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Curated briefing with five essential readings to spark your week

April 10 - 16, 2017

A Brief History of Blockchain

We’re now in the midst of another quiet revolution: blockchain, a distributed database that maintains a continuously growing list of ordered records, called “blocks.” This innovation landscape represents just 10 years of work by an elite group of computer scientists, cryptographers, and mathematicians. As the full potential of these breakthroughs hits society, things are sure to get a little weird. Self-driving cars and drones will use blockchains to pay for services like charging stations and landing pads. International currency transfers will go from taking days to an hour, and then to a few minutes, with a higher degree of reliability than the current system has been able to manage.

How Blockchain Is Changing Finance

Our global financial system moves trillions of dollars a day and serves billions of people. But the system is rife with problems, adding cost through fees and delays, creating friction through redundant and onerous paperwork, and opening up opportunities for fraud and crime. To wit, 45% of financial intermediaries, such as payment networks, stock exchanges, and money transfer services, suffer from economic crime every year; the number is 37% for the entire economy, and only 20% and 27% for the professional services and technology sectors, respectively. It’s no small wonder that regulatory costs continue to climb and remain a top concern for bankers. This all adds cost, with consumers ultimately bearing the burden.
It begs the question: Why is our financial system so inefficient? First, because it’s antiquated, a kludge of industrial technologies and paper-based processes dressed up in a digital wrapper. Second, because it’s centralized, which makes it resistant to change and vulnerable to systems failures and attacks. Third, it’s exclusionary, denying billions of people access to basic financial tools. Bankers have largely dodged the sort of creative destruction that, while messy, is critical to economic vitality and progress. But the solution to this innovation logjam has emerged: blockchain.

The Blockchain Will Do to the Financial System What the Internet Did to Media

Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are driven by advances in core technologies along with a new, open architecture — the Bitcoin blockchain. This technology is designed to be decentralized, with “layers,” where each layer is defined by an interoperable open protocol on top of which companies, as well as individuals, can build products and services.

Why you should launch your startup in SE Asia

It looks like Silicon Valley may have a new rival in the worldwide start-up scene, as Southeast Asia is quickly making a name for itself as a hub innovation and entrepreneurship. In fact, more and more investors are flocking to the region from around to capitalize on the growing entrepreneurial activity and local talent. Besides five good reasons to consider South East Asia to launch your operations, this article includes a snapshot of the most relevant venture capitalist, accelerators, incubators and crowdfunding players in the region.

From Smart Cities 1.0 to 2.0: it’s not (only) about the tech

The ingredients of a smart city include a raft of technology innovations, as well as a willingness to experiment with new ways of doing things. IoT technologies, data analytics platforms and sensor-enabled services enable new ways to analyse and understand the nature and scale of many of our most pressing urban challenges. But solving such challenges requires more than technology investments, data-capture services or digital prototypes. Solutions will also depend on effective long-term partnerships within and beyond government. Thus, governments that invest in new ways to collaborate and co-innovate will ultimately lead the way in delivering smarter, more responsive services for our cities.

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