Blockchain for dummies - 5 questions to Blockchain expert Rutger van Zuidam
From February 10 to 12, the largest physical blockchain hackathon in the world will take place in the Big Building in Groningen. For a whole weekend, more than 45 teams will work on new and innovative ways to improve society with blockchain based solutions.
But what’s all the fuss about really? What is it that makes blockchain technology so revolutionary? Blockchain expert and Dutch Blockchain Hackathon initiator Rutger van Zuidam, was also responsible for the fact that the ‘Stadjerspas’, a voucher card for minimum incomes runs on the blockchain. Rutger explains what makes blockchain so special:
Why will blockchain technology change the world?
“Blockchain is essentially a digital form of trust. The technology allows everyone access to and control of data, processes and transactions, in an easy, safe and equal way. It’s that level of flexibility that makes this technology so groundbreaking, because there are so many possible applications, for the financial sector, logistics, government, you name it. It makes bureaucracy and centralized third parties completely redundant and vastly decreases the possibility of mistakes or fraud.”
Which of the more immediate social issues can be solved with blockchain?
“Take patient medical files for example. Your medical information is stored in a lot of places, like your physician, the hospital and your insurance company. Just not with you, which is a little weird. Blockchain can safely make sure that all parties involved, including yourself, can only access the information they need or are allowed to. Any changes can be made really fast, easy and above all safe, because fraud is next to impossible with blockchain.”
“Or what about green energy, because how do you know the energy you use is actually green? With blockchain, you can see exactly where the energy comes from. The same goes for our collective retirement fund, because anyone can see exactly where the money is being invested in. When it comes to refugees, blockchain can also play an important role, because it will make the process a lot faster and much more efficient. You will be able to see exactly where a refugee is coming from, if they really are who they say they are, and which asylum processes have been gone through and/or approved.”
What is the essence of blockchain technology?
“Essentially, a blockchain is a fully programmable, single source of truth, to verify and clarify any form of transaction. Because of the mathematical principles behind the technology, the blockchain is always correct and impossible to tamper with, so the information within can always be trusted by everyone involved. This makes it ideal for all sorts of registrations, transactions, many forms of ownership, contracts or certificates. Because of the programmable aspect, all these things can be made “smart”, so in the near future, a contract will work very much like an app.”
“The system for the “Stadjerspas” we made together with the Groningen City Government is a great example of this. Allowances and discounts for minimum income families are distributed as “smart vouchers” instead of euros. So everything is fully automated for all service providers involved, improving accountability and auditability, while decreasing bureaucracy and possible fraud. That makes this system very versatile, and it could also be used for other subsidies, allowances, debt settlement or debt restructuring.”
What makes the Dutch Blockchain Hackathon so special? And what will happen with the results?
“It’s actually already the biggest physical hackathon in the world, but what really makes it special, is the fact that it’s a year long cycle. Normally, a hackathon is a little non-committal and all those great ideas are sometimes abandoned altogether. We have a lot of big companies supplying cases and are very invested in the results and ideas of this weekend. Afterwards, the winning teams will also get all the help and professional guidance to turn their idea or prototype into an actual product, so we can really make sure that blockchain can help improve our society.
“Groningen is a great place to start new things and we’re already specializing in things like health, energy and data here, so blockchain can be incredibly valuable. But it’s not just about Groningen, because this is very much a national event. We want to strengthen relations and that’s all coming together in this hackathon, so hopefully, that will give blockchain based innovations an incredible boost.”