New insights from The Digital Commonwealth

Thursday 2nd May saw the second of The Digital Commonwealth‘s Mansion House Summit series. I’ve known the people behind this since they were delivering high quality journalism and events through CryptoAM, and James Bowater, Darren Parkin and the team have made The Digital Commonwealth a bigger and better version of what came before. It’s well worth following the news and views they publish on the basis of journalistic integrity alone, which can be found wanting in this industry. And with the Mansion House series, they seem to have created something rather special.

Speakers were a truly global mix, representing innovators, bankers, professional services, policymakers and projects in the UK, UAE, Zambia, Tanzania, Malta, Gibraltar, Switzerland, and the USA among others. Loretta Joseph, who consulted on the creation of The Commonwealth’s Virtual Assets Model Law, out-commuted everyone by flying in for the day from Australia. There was a high level of expertise and detail on the stage, a willingness to share knowledge and experience, and speakers laid down a number of challenges and action points for those in attendance.

1. Listen to the crowd

Professor Luis Franceschi, Assistant Secretary General of The Commonwealth, talked of the ‘social thunder of inclusion and financial growth.’ In the same way that MPesa transformed access to financial services in Kenya in the early 2000s, so we see the rapid rise of the use of digital assets and crypto rails in payments and cross-border transactions. People are voting with their wallets and the grass roots drivers of emerging economies are being stimulated. Developing the Virtual Assets Model Law for the 56 Commonwealth countries responds to the social thunder and provides protection and risk mitigation for consumers and innovators.

2. Participate in consultations

If emerging technology industries do not respond to requests for expertise, regulators will not know how to act in the best interests of business and consumers. Elise Soucie, Director of Global Policy & Regulatory Affairs at Global Digital Finance, urged everyone to respond to consultations. “There are no stupid questions,” she said, underlining the fact that good policies based on effective collaboration drive product development and growth.

3. Engage with regulators

Engagement is as much about education – in both directions – as it is about policymaking. Regulators are focused on day to day and systemic risk and they need the industry perspective to recognise innovation. The Financial Promotion rules are a good example of where engagement was low and the industry outcomes were therefore poor, said Akash Sharma, Senior Policy Manager, Bank of England. Sharma also expanded on the innovator’s journey through the Digital Securities Sandbox, the gradual process of allowing a business to scale and lifting limitations as it meets milestones and eventually graduates to the real world as a fully regulated entity.

4. Focus on end user services

Viable businesses have well served end users. It doesn’t matter what technology is being used under the hood, as long as the problem is being solved. Emmanuel Young is Community Manager of World Mobile, a Decentralised Physical Infrastructure Network (DePIN) providing internet access to remote communities in Africa. He was passionate about the importance of good end user services in maintaining a stable revenue source and, in the process, onboarding users to a crypto ecosystem. Technology becomes the facilitator of social development rather than an end in itself.

5. Call out bad practice

There is still a perception of high risk among bankers and insurers in particular when dealing with any business that touches the crypto ecosystem. Too many legitimate and successful companies have found themselves with their banking services withdrawn or insurance cover headaches. The blanket treatment reflects the bad practices that still linger – pumping tokens, hyped airdrops, security breaches, and projects that have no discernible benefit other than to make money for the founders. As industry leaders we are perfectly placed to ask questions, help peers, and be open to learning things ourselves that raise the overall bar.

 

This was an excellent day and I have no hesitation in recommending The Digital Commonwealth’s next Summit in the series on 14th June, whose focus will be around AI and Cybersecurity.

Image credit: Benjamin Arthur for The Digital Commonwealth.

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