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IBC 2018 shows India’s commitment to embracing blockchain technology

The International Blockchain Congress 2018 in Hyderabad witnessed the convergence of innovators, startups and companies associated with blockchain from all over the country.

From startups to regulatory bodies, the International Blockchain Congress 2018 in Hyderabad witnessed the convergence of innovators and companies associated with blockchain from all over the country. With over 3,000 registered attendees, the conference was a collaborative effort between Nucleus Vision, NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog and the governments of Goa and Telangana. The first ever edition was organised on August 3 and 4 at Hyderabad while the final day event on August 5 concluded in Goa. IBC 2018 boasted of being the “largest congregation of innovators, businesses, technologists, regulators, startups and enthusiasts” to build an ecosystem that will ultimately turn India into a blockchain leader globally. More than 50 MoUs were also signed at the conference to adopt blockchain technology in various government and educational sectors. Notable speakers at the conference included Amitabh Kant (CEO, NITI Aayog) and KT Rama Rao (Minister of IT, Govt of Telangana).

If you’re among the uninitiated, Blockchain is a database system distributed over a network of peer-to-peer connections. This form of data storage makes it decentralised which means that the information isn’t stored on a central server. Due to the absence of a central server, it becomes difficult for hackers to penetrate. Additionally, it introduces several other advantages such as fraud prevention, data integrity, etc., while being difficult to penetrate because of its distributed nature. For a better understanding, think of Blockchain as a public-ledger system that can be maintained in a network by several trusted nodes. Any changes made will be updated automatically while maintaining records right from the beginning. You can read about blockchain in more detail here.

Adopting blockchain technology in India

Blockchain is the underlying technology of cryptocurrency which was presented along with the white paper of Bitcoin in 2008. Naturally, it gained interest as Bitcoin rose in popularity around the world. In 2017, the unpredictable spike in the popularity of Bitcoin also witnessed immense interest in India. Although people have been highly sceptical about cryptocurrency, industry experts and innovators have paid close attention to blockchain and its application in other areas. This includes the Reserve Bank of India as well since they acknowledged the potential of the technology while discouraging the use of cryptocurrency. In January 2017, RBI’s research arm, Institute for Development and Research in Banking Technology (IDRBT), published a white paper on the applications of blockchain technology. This goes on to show how the RBI is dedicated to their commitment to adopting blockchain technology.

At IBC 2018, NITI Aayog CEO, Amitabh Kant displayed a similar willingness. He stated that the government has to play a leading role in the adoption of blockchain technology. There are various sectors where this technology can bring drastic changes such as land-record management and in the pharmaceutical supply chain. To test the technology, he confirmed that NITI Aayog is working on a prototype to implement blockchain technology in Chandigarh to handle land-related disputes.

Left to Right: Mr Abhishek Pitti, CEO – Nucleus Vision, Mr Rama Iyer, India CEO, Eleven01,  CP Gurnani, CEO & MD, Tech Mahindra, Shri KT Rama Rao, Hon’ble Minister for IT, Mr Jayesh Ranjan, Principal Secretary – IT

Telangana Minister of IT, KT Rama Rao, also showed great interest in implementing blockchain in government-related sectors. He gave out details on using blockchain to track the ownership of land records with Dharani, an integrated land record management system in the state. To reaffirm the Telangana government’s commitment to this technology, an MoU was signed with Tech Mahindra, Nucleus Vision and Eleven01 Foundation at IBC 2018, to establish India’s first Blockchain District. The primary goal of this initiative is to build an entire ecosystem to push the proliferation of blockchain technology in Telangana and eventually in India. The district will be a cluster of buildings dedicated to create an infrastructure to favour various sectors including healthcare, fashion retail, etc. It will ensure that Telangana eventually becomes the blockchain hub of the country.

Tech Mahindra also announced their collaboration with Eleven01, an organisation building a blockchain protocol to be used for both public and private real-world usage. The resulting ecosystem will enable the proliferation of the technology among local startups, incubators, labs and companies. This initiative intends to put India at the forefront of blockchain innovation on a global scale. In order to be interoperable with global protocols, Eleven01 will be working with countries including South Korea, China, Russia, Thailand and Singapore.

The Eleven01 Foundation will strive to build a blockchain protocol in India

Government of Goa IT Director, Ameya Abhyankar also spoke at the conference to express the government’s interest in adopting blockchain. While building a centre of excellence for blockchain in Goa, they are open to experts and innovators developing blockchain systems in the state.

With so many state government bodies and big organisations showing their enthusiasm in this technology, the road to regulation is still slow in the country. While speaking to a few attendees at the conference, some expressed their disappointment in the crypto-ban without presenting any official regulation. This move by the central government also led to several investors from showing disinterest in crypto-startups while still being interested in blockchain startups. During the conference, a representative from the ISO and BIS organisation among the attendees stated their interest in the technology as well and how they are also working on chalking out standards for blockchain. While startups and companies innovate on localising the technology, everyone’s eyes are set on the central government on how soon they pass regulations.

Apart from the exhaustive list of speakers and panelists at the conference, several blockchain startups also participated to present their offerings to the attendees that included developers and investors. We didn’t come across any cryptocurrency startup but we did come across ones working on cryptocurrency exchanges. Other startups exhibiting at the event were working on healthcare, advertisement, security solutions and smart contracts, all based around blockchain. IBC Hack was organised at the showfloor where enthusiasts could participate in a 36-hour hackathon to build innovative blockchain projects. The hackathon was a collaborative effort between NITI Aayog, Government of Telangana, Government of Goa, Nucleus Vision and Dunya Labs. It was implemented by Idealabs and Block91 at the venue.

Abhijit Dey

Abhijit Dey

While indulging deep into conspiracy theories surrounding comic book movie plots, he can be found rewatching them looking for easter eggs. Otherwise, his weekends are spent on gaming and browsing memes.