The upside of down

Will dev-focused education initiatives reroute blockchain’s path to adoption?

Edison Lim
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As the blockchain industry heads towards a greater state of maturity, there is no longer a myopic focus on the technological front, but a keen realization that mainstream acceptance has to be accelerated based on engagement and awareness. In this article, Edison Lim, Application Lead at Zilliqa, explains why the view further down the road will greatly depend on the path we take now.

What might have begun with Satoshi Nakamoto’s now immortalized whitepaper has since gone on to transform and animate a wide array of industries. Working across voting systems, supply chains, and cloud solutions, blockchain has certainly demonstrated itself as the curator of a new digital age. Endorsements from industry giants such as Facebook – that recently acquired its first blockchain startup – further illuminates the path ahead for the burgeoning industry.

Breaking through the buzz

As blockchain continues to make headway, it is perhaps puzzling that the technology has not scaled to mainstream expectations. Many factors are simultaneously working against the greater acceptance of the technology. For example. a recent study by PwC showed that 48% of global business executives surveyed cited regulatory uncertainty as one of the key barriers to blockchain adoption. The lack of clarity around the industry’s future, coupled with an explosion of blockchain-related projects is resulting in a talent shortage globally, despite record salaries. Exacerbating the situation for developers wanting to enter the space, Deloitte highlighted the lack of standardization plaguing the industry, with over 6,500 active blockchain projects on GitHub based on different variations of coding languages, protocols, and consensuses.

Despite these challenges, the blockchain industry as a whole has matured. The continued “crypto winter” of 2018 has wiped out weak projects looking to cash in on the hype. What remains, are projects with a unique proposition, and led by experienced teams. Correspondingly, blockchain developers have also been named as one of the top emerging jobs, with skyrocketing salaries on par with those in the field of Artificial Intelligence. As the nascent industry heads towards a greater state of maturity, there is no longer a myopic focus on the technological front, but a keen realization that mainstream acceptance has to be accelerated based on engagement and awareness. Future of Blockchain, a three-month-long academic competition jointly chaired by the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, King’s College London, Imperial College, University College London, and the London School of Economics, is a prime example of the cohesive message the industry is now putting across to her audience.

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Greater than the sum of its parts

Players in the ecosystem have to recognize their role in bringing blockchain to the next breakout moment, and the lack of a united, cohesive front has been cited as one of the stumbling blocks on the route to mainstream adoption. To that end, the drive towards more focused education efforts are part of greater support for blockchain as a whole; and initiatives such as the NUS CRYSTAL (Cryptocurrency Strategy, Techniques, and Algorithms) Centre, the Berkely Blockchain Accelerator, and the Stanford Centre for Blockchain are the first step to incubating talent. This is particularly so as developers form a more positive relationship of blockchain at an earlier age, and embrace the technology more enthusiastically.

Blockchain lessons are also increasingly introduced by renowned universities around the world, with New York University School of Business observing an increase in the number of students from 35 back in 2014 to 235 for their blockchain and financial services course. Developers are lifelong learners, with almost 90% having picked up new languages, tools, and framework outside of their education. Built on long-standing academic fields such as cryptography, distributed systems and application development, blockchain is not entirely unfamiliar territory, and education initiatives need to be able to aid the transition for developers. Zilliqa, for example, regularly hosts Scilla workshops in different parts of the world to familiarize the budding community.

SEE ALSO: Forget about the new internet! Blockchains are the latest ‘Linux alike’ revolution

The headline act

Gartner forecasts that blockchain will generate an annual business value of more than $3 trillion USD by 2030. With increased gravity, momentum has shifted from the days of blockchain tourism to a more serious exploration of the technology on the business value chain, as shared by Deloitte. Disruption of the ecosystem is no longer the imagined enemy, and the real hurdle lies in overcoming the talent bottleneck as part of the larger problem of scalability.

Blockchain is at its inflection point, and the view further down the road will greatly depend on the path we take now.


Edison Lim

Edison is a Blockchain Application Lead at Zilliqa, where he heads the development of in-house blockchain applications in the advertising and financial industry.  He believes that blockchain is an internet of value, and is interested to explore various use-cases of blockchain and accelerate the world’s transition to decentralisation. Edison holds a M.Sc from Carnegie Mellon University, where he conducted research on blockchain security.

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