As Critical Elections Approach, African Youths Gaining Political Voice Through Blockchain

There is a yearning for the younger generation to step up and take the mantle of leadership across the various fields of endeavour in Africa. With an average age of 78.5 years, Africa remains the continent with the oldest set of national leaders. This is a big factor behind the under-development of the second largest continent on earth.

Going against the establishment

The campaign for newbreed industry and political leaders is getting louder especially as the largest country in the continent, Nigeria, prepares for its general election. The election is scheduled to take place in less than 15 months from the time of writing.

Pushing out the old brigade in the politics seems insurmountable is a lack of youths in leadership posts in Africa. These young people are starved of necessary capacity to compete effectively. Migration in search of greener pastures has also had its toll on the youth of Africa and is chipping away at the continent’s supply of next generation of leaders.

Taking responsibility

The emergence of Blockchain technology, coupled with its decentralized and non-regulated approach presents a breakout opportunity for a generation that is yearning to be heard. Across the African continent, almost all Blockchain startups and related technologies are pioneered by youths between 20 and 45 years of age. The revolution that awaits appears to lie on the bedrock of Blockchain technology. Young Africans in huge numbers are charting new courses without relying on the controlled systems of previous generations.

Sensitization, awareness and education are tools that have been embraced by groups around the continent to initiate the emancipation process. Just recently, a group of young Nigerians known as Dash Squard organised a music and cultural festival. The two-day event which registered about 800 attendees involved performances by local artists, but increasing awareness about the digital currency Dash was the crux of the matter. Participants had Dash wallets set up on their mobile devices and were taught how to transact, with tickets and prizes denominated in Dash.

Event organizer Oluwajuwon Micheal said:

“We opened a total of 300 new Dash wallets and also sent [each] of them Dash worth about $5, which everyone used in buying food, drinks and wares at the event. We also trained over 50 vendors that came for our event on the benefits of Dash and how they can send and buy Dash. We introduced Dash to the local artists that came for the events, and all of them were paid in Dash. Just two decided to sell some part of their Dash.”

Gradual but steady revolution

The Cryptography Development Initiative of Nigeria (CDIN), led by Adeolu Fadele, is another group that is comprised mainly of young Africans focused on Blockchain as a tool for development across Africa. Having held its first ever conference in November 2017, the group is involved in various educational and awareness programs. It is also setup to collaborate with government agencies and professional institutions towards realizing Blockchain implementation.

Other groups young Africans to find their voice include eBitcoinics, led by Nawaf Abdullah, and Blockchain Nigeria User Group, founded by Chimezie Chuta.

The fact that it is taking so long for the younger generation to find relevance may not call for so much celebration. However the hope that it brings signifies a future of possibilities powered by technological advancement. The good thing about this development is that it remains an exclusive reserve of the next generation who can no longer be bullied out of the system by their current set of leaders.

Apparently, there is indeed a future for the African continent which can no longer be taken away from those to whom it belongs.

Bitcoin Halts Week-Long Slide But Battles With Regulatory Pressure

After four days of straight losses from Monday to Thursday, Bitcoin seems to have leveled off somewhat. However, 2018 has not started well as this marks the second week in a row of poor performances.

While Bitcoiners have become accustomed to spikes and rallies, this flattening out of the price graph should still be seen as a positive. It comes over news of the South Korean justice minister’s backtracking of a proposal to ban local cryptocurrency exchanges in the country.

Regulators have long been behind the eightball when has come to controlling digital currencies as they work on a case-by-case basis. Time has now moved along swiftly as governments and officials have had their chance to put plans together which have affected the market.

A week of lows

The past four days have seen Bitcoin down as much as 23 percent at a point in his second week of 2018, but far from being a dip, it has been a steady decline – far more nerve-wracking.

Cryptocurrencies across the board have had some tough times in general, as Bitcoin price is inexplicably linked to most of the top altcoins.

Talks of a bear market brewing due to patterns derived in the graphs have many searching for answers as to why the cryptocurrency has taken such a plunge since the highs of mid-December last year.

Regulatory rush

One factor that has historically laid big blows on Bitcoin has been regulatory stirrings. The announcement by China that it would be banning ICOs and then following that exchanges, sent the market spiraling.

This week, there were similar fears realized – albeit falsely – when the South Korean Ministry of Justice announced independently that they would be banning trading in cryptocurrency. This was done without the consent of the Ministry of Strategy and Justice and other government agencies involved in the South Korean cryptocurrency regulation task force.

The market however reacted to the news which has since been clarified by the Blue House, the executive office and official residence of the South Korean President.

According to a spokesperson from the South Korean cryptocurrency task force, there are no plans to ban cryptocurrencies.

“The South Korean government has no other choice but to follow the regulatory frameworks and trends established by other leading governments. While there certainly exists a negative reputation attached to the cryptocurrencies, the government’s stance is to allow what has to be allowed, for the benefit of the South Korean market.”

China’s third strike

After banning ICOs, and then exchanges, Chinese regulators are now looking to go after miners in the Socialist Republic, a country that holds the majority of Bitcoin mining power.

The reason for China being a powerhouse of mining has to do with the cheap and often subsidized power, which miners tap into. The plans are now to make this essential power more expensive, cutting into the profit margins.

SEC watchdog

In the US, the SEC, which has had a bit of a history in the cryptocurrency space already, is starting to make a lot more noise in its attempt to regulate.

Fears of money laundering and the use of cryptocurrencies for other fraudulent uses, has seen Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo take up the mantle of federal overseer of digital currencies.

It’s only weakness

Regulators, even in China, have never been able to kill off Bitcoin. However, it is clear that they have a lot of clout when it comes to affecting the market price.

This latest bout of regulatory muscle-flexing shows that there is a need for some parity between the regulators and the digital currency economy before things can continue on their merry way.

Interview With John Patrick Mullin: Blockchain is a Global Community

John Patrick Mullin is an investment banker, speaker, writer and a big fintech and edtech enthusiast. Senior research analyst at the Guotai Junan Securities & Finance Institute, John currently focuses on fintech, covering AI/ML, Blockchain and cryptocurrencies, P2P lending, etc.

In his spare time, he serves as a community partner for the FinTech Connector. He is also advising several Blockchain companies in Hong Kong, Switzerland and the US. He writes about his experience working in the Chinese financial sector for LinkedIn China, and about cryptocurrencies and fintech innovation for Cointelegraph.

We caught John at the BlockShow Asia to talk about those issues which are usually not discussed by him as a Cointelegraph author – his background, travels, education and personal views on the development of the community.  

Cointelegraph: We’re here today with John Patrick Mullin, community partner at FinTech Connector. Community, connector- how do you actually feel yourself, which role do you play?

John Patrick Mullin: Yes, sure. Let me maybe explain what FinTech Connector is as a whole. FinTech Connector is a global community of fintech-minded people. It was founded by a guy named Angel Lorente in New York. It was born out of the MIT fintech coworking community. They sit in the class, and Angel, who works in Morgan Stanley, started doing meet-ups locally in New York City, where he was working. First, it started with just two people talking in a bar about fintech, which ended up growing within the first month to 30 people. Now, we are actually 19 cities, 19 communities in 13 countries – that’s within just one year. Our mission is to try to connect the global fintech community through our local leadership, I would say. We are connecting innovators with our fintech entrepreneurs, start-ups with the experts of fintech, veterans, people who have capital, technology, etc.

We’re doing it on a global scale. The problem we are trying to solve is really that you have a lot of fintech communities, but they are regional, very localized, but we’re global already. We’re in every continent except for Australia and Arctic, but Australia is coming very quickly. That’s kind of what we are trying to do. It’s really about what we are trying to do on a local level, I mean, I’m heading up the local Shanghai FinTech Connector together with my partner Rold. We try to educate, nurture, develop, and do events to build a community locally to be able to better support our global ambition, I suppose.

CT: Well, that’s a great initiative. We are here at a community gathering in Singapore. How do you feel being at BlockShow Asia and how do you find this community that gathered today?

JOHN: So far, very good, honestly. Thank you very much for having me first. I actually write for Cointelegraph, so very happy to be a part of not only the writing community of Cointelegraph but also at the Blockshow which is an offline event. FinTech Connector has a Singapore cowork, and we’re here today which is very cool as well to for me to be able to see them. It was really good to be a part of and see how me being in Shanghai is able to connect with people in Singapore as well. You see how small the community is, everyone knows each other, but it’s a close-knit community and it’s always good to work together, to be the intelligence of fintech, of Blockchain, cryptocurrencies, etc.

CT: Do you think there are differences between communities in different places? I mean, in Asia, in Europe, in the US?

JOHN: Oh, 100 percent! Even in China. China is a very, very big country. You see differences just between Beijing and Shanghai. It’s very regionalized, it’s very localized and there are definitely differences in how people act, what you’re looking at. Hong Kong has one way of being within the fintech community, Singapore has another one. China is very, very different as well. I am personally a little bit Asia-centric, although I am from the West, I just haven’t lived there for a while. But you’ll definitely see differences depending on where you’re going to be.

CT: You mentioned MIT. Is it your background?

JOHN: I did not go to MIT. MIT had an online fintech course called The Future of Commerce and it was about big data analytics. Together with EdX, it started to get smarter. They did that, I guess, two years ago. Most recently, they partnered with Oxford, so they do Oxford fintech course. Actually, I am taking part in it right now. It’s quite an interesting course so far. It’s really good for networking connections. I even met with some of my Oxford colleagues here today who posted it on our little Telegram group which is pretty cool. I met up with people down in Hong Kong. I met with even some of the professors who came from Shanghai. It’s really a great opportunity to network with people from the fintech community and I put some theoretical backing just to a general understanding of fintech.

CT: Speaking of academia and fundamental inspiration. What was your recent reading that inspired you the most?

JOHN: The recent reading that inspired me the most… Uh, good one! To be honest, this is maybe not so specific to Blockchain and cryptocurrency, but one of my favorite personal books… Well, actually, I have two. The first one is “Dealing with China” by Henry Paulson, who was a former Goldman Sachs CEO and then Treasury Secretary under George W. Bush. He talked about his experiences and how he did business with China – and this is really inspired a lot of things I’m doing. The second one would be “One Hour in China” book by Jeffrey Towson and Jonathan Woetzel. Jeffrey Towson is a professor at Beijing University, Peking University and Jonathan Woetzel is a partner at McKinsey in Shanghai. They wrote a book that condenses everything you need to know about China into one hour. It started inspiring me to write a lot about Chinese consumers. I do a lot of writings. I write for LinkedIn China, I write for Cointelegraph. Those two books formed me in what I’m trying to do.

CT: Interesting. Do you speak Chinese?

JOHN: [speaks Chinese]. That’s probably my limit, in fact, I must say. I need to work on it.

CT: You have a nice accent.

JOHN:  [laughing] Thank you! China is my fifth country. I was born in the US, I went to school in Spain for four years, I lived in Belgium for a little bit, I lived in Germany, and most recently China flipped past two and a half. If I’ve ever been around the world, I would definitely say I am a global citizen at this point. I haven’t lived in the US for the last eight years now, so been around and I’m always looking for a next adventure, I suppose.

CT: Interesting. I think that is where the Blockchain is. A global community and it’s great.

JOHN: It really is a global community!

CT: Thank you very much for being here with us today.

JOHN: My pleasure!

Check out another Cointelegraph interview with John Patrick Mullin on fintech trends and Blockchain technology:

Metropolitan Bank Halts All Cryptocurrency-Related Wire Transfers

In a move that will have far-reaching implications, Metropolitan Bank Holding Corp has halted all cryptocurrency related wire transfers, effective immediately, per a report from Fortune. The information came from statements by Metropolitan customers who were informed that the bank would be “ceasing all international crypto-related wire transfers.”

The decision is highly significant for the cryptocurrency industry. Metropolitan Bank has earned a reputation for being Bitcoin-friendly, according to Fortune, which will likely impact its stock price.

For example, Metropolitan is reportedly one of the main service providers for US-based cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase.

Sign of future regulation

The bank’s official position has not yet been made clear, but it appears that the risk of inability of verification for international cryptocurrency transactions has led to the move. The need to meet Know Your Customer (KYC) regulations has increased the potential for increased regulation in the currently loose cryptocurrency climate.

Friday, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin indicated that an international effort to control and manage transfers in cryptocurrency could be forthcoming.

Wonders of Naming the Company ‘Blockchain’ or ‘Bitcoin’

Bitcoin and Blockchain is all the rage in more than just individual investors’ circles, and companies are trying to cash in on the craze. While some are launching their own ICOs, such as Kodak, others have merely tacked ‘Blockchain’ onto their name and seen success.

In a move that seems dangerously similar to what happened in the 90s with the dot-com boom, the ‘Blockchain revolution’  taken on by some companies requires careful scrutiny as much of it is smoke and mirrors.

Speaking of smoke, the cannabis revolution that followed its legalization in a few states also came with a similar warning from the SEC about business cashing in on that hype.

Bitcoin services

Among the host of companies trying to wrangle their way into the hyped market is the company formerly known as Tulip BioMed – now Bitcoin Services. This change in name and direction saw the company’s stock increase by a massive 43,500 percent last year.

To their credit, the name change came back in 2016 and only took off last year in November with the hype that came with the cryptocurrency market in the mainstream.

Bitcoin Services financial filings from around that time offer few clues that the company was doing anything specific to justify the hysteria. The same can be said of its website, which generally lacks press releases and other investor information, apart from contact information.

Not alone

Bitcoin Services probably takes the top spot in terms of growth thanks to its name change, but there is a host of others that have made anywhere between 309 and 20,445 percent gains thanks to the change, as shown below.

Former Name Current Name Location Trading Range 2017
Tulip Bio Med Bitcoin Servies USA 42,500%
JA Energy UBI Blockchain Internet China 20,445%
Natural Resource Holdings Blockchain Mining Israel 12,021%
Leeta Gold HIVE Blockchian Technologies Canada 6,384%
Grand Pacaraima Gold First Bitcoin Capital Canada 5,897%
Carrus Capital Global Blockchain Technologies Canada 2,900%
AgriVest Americas NXChain USA 1,700%
Bioptix Riot Blockchain USA 1,611%
AE Innovative Capital Bitcoin Group Germany 1,503%
On-Line Online Blockchain UK 1,300%
Long Blockchain Long Island Ice Tea Corp USA 458%
Transeastern Power Trust Plockchain Power Trust Unit Canda 309%

Quick buck

Another worrying trend that is reminiscent of the dot-com boom is that these gains do not last long as people quickly catch on or regulators step in.

Hong Kong-based UBI Blockchain Internet—previously known as JA Energy—soared more than 20,000 percent before regulators halted buying and selling.

Bubble signs?

Those who believe the entire cryptocurrency market is one big bubble often point to the similarities in hype between the dot-com bubble and these happen around companies taking advantage of the mania and speculation.

It remains to be seen if the cryptocurrency market can weather this mania better than other similar bubbles.

Pax Crypto: Russia Proposes First Multinational Cryptocurrency, Expert Blog

Expert Blog is Cointelegraph’s new series of articles by crypto industry leaders. It covers everything from Blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies to ICO regulation and investment analysis. If you want to become our guest author and get published on Cointelegraph, please send us an email at mike@cointelegraph.com.

At the end of the 12th century, unexpectedly, Genghis Khan created the world’s largest empire, gaining control over the trade route “the Silk Road” which stretched across China to Eastern Europe. Secured under Mongolian leadership, during the Pax Mongolica period, the Silk Road was particularly safe from raiders as well as taxes, which stimulated free trade between China and the Mediterranean countries enabling political, economic stability to follow.

Pax Crypto

Recently the Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed a cyber-initiative grander in scale than Pax Mongolica after consulting with Ethereum co-founder Blockchain expert Vitalik Buterin and experts from fifteen other countries- including the US, India, Israel, Armenia and Turkey- about their Blockchain and cryptocurrency initiatives. Putin’s first of it’s kind cyber-initiative will connect some of the most promising emerging market economies stretching across Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa and South America, via Blockchain and smart contract technology by using a new multinational cryptocurrency to be collectively adopted by the BRICS and the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) countries (Member States).

Member States, known for their tremendous economic growth potential, could hail this first of its kind cyber-initiative. As they have been reeling from the global credit crisis of 2007/2008, which hindered their economies. Federal rate increases augmented their mounting debt burdens and falling global commodity prices stymied their export led growth. The cyber-initiative could reshape Member State economies, by spurring technological innovation for income growth and economic prosperity.

Russia’s proposal- first multinational cryptocurrency for BRICS and EEU

As reported by Russian media source RT, days before the end of 2017, the Central Bank of Russia, proposed to create the first joint multinational cryptocurrency for BRICS and EEU countries. By jointly adopting a new cryptocurrency, the Member States could increase their investments in Blockchain, smart contract technology pushing towards creating cashless societies and improve managing their liquidities with substantial support from the New Development Bank.

Many economists, veteran bankers and traditional financial institutions have sought to downplay the influence of cryptocurrencies in the overall world economy, such as the German insurance giant Allianz Chief Economic Advisor Mohamed El-Erian who said: ‘‘Bitcoin’s price will explode, but mass adoption is not going to happen.”

But if adopted and implemented, the first multinational cryptocurrency could be used by more than 41 percent of the world’s population. It could potentially improve trade efficiency among the Member States by replacing other fiat currencies used in trade settlements. And it could create a technologically resourceful trade block that could reshape global trade via Blockchain and smart contract technology.

However, for this initiative to succeed, among other things, Member State transnational legislation concerning cryptocurrencies would need to be updated in a synchronized fashion. As currently there are substantial differences between Member State legislation concerning cryptocurrencies as summarized in the table below.

Pic

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Russia’s new cryptocurrency bill

Based on instructions from President Vladimir Putin, Russia’s central bank and finance ministry jointly prepared a bill for the regulation of сryptocurrencies and ICOs which was submitted to the Duma for approval on Dec. 28, 2017. The bill is expected to be adopted in March and finalized by July 1, 2018.

Characterization of cryptocurrencies

The bill characterizes cryptocurrency, including ICO tokens not as legal tender but as “other property.”

ICO Regulation

The bill allows for ICOs but establishes restrictions on them. Those who are not qualified investors will be able to purchase tokens of a certain type for an amount not exceeding 50 thousand Rubles ($869). The ministry also suggests limiting the maximum amount of funds raised by an ICO to one bln Rubles ($17.4 mln). Although the President of the Russian Association of cryptocurrency and Blockchain (RABIC), Yuri Pripachkin, argued: “ICO fundraising should not be limited as they can attract an unlimited amount of foreign investments to Russian projects.”

Taxation of cryptocurrency mining and trading

Presently mining and trading of cryptocurrencies is not regulated under Russian laws. The bill defines cryptocurrency mining and trading as a taxable activity. Individual entrepreneurs and legal entities could engage in cryptocurrency mining and trading activities, subject to tax by analogy with the taxation of business activities.

Cryptocurrency trading would not be subject to a value-added tax (VAT).

Cross-border tax policy of Member States concerning the new Multinational cryptocurrency

The bill does not address cross-border tax rules that could apply to transnational cryptocurrency transactions among Member States in the event the new multinational cryptocurrency is adopted.

Member States, with the exception of Armenia, Belarus, Iran and Kyrgyzstan adhere to OECD BEPS action plan. It is not clear whether Member States will follow an approach similar to the EU in formulating an appropriate transnational tax policy for their new multinational сryptocurrency transactions.

Disclaimer. The views and interpretations in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Cointelegraph.

Selva Ozelli, Esq., CPA is an international tax attorney and CPA who frequently writes about tax, legal and accounting issues for TaxNotes, Bloomberg BNA, other publications and the OECD.

Crypto Exchange Kraken Back Online After Extended Downtime

The Kraken cryptocurrency exchange has come back online today, Jan. 13 at 11:30 UTC, after a more than 48-hour delay.

The exchange was scheduled to go offline on Jan. 11 at 5 UTC for a predicted two hours for a system upgrade. As the maintenance time offline grew to more than two days, Kraken only sporadically updated their status page with promises of progress and an explanation of a bug found in the production environment.

Kraken users had already been unhappy with the crypto exchange before the upgrade delay, citing difficulties placing exchanges and frequent connection errors on the site.

The highlight or lowlight of the time offline was Kraken’s update on Jan. 12, 3:46 UTC that they had sent their engineers home to rest rather than launching immediately.

The update reads:

“We are close but rather than launch immediately ahead of the team passing out; we will push off a bit to get some rest and be able to better monitor systems and react to problems following launch. Unfortunately, this means several more hours of delay.”

With their return online, Kraken announced that unleveraged trading is free until the end of the month on both their Twitter and their site. The site has been functioning normally since going online, but trading was paused for several hours due to problems displaying order book data that have since been resolved.

Earlier this year, crypto exchange Coinbase also went offline for several hours in May due to a reported degraded performance. Additionally, several other exchanges including Luno, Bitfinex, and Bitstamp experienced delays or went offline for maintenance in December after an influx of new cryptocurrency users inspired by the rising price of Bitcoin (BTC) exponentially increased the volume of traffic.

Kraken has not yet responded to Cointelegraph’s Jan. 12 request for commentary by press time.

FUDsters, Not Misinterpreted Microsoft Partnership, Responsible For IOTA Decline, Clarifies CEO

Two years ago, in January 2016, Cointelegraph published an interview with David Sonstebo, the CEO of IOTA, who listed out his vision for a Blockchain-less cryptocurrency and explained about the technology behind IOTA. From its humble beginnings, IOTA is now ranked in top-10 world’s cryptocurrencies.

Cointelegraph caught up with David again for a conversation about the recent events and the overall journey of IOTA.

Cointelegraph: IOTA’s price exploded abruptly after the Microsoft Partnership announcement, only to drop down after ‘the clarification.’ What do you think happened there? Was it just a misconception or could there be any deliberation from any end?

David Sonstebo: IOTA’s abrupt price increase cannot be attributed to a misinterpreted ‘Microsoft Partnership,’ even though that’s the narrative of ‘FUDsters’ and other non-critical people that blindly and misleadingly went with and spread like a virus. IOTA announced the data marketplace, which in itself is a novel killer application of IOTA and significant milestone for crypto-adoption in general, with participating companies such as Samsung ARTIK, Bosch, Fujitsu, Orange, Engie, DNV GL, Schneider Electric, EY, Accenture and tons more. These giants combined far outweigh any impact, one singular company like Microsoft had on the announcement.

Furthermore, IOTA is already a co-founder with Microsoft of the Decentralized Identity Foundation, and we were invited by Microsoft to be part of their Azure stack in early 2016. The Microsoft and IOTA connection was therefore old news to the public. The other world leading companies working with IOTA were what cemented IOTA as a leading protocol in the minds of most and consequently had an impact on the market cap. Microsoft was the least newsworthy participant of this data marketplace— thus we can rule out Microsoft in terms of price attributed to the Data Marketplace news. Beyond this, IOTA also listed on Korea’s second largest crypto exchange Coinone around the same time, which was a significant factor in the steep price and volume increase.

What happened was merely an internal procedural error on Microsoft’s side, which they have taken ownership of in correspondence with the IOTA Foundation. One of their main Blockchain engineers gave us clearance for PR, logo and provided us with a quote where the now infamous term ‘partner’ originated. We quoted them verbatim, as any professional entity would.

Afterward, a lot of FUDsters decided to spam Microsoft with inquiries like: “are you launching a data marketplace?” and “are your business partners?” This barrage made their PR department attempt to clarify the nuances in vain. Some journalists then spun a minuscule semantic issue into a controversy, which again was exploited by ‘FUDsters’ in an effort to manipulate the market. It got so amplified and epitomize just how regular users and crypto investors can easily be manipulated by the FOMO-FUD cycle that neuroscientist and author Bobby Azarian felt prompted to pen an in-depth article for PsychologyToday and HuffingtonPost about the whole debacle.

CT: When IOTA came, it essentially attracted attention for its “Blockchain-less” technology. How do you feel about the new technologies that have since come up in the cryptosphere post IOTA? Is there any that has particularly impressed you or you feel that it is an improvement, even on IOTA?

DS: There has obviously been some novel approaches in the cryptosphere since IOTA kickstarted the ‘beyond Blockchain’ era, but so far it’s mostly copycat attempts, gimmicks and half-measures. Thus far IOTA stands as the only permissionless distributed ledger to resolve fees, centralization and scaling limitations. A few months after we announced IOTA the crypto space, unfortunately, decayed into a miserable state of get-rich-quick ICOs and paid promotion with no substance. We set out with the goal of interoperability where it makes sense. We want to collaborate with anyone, which we still firmly believe in. However, due to the sheer magnitude of money involved in crypto now, there is a constant rivalry between projects that could benefit from simply synergizing instead. For a lot of people, this is no longer about technology or vision. IOTA is at present the only project I am aware of that is progressing the fundamental elements both from a technological point of view, but equally crucial concerning real-world adoption, hence my laser focus on it.

CT: What do you feel have been the highlights of IOTA so far —the major achievements— ever since phase one of its launch back in July 2016?

DS: If I were to elucidate a few, it would be first and foremost the Tangle operating as planned, even in the face of quite aggressive attack attempts. Secondly, I want to highlight the fantastic team that we have put together and continue to put together, having world-leading developers and advisors is vital to the project, and something a lot of projects think of as secondary, but the execution is everything. Thirdly I have to mention the Data Marketplace, which to me epitomizes killer applications, and the fact that we got so many world-leading corporates participating in exploring its potential is a significant win for IOTA’s goals. Finally, the registration and approval of the IOTA Foundation as the first and only in Germany as a major highlight that elevates the IOTA project to an unmatched echelon concerning gravitas and potential.

CT: What is the purpose of the IOTA Foundation that was recently launched? As far as we read, it is only to further promote IOTA’s business interests. Doesn’t that contradict the goal of a non-profit organization and what does it actually achieve?

DS: The IOTA Foundation’s role will be core development, maintenance and indeed drive adoption. Achieved through catering to the development community with the right tools, libraries, tutorials etc., as well as assisting start-ups and conglomerates alike in getting up and running with exploring IOTA for new business models and security in their pre-existing services and products. It is an entirely neutral and non-profit organization whose sole goal is to drive adoption of IOTA as a neutral standard. However, to achieve that you have to engage with the actual consumers of the technology, way too many projects in the cryptosphere think that “if you build it, they will come,” but the reality is different. In IOTA we consider adoption above all to be a key metric of success, hence why it’s so important to have a dedicated entity that takes charge of this. We chose to establish it in Germany, which most considered impossible, precisely because we want the rigorous oversight and gravitas which that brings, this is something we find to be of vital importance for IOTA and crypto, in general, to go beyond the forums and basic experiments and into production-ready environments.

CT: We go far back; in fact, IOTA was first covered by Cointelegraph in October 2015, after which we covered the beta launch and the main launch of IOTA in 2016. As you have come a long path, do you feel the way you interact with the media and journalists — and their attitude towards IOTA has changed over these years?

DS: Indeed, it’s surreal to think that Earth has circled the Sun more than twice since the first interview with you guys, which I believe had a few thousand reads, now there’s always tens of thousands reading. There’s definitely a shift in attitude towards IOTA from the media. In the beginning, we were taken seriously mostly because we had proven ourselves in the past by inventing full Proof of Stake and pioneered a lot of the Blockchain 2.0 use cases like supply chain, voting, IoT, decentralized exchanges and marketplaces. But people were still (naturally) extremely skeptical of our claims that distributed ledger technology had to go beyond Blockchain. Very few managed to grasp how Tangle even worked, and at the time our predicted problems with fees and congestion issues of Blockchain had not yet been seen in practice by everyone. Now that people have struggled with these issues and witnessed the Tangle working and see its meteoric adoption the journalists are a lot more inquisitive and feel that it is their duty as journalists to cover this technology.

CT: What’s the next bomb IOTA is planning to drop? Any news from the vine — what to expect from IOTA in the near future?

DS: Haha, the Q-bomb (inside joke in the community). 2016-2017 was all about laying the groundwork on the technological, adoption and awareness side. 2018 will be about maturing the organization and making the technology production ready. We are looking to hire 50-100 new team members through 2018 and aim to have a production ready protocol and have commenced the standardization procedures by the end of 2018. IOTA has become known for releasing colossal news, and this won’t stop, but it is crucial for us that people don’t become ‘announcement fiends,’ IOTA is an open source grassroots effort, people need to be focused on the nuts and bolts rather than just look for the next announcement. Fiending for the next news that might spike the price is a preoccupation that every crypto project suffers from, but we try to limit it by applying quite a strict policy when it comes to speculation and digging for info to the hype. Technology and vision first, if that is properly executed then the prosperity follows.

CT: On a lighter note, do you actually write all of those IOTA blogs yourself?

DS: There are a few that we all provide input on, but for most indeed, I got five or so blog posts lined up that are 90 percent done, so does my Co-founder Dominik Schiener, as well as other core devs and founders. Now that the foundation is in place and we can hire the right people to delegate specialized tasks to, I hope that we will finally have more time to create more high-quality content that elucidates the vision and technology for all, making it easier to grasp it all, especially for newcomers.

CT: Thank you!

Russian Ministry of Finance to Legalize Cryptocurrency Trading on Approved Exchanges

The Russian Ministry of Finance has drafted a bill to legalize the trading of cryptocurrencies on approved exchanges, according to a report from local media. Deputy Finance Minister Alexei Moiseev has indicated that the government is seeking to provide greater oversight. He said:

“This is about the fact that buying and selling [of cryptocurrencies] will be somehow standardized. The general idea is that it will be necessary to buy and sell on official exchanges, as it will be declared, it will be legalized.”

The news may come as a bit of a surprise, particularly given the recent rhetoric from other Russian officials in recent months. However, Moiseev has consistently maintained that Bitcoin would be legalized, though with restrictions.

The bill would allow for more open cryptocurrency trading and investment within Russia. Other countries have begun issuing statements either legalizing or banning cryptocurrencies.

The Ministry of Finance is still considering which exchanges would be approved. Moiseev indicated that the issue of exchanges is still “currently unresolved,” but the overall legalization is now “more or less clear.”

Many within the industry see the Russian addition of legalized cryptocurrencies as the first among many, as Blockchain and cryptocurrencies continue to remove boundaries between parties through trust networks. Carl Bennetts, co-founder of Status, told Cointelegraph:

“Where traditionally we have relied upon central authorities and institutions in order to conduct trade, blockchains shift this trust, and enable us to move towards a society that does away with middle-men and enables truly peer-to-peer trade, commerce and law.”

Blockchain in Logistics Industry Will Improve Transparency, Enhance Process Accountability

Communication flow and logistics is an essential aspect of human existence which forms the backbone of the transfer of goods, services and value.

As international trade and logistics continues to expand, more efficient methods are being developed to enable effective service delivery and value transfer. However, Blockchain technology is bringing another dimension to disrupt the logistics industry in areas such as transparency and efficient tracking.

A globally significant industry

John Monarch, CEO at Shipchain, notes that the logistics sector employs the most people in the world. He explains that as this sector expanded over millennia, it has required innovation to scale and sustain practicality for the growing human population. This is happening again at the time of writing, with the fourth industrial revolution.

Monarch tells Cointelegraph:

“Connected devices revolving around the Internet of Everything (IoE) need a higher level of security. Blockchain technology is a matchless solution in this regard because it provides the best protection through distributed ledgers, advanced encryption, smart-contracts and reduced intermediaries. As a result, this will tackle corruption, ransomware, theft, premium-fees and tracking issues.”

He concludes that once Blockchain networks begin taking their first steps on a mass-market level, they will save the international trade industry at least $50 billion per year. And upon maturity, Blockchain technology could save the logistics industry a whopping $500 billion annually.

The actual role of Blockchain

Blockchain professional Aleksandar Matanovic tells Cointelegraph that Blockchain technology will indeed work as a tool to improve processes by bringing inherent properties into the industry.

Matanovic says:

“As in many other industries, I don’t see Blockchain as a tool to increase efficiency, there are much more efficient systems than Blockchain-based ones. I see it as a way to make systems more transparent, more robust and less dependent on intermediaries.”

The importance of effective tracking

The COO of BitLand, Christopher Bates, explains that one of the main issues with chain of custody is knowing when property changes ownership or custodianship. Bates uses a car’s history as an example:  

“It is pretty important to know if a car has been in a major accident and has frame/structural damage, he says. “If there was an immutable accessible record that kept track of the car history, there would be no way a car salesman could sell a car that had been extremely damaged.”

Bates also explains that ownership of land has many problems affecting it around the world.  One of the most consistent problems is when a parcel of land is double or triple sold, meaning a person will sell land to multiple people with only one of the sales (if any) actually being legitimate.  In some places, land titles are kept on paper or are tracked by only a single individual.  In these cases, it’s often impossible to truly know the proper chain of custody, and individuals manipulate ownership records for personal gain.  

Blockchain will enable accountability

Given that shipping anything is a sequence of custody handovers, having an immutable record of chain of custody transaction makes it impossible to lose track of who is responsible for a piece of property during each handover.  Existing courier services often track packages along their route, but such methods are imperfect. Bates says:

“The issue therein is that since they are mutable, shipment records can be hidden or erased completely to the detriment of the people at large. Governments are able to hide their black budget spending by erasing shipping records or preventing records from being issued at all. On the one hand, governments will argue this is for national security, but on the other hand, the taxpayers that are sponsoring these budgets deserve transparency in spending.”  

Blockchain technology combines chain of custody control with the transparency of immutable record-keeping.  This creates an ecosystem that deters malicious actors, as they will eventually become known due to system transparency.  

Bates concludes by noting that anyone who claims to be in the decentralization movement should be extremely happy any time a government decides to implement Blockchain tech of any sort.  It means that government is moving towards transparency whether they know it or not.