The blockchain is revolutionizing the creative industry on most levels from funding and investing, to supply chain and marketing.
Since the rise of Blockchain in the late 2000s, there had been hopes and fears around the technology, predominantly on the payments landscape.
Today, Bitcoin—the digital currency built on the blockchain—among approximately 1,500 cryptocurrencies, has gained unprecedented popularity in countries such as the US or Switzerland. These countries, aware of the impact of the blockchain on the economy, have either fully embraced the technology or encourage its development.
Indeed, a thorough article on Coindesk highlights that “Blockchain is a great opportunity for Europe and member states to rethink their information systems, to promote user trust and the protection of personal data, to help create new business opportunities and to establish new areas of leadership, benefiting citizens, public services, and companies.” Blockchain could change the way companies, organizations, and people operate daily—to fund projects, to raise cash, or simply to pay for goods and items.
In Europe, 23 countries recently formed the European Blockchain Partnership to foster discussions and share expertise. On a global level, we observe different practices toward the blockchain as a technology that can impact citizens and their institutions. Which impact do Blockchain and cryptocurrencies have on the economy and startups? What are the risks and opportunities for people, companies, or institutions?
Let’s examine 7 Blockchain-friendly countries around the world to find some answers.
The US is one of the friendliest blockchain countries with dynamic startups and Bitcoin ATMs across the nation. The country has recently encouraged the development of Blockchain and cryptocurrencies into the private and public sectors as seen for instance with the 2016 Delaware Blockchain Initiative. Furthermore, the US “trusts” Blockchain as a decentralized and secure technology that could impact positively citizens, for example, in lowering costs in financial transactions.
American Banks and financial institutions are also exploring the trends among the blockchain in proceeding payments. An Accenture report specified that 90% the banks in the study were keen to discover how Blockchain technology could reduce costs, speed up payments, and increase revenues. Among them, 37% already adopted the technology. However, a large part is still behind due to impediments linked to existing regulations and compliances.
In Japan, digital currencies are the future, and there’s sustainable enthusiasm toward Bitcoin and Blockchain among politicians or citizens. Contrary to China which has banned Blockchain and cryptocurrencies, Japan recognized Bitcoin as a legal tender in April 2017. Japan’s hopes in Blockchain are big as the country aims to become the world’s blockchain capital. Last year, 50% of worldwide Bitcoin transactions occurred in Japan. Experts observe a trend toward the adoption of Blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. In 2017, the Japan Financial Service Agency (FSA) recognized 11 companies as registered exchange operators.
Tokyo may soon become the new crypto hub of the world. However, following the hack of Coincheck last January, the FSA conducted a business improvement order and shut down two currency exchanges, FSHO and Bit Station, which may have slightly hampered Japan’s reputation as the world’s cryptocurrency capital. But with the rise of Monacoin, Japan’s first native cryptocurrency, the reputation could be preserved.
Switzerland is perhaps the greatest country in the world for anything Blockchain and cryptocurrency related. Known for its “crypto” hub named Zug, the nation attracts Blockchain and crypto investors from all around the world thanks to its friendly regulations and tax-free haven. Indeed, Switzerland is home to some 200 blockchain companies, and in Zurich, the first Bitcoin ATM opened over 4 years ago already. As announced by the Swiss economic minister, Johann Schneider-Ammann, the rise of Blockchain in Switzerland could take deeper levels. The country plans to position itself as the leading nation for cryptocurrencies and ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings).
Second, Switzerland is the home country of Ethereum, the world’s second-largest digital currency after Bitcoin by market capitalization. On top of that, Switzerland’s Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) encourages the development of Blockchain startups and recently released guidelines to help startups launch their ICOs. Within this supportive environment, Blockchain companies can only flourish. Despite that, the country’s two largest banks, UBS and Credit Suisse, have shown reluctance toward Blockchain and cryptocurrencies, claiming them volatile and fragile, and see them as potential threats.
The Netherlands ranks among the top 5 countries for the adoption of Blockchain. With a Bitcoin embassy, there’s no doubt that the Netherlands has embraced Blockchain and cryptocurrencies quicker than any other country. Close to the German border, the city of Arnhem allows payments in Bitcoin throughout the city. Plus, the Prince of Holland supports the Dutch Blockchain Action Agenda, an initiative aimed at encouraging discussion and innovation in the blockchain ecosystem.
The government aims at exploring how Blockchain could impact citizens and the economy to improve service delivery and transparency. A few years ago, the Central Bank of the Netherlands introduced its own cryptocurrency as a test, DNBcoin, and positively responded to cryptocurrencies. Today, the aim in the Netherlands is to harmonize the regulations toward Blockchain and cryptocurrencies as it will impact the Dutch Financial sector considerably. With over 3,000 tech startups in the country, ICOs help raise cash for startups but are currently not regulated by the Dutch Authority of the Financial Markets.
The UK boasts a thriving Blockchain and cryptocurrency ecosystem. Most blockchain companies follow the regulations of the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) although they are not legally required to register under the financial authority. Plenty of associations and organizations support blockchain development in the UK. According to buybitcoinworldwide.com, there are 39 Bitcoin Exchanges across the UK.
With a friendly financial legislation that has a long history of innovation, the UK makes Blockchain and cryptocurrency companies flourish. The British Blockchain Association promotes blockchain startups in the UK as the country plans to host the world’s most powerful blockchain association. As claimed by the London Blockchain Week, the country hopes to keep blockchain development at the forefront of the economy. British citizens, too, are frenetic about Blockchain and Bitcoin as some large UK companies allow them to invest in Bitcoin.
The small Baltic nation of Estonia has been pioneering the development of Blockchain for long. In fact, the country was exploring a blockchain technology named hash-linked time-stamping for the government way before the term Blockchain was actually coined in 2008. The former Soviet Republic was named the most advanced digital society in the world as explained in Wired. Following the end of the USSR in 1991, the country chose technological development to differentiate itself from its neighbors. Today, most government services are digital-friendly and can be managed online.
With a highly digitalized environment that promotes technology and innovation to such an extent, it’s not a surprise that Blockchain and cryptocurrencies could blossom in Estonia. Furthermore, the country is on the way to launch its own cryptocurrency, estcoin. The launch of estcoins would make Estonia the second country to offer its own token through ICO after Venezuela. Estonia’s own tokens for cryptocurrency would support crypto entrepreneurs as well as the development of the digital nation from more people around the world and would further help build the e-resident program, which has an estimated income of 14,4 million of euros.
The Swedish Fintech landscape, the second largest in Europe, is flourishing. With a great enthusiasm for Blockchain and cryptocurrencies, the government has approved Bitcoin as an official currency in the country to process payments and withdraw cash. Since cash is declining in the country, the introduction of e-krona to complete the national currency could encourage Swedish people to spend more.
But Sweden’s interest in Blockchain goes further off cryptocurrencies. The Swedish government promotes Blockchain technology widely. Indeed, since Blockchain could help during the elections or disrupt existing supply chains such as the airline industry, there’s a growing interest from the government to foster blockchain companies and startups. Likewise, the country’s official land registration authority, Lantmäteriet, is also exploring how Blockchain could build “digital trust” applied to property transactions.
Blockchain technology has let some countries rethink their economy as seen in the case of Estonia or build up high-profile projects both in the public and private sectors like in the UK. Since the blockchain could disrupt over 35 traditional industries including banking and technology, most governments are open to integrating the technology into their institutions or foster experiment with top FinTech startups as seen in the example of Sweden. Bitcoin and major cryptocurrencies are already used widely and already redefine the way people consume and spend as shown in the Swiss and Dutch examples.
But there’s still no global regulation on Blockchain and cryptocurrencies, meaning like in the USA and most Blockchain-friendly countries, companies, and people tend to test the technology until a major law could change the game. For now, citizens and governments can still play the game to understand better how Blockchain can be merged into existing protocols, industries and processes in order to improve the economy and encourage a greater, faster access to information and data mining in free-market countries. With many Blockchain conferences happening around the world, there’s a trend toward understanding how Blockchain could change citizens’ lives on the global scale.
Also published on Medium.