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| 19 October, 2017

INTERVIEW: Du studying blockchain adoption, says CEO

Blockchain network concept. Image for illustrative purposes

Blockchain network concept. Image for illustrative purposes

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Implementation dependent on surrounding ecosystem, says Sultan

United Arab Emirates (UAE) telecoms operator Du is studying the potential adoption of blockchain in its organisation, the company’s CEO has said, but insists that the implementation is dependent on the creation of a surrounding ecosystem.

Blockchain, still a relatively new and complex concept, was first conceived as a way to create, trade and track cryptocurrency Bitcoin. The term ‘blockchain’ refers to the series of linked transactions, which become a block and form a chain.

“We have people studying (blockchain) before just saying we need to adapt,” Osman Sultan, Du CEO told Thomson Reuters Projects during an interview earlier this month.

He was speaking on the sidelines on the Future Cities Forum 2017 in Dubai.

Sultan, who is on the World Economic Forum’s ‘The Future of Blockchain’ Global Future Council, stressed the need for organisations to study applications of the new technology not only from its own standpoint but also from an ecosystem perspective.

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“We are all now discussing, but these models have to be studied... because you need financial institutions, you need technology partners, for that (blockchain adoption) to happen,” he explained.

“Du is looking at this... there isn’t just a switch that one day we will switch on blockchain,” he added.

A decentralized future

Blockchain has grown in prominence because it does not allow transaction records to be altered and instead makes available a public, distributed ‘failsafe digital ledger’ that records and track transactions. The uses of such public ledgers are being applied to various commercial applications.

“It (blockchain) is something that presents a lot of potential,” Sultan said.

“This ability to have a decentralised (system)... the blockchain concept is precisely about this... you are decentralising whatever assets, whether money or documents or whatever and I’m a believer of this.”

Asked if he thinks bitcoin is a speculative bubble, Sultan said: “I don’t think so.”

He pointed out that bitcoin is just “one expression” of blockchain.

Cryptocurrencies - also referred to as digital or virtual currencies or tokens - exist solely online and are not backed or regulated by a government.

Ecosystem of data

Meanwhile, building on his belief in the future of decentralised systems, Sultan’s advice to entrepreneurs is to focus on creating data-driven ecosystems.

Sultan said he believes tapping into building ecosystems of data could help pave the road for the next big global start-up to be born out of the region.

“Today, Dubai is certainly the hub of venture capital in the region,” he said, calling funding one of two key components of the ‘innovation ecosystem’.

“So I’m very optimistic and we have seen companies that are starting from this region – Careem, Souq.com, U-Turn – so all these things are absolutely good signs.”

The other component vital to the innovation ecosystem “is the entire ecosystem of data,” he said.

“The more this Internet of Things, Big Data, Analytics, Open Data... and there has been in Dubai an open data law... the more you see this, the more there will be rich applications that will have the ability of transforming the life of people,” he said.

The Dubai Open Data Law was passed in 2015, to allow sharing of non-confidential data between government entities and other stakeholders to complete the legislative framework for turning Dubai into a smart city.

The law was also aimed at making the data accessible to researchers, investors and service developers to create opportunities for collaboration, innovation and entrepreneurship between government and non-government entities.

© ZAWYA 2017