The advent of blockchain technology is set to radically change the way businesses operate, several speakers at the Thomson Reuters Africa Summit have said.
“Blockchain is so much more transformative than even the Internet revolution because it allows you to transact,” said media and marketing company Creative Counsel joint CEO Ran Neu-Ner.
The South African entrepreneur urged companies and people to embrace blockchain technology, which facilitates secure online transactions. An increasing number of financial institutions, in particular, are starting to invest in blockchain technology.
“This is not something you can ignore. I don’t know of any industry that is not going to be affected by blockchain in any way or form,” said Neu-Ner.
Blockchain Academy CEO Sonya Kuhnel said blockchain technology provided an opportunity to get many of the 3.5-billion unbanked people around the world to participate in the economy. People would be able to share in the economy, with lower transaction fees.
“Instead of having a big traditional corporation, we can allow people to transact directly with each other, without a third party or intermediary. People will be able to share in the economy more, as the transaction fees will be much lower.”
Strides have been taken to sharpen identity management and verification, which are key in transactions. Companies, particularly in Silicon Valley, have been at the cutting edge of change and have developed a mobile app that allows individuals to give banks and institutions permission to access their identity.
Kuhnel said this could be a game-changer in future. Instead of banks uploading Financial Intelligence Centre Act, or Fica, information, which could be laborious, identity management and verification could be decentralised through implementing blockchain technology. Medical records could also be stored in this way.
Neu-Ner believes the advent of blockchain technology has ushered in a new era.
“This era could be the end of big business and the beginning of a decentralised world, where multiple contributors take part in a network,” he said.
He added that blockchain technology was part of the wave of disruption sweeping the globe.
“For the first time in history, we are dealing with this thing called disruption. Up until now, we’ve only had innovation.”
According to the Harvard Business Review, disruption refers to “an event that changes an industry’s competitive patterns. An incumbent finds it almost impossible to respond”. A perfect example is three-dimensional printing, which Neu-Ner believes is the “biggest disruption of our time”.
He said companies would also need to increasingly rely on data.
“Data is currency. If you are not making all your decisions with data, it is too late for you.” He said companies like Microsoft, Exxon Mobil and Walmart have battled to move with the times, while a company like Nike had fully bought into data.
Nike CEO Mike Parker has described Nike as a big data company that also sells sportswear.
Samsung was also adapting. A new Samsung fridge is programmed to know when you are running out of milk, and orders your milk from Amazon.