By Kul Bhushan for HT Tech
On the Web 21 December, 2020
India has so far separated blockchain technology with cryptocurrencies. Even as blockchain adoption (in various industries) has grown in the country, cryptocurrency has remained a no show here. Interestingly, 2020 has been one of the biggest years for cryptocurrency as the flagship bitcoin crossed $21,000 for the first time.
The situation is rather interesting for crypto-blockchain players who will obviously be looking at India for their next round of growth. We spoke to David Ben Key, President at Function X, a testnet developed by Singapore-based blockchain developer. David touched upon a wide range of issues relating to cryptocurrency, blockchain, and of course the India potential. Here are the edited excerpts:
India is one of the large economies. In the last couple of years what we have seen is that there is an in-principle go-ahead for blockchain as a technology but not a lot of clarity on cryptocurrency. In that situation you see India as a huge untapped market, what do you think where blockchain can be used in India?
We all understand where the lag is concerning technology and the regulators. One of those fundamental precepts of cryptocurrency and blockchain is decentralization. There is no single party who is in control of everything, it’s decentralized. So, when you are dealing with organizations whose power rests in centralization, whether it is a government or a central bank, they are going to be threatened by the idea that whatever they are controlling gets out of their hand then it becomes more problematic for them. So, it takes time and understandably so for the developers to develop a high enough degree of trust in a particular technology or product, let us say cryptocurrency. So, with crypto, there is that reputation with regard to the dark web, money laundering, financing of terrorism – those are legitimate issues.
Over time we have seen that government is getting involved at least in digital currency – if not the actual cryptocurrency but definitely digital currency. The pandemic in many ways has accelerated a lot of that – like people working from home, robotic use. It has also accelerated us to become a cashless society and so that is in Government’s interest to move to a cashless society. Even in India, demonetization proves that the concept of paper currency is falling by the wayside. So, more use cases have come up because governments, in general, are convinced with the value of blockchain as a technology. Initially what we tried to do is separate the technology – let the Government see the value of blockchain first, let them understand the benefits. So not all of that is attached to the finances. But now we are at a point where the Government itself is trying to figure out financing in a different way especially accelerated by the pandemic.
Are you part of Facebook’s Libra Association?
No. we are not.
Wouldn’t it have made sense for your company to be part of it?
It is not a company opinion but my personal opinion, but in the coming years, you will see greater use of anti-monopoly laws in the US and in Europe in particular to combat big tech companies taking advantage of their big market share. The problem that I have Facebook getting into this is it is too big, it going to be like Amazon. And what they do is they take the information of their users they garner from one aspect of their business and they apply that to get customers in their other businesses. So, that is a monopoly operation and that does not align with us is because what we do is not a part of cryptocurrency but digital currency, so it is still centralized. So, they are not giving power in a decentralized way. So, it hasn’t got the trust mark to me yet but maybe someday.
India is one of the biggest smartphone markets, so do you think we will see some sort of mobile solution for blockchain or cryptocurrencies in the future?
What we are seeing at a ground level is that there are many Indian traders and people buying bitcoin from India – so this is what we are seeing globally. If you see any statistics, it’s evident that India is a huge market. The second thing is Indian companies like recently we heard TATA entering the blockchain space so very similar to the outside world. It is really a paradigm shift almost at the level of the internet, so we are seeing big companies trying to get into space by separating crypto and blockchain – so I think there is a huge movement.
So as a large mobile phone market in the world, I think the entry of big companies is very big. Recently, we saw PayPal’s entry into the market, and it got a lot of people into the market. Some say that the recent value of bitcoin is partly because of PayPal. So, we think there’s a similar trend happening in India with companies like TATA entering this space.
When you talk about computing power, don’t you think in such situations instead of relying on traditional desktops, quantum computers will make a lot of sense?
Quantum computers can run a sophisticated computing power that for Ethereum network they are looking at whether you can power the network with your phone. It’s interesting that they are looking into this as they want more people to set up the nodes with that. So you don’t need to have a very sophisticated piece of the computer to run the network unless you decide that the network will be run by a very sophisticated computer maybe like a bitcoin network. But in the future, there will more and more interesting developments not just by the power of computing but also by other consensus models.
If you just had to make a guess, when will crypto become equivalent to regular currency?
I think 2025 will be the year when there is a successful mass distribution of vaccines for the pandemic. I think likewise 2025 you will see the economies return to any kind of normalcy, but I think over that period of time we are going to see an acceleration of these things. So, we have these great distributors in the US and he is going into communities that are hard hit by the pandemic and there is really keen interest for crypto in those areas – so I think that is an indication. These are not people who deal in stock markets but are commoners – so you will see a grassroots movement. 2025 seems like a pretty short and reasonable timeline when you will look back at 2020 and think like nobody was dealing in this, and now you are like using it every time – I think we are seeing it come.
From an India perspective, can you share how blockchain as space is growing and do you see its adoption happening at a larger scale?
We are seeing its adoption in a lot of countries. So, China is going wholeheartedly into the technological aspects of it because it is also a fundamental building block of a good AI. If you are looking in terms of intelligent network or internet of things – if you have a blockchain as a component of that, it will function way better. So, AI depends on huge amounts of data and the Cloud can manage it now but as that becomes greater and greater then blockchain technology can be an acquittable component that will continue to grow. Again, in terms of cost, it follows the same pattern that you have with these other technologies. When there is greater adoption the cost of implementing it and running it will go down. So, in terms of the bandwidth that will be needed if you are into staking or mining, it will become much more accessible to the average person.
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