Thanks Platform Africa for taking the time to speak to me. I spoke about my journey in the blockchain space and also how I see blockchain adoption evolute. I must emphasize again, we are at the early stages of blockchain and crypto. Let your imaginations run wild, you may be the next Elon Musk in the crypto industry.
Anndy Lian: COVID-19 has accelerated blockchain adoption by corporates
We speak to Anndy Lian, a blockchain expert who has played a pivotal role in bringing greater acceptance to blockchain in the public sector as the Blockchain Advisor for the Asian Productivity Organisation (APO), an intergovernmental organisation committed to improving productivity in the Asia-Pacific region.
Anndy is currently serving as an Advisory Board Member for Hyundai DAC, the blockchain arm of the South Korean car manufacturing major.
He has also written a book titled “Blockchain Revolution 2030”, where, together with co-authors Park Young Sook and Shawn Hamnison, he shares his expert insights on how blockchain technology plays an important role in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Read our edited excerpts from an exclusive interview in which Anndy advises African governments to put away their old thinking and embrace the future with blockchain technology, while cautioning them to tread carefully in the digital currency space:
- How did your journey in the blockchain space begin?
My blockchain journey began around 2013, with bitcoin. Back then, we used bitcoin to purchase items online from gaming assets to accounts. I began to see it as a form of future currency.
Then, in 2016, I got interested in blockchain technology after a closed door session organised by a pharmaceutical company. In that session, the power of blockchain – tracing, tracking and anti-counterfeiting properties – opened my mind to the endless possibilities offered by blockchain technology.
- As an Intergovernmental Blockchain Advisor, what role do you envisage for blockchain in the public sector? Has COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of blockchain by governments?
In the beginning, many of my friends thought that I was crazy and was wasting my time convincing governments of the benefits of blockchain. But time has proved me right. Governments were indeed very reluctant to listen at first. Some of them were worried about the change and uncertainty that blockchain would bring in its wake, while others were firm in their stand that blockchain was all hype and nothing else. As I brought in proper companies to showcase its capabilities, some of them eventually changed their perspectives. Now they want to know more about cryptocurrencies. This is how much change there is between now and then.
COVID-19 did accelerate technology adoption as a whole. This includes blockchain too. In many ways, this pandemic is a blessing in disguise for the technology industry. We can see that tech stocks are valued higher, digital payments have become more popular, and e-commerce has fully integrated into many lives.
- In particular, could you take us through the latest trends, concepts and applications of blockchain technologies?
Trends and concepts move very fast in the crypto space. The buzzwords right now are DeFi and NFT.
DeFi is decentralised finance, a blockchain-backed finance system that has no central authority.
While NFT stands for non-fungible tokens that act as a non-duplicable digital certificate of ownership for any assigned digital asset.
- What advice would you like to give to governments in Africa on adopting blockchain in the public sector, given its ability to infuse transparency and increase productivity?
My advice is to put away the old thinking and embrace the future. Many times governments are trapped in their traditional thinking and legacy issues. I often tell them to put all these doubts aside and ask them the one question that dares to get at the truth: What would they do if they could reset their country?
Most of the time, the obvious reasons are right in front of them. Being open and addressing the pain points makes them understand the situation they are currently in, and where they want to be.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to get governments to completely change their current system and forget about their past. That cannot be done. I just want them to realise what can be done better if they have a chance.
- As an Advisory Board Member for Hyundai DAC, could you take us through the possibilities offered by blockchain in the corporate space? Has COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of blockchain by the private sector?
From a private sector standpoint, COVID-19 has accelerated the case of blockchain for corporates who were earlier in their comfort zones. Many of them who were still in the proof of concept (POC) stages have really stepped up during this period, for instance, healthcare start-ups. Such projects tend to be the cleanest and leanest, resulting in a number of them passing their POC stage quickly and getting deployed in merely a quarter, now that there is greater will to see them through.
Indeed, blockchain technology has matured a lot during this period of time. Take elections, for instance. Blockchain technology was used in the US elections during the pandemic.
- Do you believe that the growth of blockchain and cryptocurrencies is inherently complementary – or can blockchain reach its true potential even in the absence of mainstreaming of cryptocurrencies?
Indeed, blockchain and cryptocurrencies are definitely complementary. Blockchain works hand in hand with other technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning, among others. Cryptocurrency is one of its products.
In the future, I am sure that blockchain technology will be widely used and we won’t even know that we are using it. So my advice is to bear with the current times and keep in mind that we are at the very beginning of an exciting journey.
- With Elon Musk having embraced cryptocurrencies as a payment mode for Tesla, do you see this as a major move in the mainstreaming of digital currencies, or is there still a long way to go?
Elon is certainly a visionary. He did help to market crypto to another level. However, is this enough? The unfortunate but true answer is, it is not. For crypto to truly take off, corporates must continue to be open, adapt to the changes, and adopt new technology.
Back to Elon and Tesla accepting bitcoin. If you read the news he will accept and keep bitcoin, and not convert it to fiat. So far, so good. However, for cryptocurrency to be a currency, it needs to be used and circulated – keeping it as a store of value alone won’t help. Hope I am not being controversial here!
- With African economies Tunisia and Senegal being first movers in launching their digital currencies, both based on the blockchain, what role do you think Africa can play in adoption of, and advocacy for, digital currencies worldwide, much as M-Pesa had paved the way for mobile payments across the globe?
While I can’t speak specifically for African economies, I can share my view generally. Digital currencies are not crypto in that, unlike cryptocurrencies, they depend on a central authority.
If the fiat currency and economy are not doing well, it will make no difference whether they are available in a digital form or not. Hence, I would advise that countries must think twice before adopting a digital regime.
- Finally, could you tell us more about your book ‘Blockchain Revolution 2030’? What insights would you like to share with those who are seeking to learn more about this exciting technology?
Blockchain Revolution 2030 highlighted how blockchain technology plays an important role in transforming and creating a new model for the digital economy. It has chapters on how the supply chain and finance sectors can be enhanced. It also has chapters talking about how NFT will change the art scene. Take note that this book is drafted in 2018, and many of our “predictions” have since come true.
For those who are thinking of joining us in this blockchain journey, I highly encourage them to take a longer term perceptive. Experience comes with time. Always learn from the right source and do not take short cuts. My door is always open.