.

The audience could ask the panelists questions with their mobile phones via a web forum. “Is there any confirmed regulation from the Central Bank of Myanmar?” was the first question from the audience.

Theo said that central banks around the world were currently grappling with regulation issues, as cryptocurrencies “have become a serious competitor to the local currency.” Given their convenience and transparency for users, he also outlined the possibility of central banks creating their own cryptocurrencies – competing with the likes of Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ethereum.

Earlier this year the Central Bank of Myanmar issued a warning about cryptocurrencies, urging people to take care purchasing through social media platforms like Facebook. Ironically, if Libra gains worldwide acceptance in the coming years, Facebook may become the vehicle for local adoption of cryptocurrencies in Myanmar.

Besides financial transactions, blockchains can record data about a range of different things – from locations and dates, to personal and company information. This was a topic that Claudia Sosa Lazo, the current Senior Product Owner at Wave Money, spoke about.

Claudia discussed her experiences creating blockchain-based land registries, to help governments, individuals and companies better record, manage and store data about property transactions.

Anyone who has bought property in Myanmar will know that buying land or property is a fraught process, given that sellers sometimes avoid signing contracts to avoid paying stamp duty. Paper contracts can also be lost, counterfeited or damaged, yet when transactions take place on the blockchain these risks can be mitigated. So too can the processing fees.

This was a lengthy point of discussion among some of the audience members, who were curious to know how blockchain technology could be used with the Myanmar land registry.

Given that entries onto the blockchain are permanent, and cannot be erased or altered, Claudia said that it was important that “the land registry was accurate enough before it goes onto the blockchain, to avoid conflicts with possible legal claims in the future.” For blockchain to be feasible for the land registry in Myanmar, these issues need to be resolved first.

The second half of the roundtable was led by three local blockchain experts – Thet Naing Soe, the Chief Technology Officer at Arena Blockchain Inc; Bo Bo Zin, Head of Technology Transformation at Yoma Bank; and Aung Ko KoThet, a programme leader and lecturer at Auston College.

As the discussion was in Burmese, it was an opportunity for the three to answer questions from the audience about blockchain technology.

Aung Ko KoThetstarted the discussion with a question: “how many people have heard of blockchain technology before this event?” Around a quarter of the room raised their hands. “Myanmar is not alone,” he said,“as most people in other countries only really know about three blockchain elements –‘bitcoin’, ‘mining’ and ‘wallets’”. Very few people understand blockchain technology itself, and how else it can be used.

He went on to give the example of data capturealong the supply chain, from rural Myanmar to the city center. Given that mobile devices like phones and scanners can record data (such as locations, identities, quantities of goods), agricultural products can be tracked at the scan of a QR code.

A farmer from Chin state, for example, may record data about his coffee plantation, farminginputs and harvesting times; then the truck driver adds more data about the delivery process, the quantity and pickup times for those coffee beans; the consignment details are then also added to the blockchain when the coffee arrives at the City Mart store in Yangon. This process offers to “lower the costs of logistics management, reducing paperwork andincreasing transparency,” Aung Ko KoThet said.

Bo Bo Zin answered questions about the possible uses for blockchain and ID verification, with people curious to know how blockchain IDs may work across different institutions – for example, at the bank, traveling overseas or enrolling at school.

Thet Naing Soe finished the discussion by talking about how blockchains are created, bringing the audience back to the basics of the technology. This attracted a number of programmers and computer enthusiasts, who continued to talk about blockchain applications in relation to Phandeeyar’s Startup Challenge 2019.

Applications for the challenge close next Thursday 27July, and the competition is open to any aspiring entrepreneur across the country. Details can be found on the company’s website:

Source: Myanmar Times

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