Canada has a rich history of innovation, but in the next few decades, powerful technological forces will transform the global economy. Large multinational companies have jumped out to a headstart in the race to succeed, and Canada runs the risk of falling behind. At stake is nothing less than our prosperity and economic well-being. The FP set out explore what is needed for businesses to flourish and grow. We talk to some of the innovators, visionaries and scientists on the cutting edge of the new cutthroat economy about a blueprint for Canadian success. You can find all of our coverage here.
Toronto Mayor John Tory has declared the week of April 22nd, Toronto Blockchain Week, to “celebrate and promote blockchain innovation in the City of Toronto.” Over the course of the next few days, thousands of people will descend on the city to attend more than 50 events that will showcase the ground-breaking work of Canadian and global businesses, governments and startups, who are harnessing the blockchain to build a new “internet of value.”
Blockchain is often associated with cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, but this is just one way that this technology can be used. Blockchain is the first native digital medium for value, a “trust protocol” that allows parties to transact and do business without intermediaries or middleman.
It holds the potential to transform not only how we move, store and manage financial assets, but also allows us to finally rethink many of our institutions and address global problems such as financial inclusion, privacy and identity. It is also critical to Canada’s (and Toronto’s) transition to a prosperous and thriving knowledge economy.
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Startups struggling to raise seed capital can issue “tokens” representing equity in their company to a global investor base, tapping into vast pools of capital, without the need to decamp to Silicon Valley. The “initial coin offering” or ICO boom already showed this was possible. With the right business and regulatory infrastructure, we could be at the halcyon days for entrepreneurship.
After revelations that social media giants such as Facebook misuse its users’ personal data, many are calling for government intervention. But blockchain enables digital identities that citizens own and control. “Virtual You” could not only preserve our rights to privacy and personal security but also restore our control over our own identities and the data we create.
Nearly $2 billion dollars of goods and services crosses between the Canadian and U.S. border each day. Blockchain allows us to rethink supply chains as “asset chains” where every stakeholder — from manufacturers to customs agents, retailers to distributers — have real time access to the provenance, authenticity, and location of every asset that matters. Wal-Mart, IBM, Maersk, FedEx and others are making blockchain a cornerstone of their future business strategy.
Canada’s immigrant communities spend considerable amounts in fees to send money to family in their former homes. Fees on these remittance payments can run upwards of 10 per cent. Blockchain eliminates the need for costly middle-men, allowing money to be sent using cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. With the growing popularity of so-called “stablecoins,” digital dollars pegged to currencies such as the Canadian dollar, many users will not need to know how to own cryptocurrencies or even require a bank account. The upside is not only lower fees but also greater financial inclusion and prosperity.
In Canada most technological enthusiasm has been focused in AI. But recently blockchain has caught the attention of developers, entrepreneurs, NGOs, business leaders, central banks, the investing public and regulators — as the natural sister technology for building an innovation economy.
To be sure there has been confusion and naysayers — until recently, the crypto tail was wagging the blockchain dog. With the decline of crypto markets, there is a renewed focus on the underlying blockchain platforms and how they might change business and government.
Toronto has emerged and continued to evolve as a leading global blockchain hub, and for good reason: It has a thriving start-up ecosystem that has produced many leading projects, such as Ethereum, Cosmos and Aion. The city has a financial industry that has shown a genuine interest in investing in blockchain. Business leaders in many different industries have begun investing in this technology, and some government leaders are beginning to consider the policy implications.
This week’s Blockchain Revolution Global conference, which draws together more than 1,300 global business leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, creators and thought leaders, will help solidify Toronto’s position as a global leader. “We have worked relentlessly to build Toronto up as an attractive place for innovators and entrepreneurs by supporting an innovation-friendly business environment and livable communities,” Mayor Tory said in a statement.
Canada — and Toronto in particular — has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to achieve a better future by building a platform for the new digital economy with blockchain.
Alex Tapscott is the co-founder of The Blockchain Research Institute and the co-author of Blockchain Revolution. Alex is also an active investor and advisor in the blockchain space.