The world is in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Sometimes shortened to the rather appealing acronym 4IR, this is a time of absolute change, an epoch of transformative disruption where Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, and robotics join forces to create clusters of innovation across the globe.
Blockchain is also part of this new wave of change-inducing technologies. From obscure beginnings as the engine driving cryptocurrencies to today’s quasi-mainstream status, blockchain’s journey has been as chaotic as it has been significant. The technology is now on the cusp of transforming just about every sector imaginable: From fintech to entertainment, and shipping to clinical trials, blockchain’s spectacular versatility is becoming the number one driver for innovation and change.
Blockchain is now a factor in the minds of entrepreneurs and business owners across Europe, a continent that stands at the vanguard of blockchain adoption in the world. The first Belgian node of the European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI) went live on February 12, for example, with the second node coming online shortly afterwards.
A blockchain-enabled Europe is also the goal of Europechain, driven by a group of blockchain experts whose objective is the provision of a pan-European, GDPR-compliant Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) product, and various other services to address and resolve business problems through blockchain technology.
This piece focuses on casting a clearer light on these two initiatives.
EBSI and Europechain: Blockchain for the Old Continent
If you had mentioned the word blockchain circa 2008, most people would have given you a quizzical look and maybe asked you if it was a new dance craze. Even hardcore computer enthusiasts would not have been familiar with the word. But there were a small group of individuals for whom blockchain was a very real thing indeed back in those days. The entity known as Satoshi Nakamoto used blockchain to create Bitcoin, giving birth to the crypto era.
Blockchain technology per se was not new, in the true sense of the word. Its framework had been proposed as far back as 1991, when research scientists Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta devised a cryptographic solution to timestamp digital documents to avoid tampering. The system worked as intended, but did not find wide use outside research and theoretical circles.
It is 2020 now. Just over ten years have passed since Bitcoin came into existence, and blockchain is almost a byword for revolution.
Europe might be the Old Continent, but when it comes to paradigm shifts and the inception and development of new technologies, Europe’s innovative drive is second to none. The European Commission (EC) is said to take a ‘holistic’ approach to blockchain, meaning that the commission appreciates what blockchain can do as a whole, rather than taking an individualistic approach to its implementation.
Two initiatives lead blockchain’s onward march across Europe. The EBSI and Europechain.
The official website describes the EBSI as a joint initiative from the European Commission and the European Blockchain Partnership (EBP) to deliver EU-wide cross-border public services using blockchain technology.
In other words, the EBSI aims to establish a network of blockchain-enabled nodes to address a set of specific use cases.
The EBSI focused on four initiatives during 2019: Notarisation, Diplomas, Self-Sovereign Identity, and Trusted Data Sharing.
The EBSI aims to benefit a wide range of people and organizations. EU citizens and institutions, and national administrations are in line to reap the infrastructure’s benefits. But what are these benefits?
The blockchain nodes will:
- Enable EU citizens to interact and transact with public services in a more secure manner.
- Assist EU institutions in the reduction, or total elimination of red tape. In simpler words, the simplification of administrative processes, while adhering to cross-border regulatory principles.
- Help national administrations to reduce the often unnecessary complexity of paperwork, and restoring public confidence and trust in the system.
The EBSI will select a new range of use cases to apply blockchain technology to during Q2 of 2020.
Europechain is being marketed as the blockchain for EU businesses, whose goal is to build and support a network of blockchains that comply with GDPR and other EU regulations.
Compliance with GDPR rules is one of Europechain’s key areas of concern, as the privacy framework has proved problematic for many businesses, particularly in the small- to medium-size range. The reason for this is that many business owners were not aware of the concrete steps they should take to make their business GDPR-compliant, or even whether or not small businesses needed to abide by these regulations at all.
The EU-wide implementation of GDPR regulations caused a number of unintended consequences and roadblocks as detailed in one of Forbes latest posts. These issues caused severe barriers to entry and challenges for a wide range of businesses across Europe.
The EBSI and Europechain, while hugely significant in their own right, are just two of the many blockchain initiatives being taken across the EU. Twenty one member states came together on April of 2018 to sign the European Blockchain Partnership (EBP), which provides the groundwork for the establishment of an Europe-wide infrastructure to support and deliver cross-border digital and public services.
The formation of the EBP became a huge milestone in the roadmap to widespread adoption of blockchain in the Old Continent. Not only that, the creation of a pan-European network powered by blockchain technology will enable a degree of cooperation, cohesion, scalability, and interoperability never before seen in the technological sector.