From April 19th to 22nd, Australia hosted the largest blockchain event on the continent. In just four days of Australian Blockchain Week 2021, blockchain professionals and enthusiasts managed to cover and discuss a wide range of topics and current trends related to blockchain technology.
As a full-cycle company that also develops blockchain solutions, PixelPlex couldn’t miss this event and closely followed the sessions that covered everything from foundational basics to sectoral specifics. Together with the event participants, we deep-dived into the global implications of emerging technology.
Let’s recall the events of each day from Blockchain Week 2021 and reflect on the pivotal topics. We’re quite sure that these discussions are relevant not just for the Australian ecosystem but for the entire blockchain community scattered around the world.
Day 1. Building Blocks
Australia’s first-ever national Blockchain Week started by discussing Bitcoin – the first and the most popular cryptocurrency based on blockchain technology. Chloe White, National Blockchain Roadmap Lead, and Bitcoin podcast host Stephan Livera exchanged their opinions on this phenomenon in the crypto world.
Stephan Livera is obviously a big Bitcoin supporter and he explained why. From his point of view, Bitcoin as a system provides assurances that no fiat banking system could ever provide, and even protects human rights.
You might be wondering what is the connection between Bitcoin and human rights? Here’s what Mr Livera said,
“While we have access to fiat banks, assets, and modern technology, and we can send money internationally, there are hundreds of millions or even billions of people in the world who do not have access to things that we do or they live in countries where human rights are violated. People can be persecuted and have no access to finance. Meanwhile, Bitcoin is a permissionless system meaning you don’t need to go and ask permission to use Bitcoin. You can literally install an app on your phone or computer and receive and send Bitcoins.”
Mr Livera gave real-life examples of people sending bitcoins from abroad to their relatives to support them financially. He also recommended reading content from Alex Gladstein on this topic. Mr Gladstein calls himself a friend of democracy, civil liberties, and Bitcoin, and he is well-known for giving speeches on Bitcoin and human rights.
Mr Livera also mentioned the need for privacy. The modern financial system requires you to share personal information such as your name, date of birth, and address. Giving this information implies some security risks. In the Bitcoin world, we can make payments where the other party doesn’t need to know who you are, where you live or any other personal details.
Day 1 continued with a discussion on Ethereum. Anthony Sassano talked about how he got into the crypto world, became an Ethereum expert, and how he started to consult on Ethereum through his own platform, the Daily Gwei. The Daily Gwei provides training, tools, and resources to keep developers aware of everything that goes on in the Ethereum ecosystem.
Anthony Sassano spoke about the time he just started his work with the Ethereum blockchain. It was back in 2017 when DeFi was not even a thing yet. The concept of being able to decentralize everything is what got Mr Sassano so absorbed in it.
“It’s not so much about which applications we had the opportunity to create, but that any applications that we wanted to design, we could now build on such a neutral infrastructure that no one controlled. That’s what originally drew me to Ethereum and Bitcoin as well. The concept of decentralization has always been very powerful for me.”
During the Q&A session, Mr Sassano was asked about EIP 1559. It is indeed one of the hottest topics related to the upcoming Ethereum updates.
The Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP) is a way for upgrades and improvements to make it into the Ethereum network over time. Sometimes it may be an extremely lengthy process taking up to several years. Preparing the EIP 1559 took almost two years, and the upgrade will finally be launched in July 2021.
Essentially, it’s aiming to greatly improve the Ethereum fee market. This will give users a more accurate estimate of the commission, so they won’t have to overpay when making transactions.
Anthony Sassano highlighted the main benefit of EIP 1559 – most of the fees paid in ETH will be burned, which means a complete removal from Ethereum.
“Obviously, this excites a lot of people because when you remove ETH or anything from circulation, it means that there’s less available to buy. People speculate that it will lead to price rises, which is very beneficial for many.”
The majority of Ethereum miners are actually against this proposal as Ethereum mining has become a particularly lucrative business lately. However, Ethereum app creators and users are looking forward to these changes.
In addition to discussing Bitcoin and Ethereum, the speakers also shared their opinions and knowledge of digital asset exchanges, digital currencies, and the role of blockchain in education.
Day 2. Digital Assets
Speaking of Ethereum, these days no blockchain professional can ignore the topic of NFT applications. Leah Callon-Butler, the director of Emfarsis, a consulting firm focusing on tech development across the Asia Pacific, shared her opinion on the latest news related to the NFT boom.
For instance, in Q1 of 2021 NFT sales were over $2 billion. Although the involvement of celebrities may seem to be the main cause for the NFT craze, Leah Callon-Butler believes that it’s the idea of true digital rights and digital ownership that captures everyone’s eye.
“I think that the prevailing idea is still that digital things have no value, and the people who have been into NFTs for a while are really challenging that. I think as people spend more and more of their lives online, we’re actually going to start valuing our digital assets just as much as our real-world assets. Of course, I’m not just talking about currencies, I’m talking about representations of all other kinds of things.”
Meanwhile, Kieran Warwick, co-founder of Illuvium, an Ethereum-powered digital world, shared his insights on NFT gaming. Mr Warwick thinks that if you all of a sudden present gamers with an experience just as captivating as mainstream games like Fortnite or World of Warcraft, then you are bound to attract the top gamers and influencers, who have millions of followers. Not only will this make your game successful, but it’s also a way to popularize the concept of NFTs.
Louise Mercer, chief experience officer at Everledger, brought up the sustainability issue as many are concerned about the potential environmental impact of the NFT craze and blockchain solutions in general. As mentioned by Everledger, sustainability is their top priority. The company addresses the issue through two vectors: internal programs and the impact of their products and services.
PixelPlex always stays ahead to keep up with the latest trends, including the news on NFT projects. Take a look at our in-depth overview of NFT platforms and their capabilities in one of the recent articles.
On the second day of Australian Blockchain Week, Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg gave his speech on the topic “Australia as a Technology & Finance Hub”.
Senator Bragg acknowledged that blockchain and the adjacent areas of digital assets currently present a challenge for policymakers.
“As a lawmaker, I want to assure you that I recognize three things. First, the tremendous and expansive opportunities posed by digital asset technology. Second, the distinct regulatory challenges which it presents. And thirdly, your need as commercial operators for a regulatory environment that is clear, transparent, predictable, and flexible.”
These challenges leave the Australian financial sector cut off from new opportunities and make it difficult to track and isolate digital assets being used unlawfully.
Another problem is that FinTech firms are being de-banked, and some cryptocurrency start-ups are heading overseas – to Singapore, Germany, and Britain where the regulatory framework is more developed.
“To put it bluntly, I don’t want them trundling off to Germany or Singapore and taking with them hundreds of high-paying tech jobs and millions of dollars in investment because it’s too hard or too expensive or too risky to do business at home.”
As chair of a committee that oversees Australia as a technology and financial hub, Senator Bragg assured the audience that they are preparing a digital asset plan for Australia. It is set to address regulatory uncertainty and the lack of guidance from ASIC and the ATO on how digital assets will be managed and treated.
Day 3. The Builders
The event continued with the Ethereum Event Series, where experts talked about Australian startups and tried to explain the role of blockchain in the future of Australia’s exports.
Blockchain professionals discussed legacy problems related to DLT, ethics in digital assets, and infrastructure in financial services. They also dived a little deeper into Ethereum and the Solidity programming language.
The third day ended with a gripping conversation about digital identity and privacy led by some of the best minds in the business.
Chloe White shared her opinion on Twitter, “I think a key takeout was: we need to reduce unnecessary data collection and change the framing from “identity verification” to “credential verification” where the credential(s) in question is context-appropriate.”
Day 4. The National Blockchain Landscape
The final day of the conference had speakers covering a wide range of topics, including the regulatory and taxation landscape, the AML & CTF environment, the national blockchain roadmap, and blockchain in the agricultural and supply chain industry.
Hannah Glass, a senior associate in the leading financial markets team at King & Wood Mallesons, spoke about regulatory technology (RegTech) settings and technology neutrality.
She defined regulatory technology as the intersection between law and technology and debunked several myths about blockchain in terms of legislation. The first myth was that blockchain is illegal and the second – blockchain is unregulated.
Ms Glass also explained the origins of RegTech: it takes its roots from the FinTech industry because that is the first place where a significant amount of data was used to reduce human-made errors and meet time frames. She added that although RegTech seems to have been born out of FinTech, it carries many of its own innovations. The blockchain itself is not front and center but it is the mechanism of delivering solutions.
“Perhaps there are areas where law and technology do not quite align. Let’s take NFTs as an example. If we stop regulating NFTs and we don’t look at their function, then it will no longer be the title of the property. The NFT token is then separate from the property you’ve just bought. If the NFT is the title to the property, it has to be that title. If NFT is a share it has to be a share.”
Commissioner Cathie Armour from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) continued the topic of regulation and gave a speech on “ASIC – Regulating and Facilitating Crypto-Assets Within the Financial Services Framework”.
“We really do want to try and support new businesses that are exploring new technologies or providing new technology into our financial sector,” said Ms Armour and added that ASIC will try to provide guidance to DeFi companies that can transfer value to distributed ledgers without intermediaries. It will also help firms develop ideas and concepts at an early stage.
She also referred to an earlier speech by Senator Bragg and mentioned that he encapsulated some of the challenges for them as well.
Australia was a pioneer in Bitcoin regulation. The community is now calling for ASIC to strengthen its guidance in non-bitcoin cryptocurrency offerings. Hema Raman, the ASIC senior regulatory policy professional, shared that ASIC is not planning any new updates in this area until it has more extensive discussions with new DeFi players.
Nathan Bourne, ASIC senior executive leader of market infrastructure, said in his keynote that regulating cryptoassets is part of the “business as usual” activity at ASIC, and several teams are busy figuring out the aspects of this demanding jurisdiction area.
Australian Blockchain Week 2021 brought together a multitude of blockchain professionals and supporters from the continent and overseas. Not only did they talk about the benefits and use cases of blockchain technology, but they’ve also unearthed many of the issues related to its implementation, cryptoassets, and regulation of this area.
The topics covered were very diverse – from the basics of what Bitcoin, Ethereum, and NFTs are, to learning more about programming languages, discussing regulatory issues, and exploring new technology trends in 2021.
Our team of crypto geeks at PixelPlex enjoyed following Australia’s first national Blockchain Week which is a definite success. We will remain in the loop of news and events in the blockchain world to ensure that our blockchain solutions and services are up to date with the latest trends.