Blockchain technology reaches India. During the first Blockchain summit in the country, Vitalik Buterin explained non-financial blockchain applications, while Microsoft presented its Blockchain-as-a-Service Azure platform.
During November, India has witnessed the growing attention of the cryptocurrency industry after the government decided to take a large portion of cash out of circulation. While many have sought to substitute cash with Bitcoin, some companies in the country have started to become interested in Ethereum too.
The first Indian Blockchain Summit, held on December 6, shifted the focus from the Blockchain as the basis for digital cash to a wider view of the innovative technology. Attending the summit were nearly 150 tech enthusiasts hailing from Microsoft, Wipro, ConsenSys, TCS, Accenture, Synechron, National Payments Corporation of India, as well as several of India’s bitcoin and blockchain startups.
The event was organized by Arifa Khan from Zero Field Labs, a London-based Blockchain Researcher who advises the Government of India on infrastructure financing. The most prominent speaker was Ethereum’s mastermind, Vitalik Buterin. Also, there were talks by employees from Microsoft, ConsenSys, and the Indian National Payments Corporation.
In his speech, Vitalik Buterin advocated the use of the Ethereum blockchain’s smart contract technology for non-financial applications like in agricultural markets, education, healthcare and identity, stating:
"I am excited to see the growing interest in Ethereum and blockchain technologies coming from India; the world is finally waking up to the great potential that the technology has particularly in emerging markets, and I look forward to seeing developments with the technology grow in the months and years to come."
In response to Ms. Khan’s question on how easy it would be to create a new cryptocurrency in India, Buterin said it is a matter of copying 50 lines of code; the real challenge lies in building the value of the new token and a circular economy around its acceptance.
ConsenSys’ Andrew Keys gave an overview on the state of decentralized Web 3.0 applications and its associated technologies like IPFS, Swarm, and Raiden, while Microsoft presented its Azure platform which integrates Blockchain-as-a-Service. Microsoft’s Azure provides an open, highly scalable cloud platform that integrates Ethereum and enables companies in India to start their own blockchain consortium independently of the local IT infrastructure.
For India, 2016 is the year that the country opens up to the Blockchain. While Bitcoin serves as some kind of substitution for cash and gold, Ethereum’s blockchain technology has the potential to solve some of the other problems that India's 1.2 billion citizens face.
One example is a blockchain-based voting system, which could reduce or eliminate the plague of voter fraud. Another example is a decentralized identity system which is secure against manipulation and hacks. Further potential applications of blockchain technology in India include; the huge remittance market to India, the international trade of resources, in which smart contracts could help to cut out intermediaries, or the insurance business, which could use blockchain technology to integrate millions of Indians into the insurance system.
India has a strong information technology workforce, however, the blockchain infrastructure of the sub-continent is still in its early days. While bitcoin exchanges like UnoCoin and ZebPay are already established, the only Ether exchange, ethexindia, is still in Beta. The lack of opportunities to buy Ether for gas might be a big obstacle to using Ethereum’s blockchain in India. Also, there are only a few companies which by now know about Ethereum's blockchain technology.
But after the country’s first Blockchain summit, change might be well underway.