Can Blockchain be Beneficial to Society?

Last week we spoke with Daniel Marco, the Director General of Innovation & Digital Economy in the Government of Catalonia, to find out how far Catalonia is on its path towards a blockchain-enabled Hub.

Daniel Marco, the Director General of Innovation & Digital Economy in the Government of Catalonia

Why is Blockchain important for the World and for Catalonia?

The rise of digital technologies and their enormous effects on the whole society make governments and corporations to put digital transformation as a top topic on their strategies. This is why the Catalan government wants to play an active role in fostering emerging technologies such as 5G, Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain. Progress, prosperity and the future of work will be closely linked to these technologies.

5G will provide a new framework of intelligent connectivity to the world, Artificial Intelligence will improve the capacity of data analysis and process automation and Blockchain will bring us a new governance of the digital space.

Blockchain technology and decentralized governance will generate a new way of understanding how we govern our society and how we understand the role of the citizens in this new society. DLT technologies will empower citizens as the protagonist of this new governance encouraging the citizen participation and giving back to them the control of their data.

A year ago, the Blockchain Strategy of Catalonia was revealed to the world. It planned to deploy a series of actions to support the development of the blockchain and DLT ecosystem in Catalonia. How much of that has already been implemented?

The government of Catalonia is promoting the Blockchain Strategy of Catalonia to encourage the implementation of blockchain and distributed ledger technologies in the country by way of a programme structured around six axes that have begun to unfold:

  • Improving public services through the adoption of blockchain technologies.
  • Disseminating the opportunities and impact generated by their deployment.
  • Promoting research and innovation through research and technology centres.
  • Creating a new industry around blockchain technology and DLT.
  • Generating, retaining and attracting talent, both technological and entrepreneurial.
  • Analysing the implications of the regulations on the deployment of this technology.

Since the approval of the Blockchain Strategy of Catalonia, several initiatives have been launched in each area. Some proof of concept are already in place within the Catalan Government, events like the European Blockchain Convention are an international reference, startup accelerators for blockchain are supporting new business and the Blockchain Observatory is disseminating use cases of blockchain deployment in different sectors.

Can you share with us some key figures of the current Blockchain ecosystem in Catalonia? (i.e. number of startups, employees, funding raised, revenue combined…)

The Catalan Blockchain Ecosystem in growing year by year, in the last business map we did in January 2020 we identified 76 companies dedicated to blockchain, a 117% increase from those detected in 2018. On average, these companies have an estimated annual turnover of €120,000 and consist of 5 employees. All Catalan blockchain companies generates 400 jobs and has a turnover of 9.46 million euros.

The blockchain ecosystem is an emerging ecosystem made up of, above all, microenterprises. Of these, 68% are startups. Catalonia is in an initial stage of market development, but most Catalan blockchain companies are really business-oriented and generate high value for the country’s digital ecosystem.

Image of Catalan Pavilion at Blockchain Solutions World in 2019

The Blockchain Strategy of Catalonia is part of a wider National Digital Strategy. What is the role of Blockchain in this wider National Strategy?

The Government of Catalonia has made a clear commitment to promote an ambitious strategy in the digital field. Our intention is that Catalonia, which is an innovative and leading country in many fields, will also become an advanced digital nation.

Catalonia played a leading role in previous industrial revolution, and we want to be at the forefront of the current digital revolution, moving us from being the industrial motor of Spain to one of the largest digital hubs in Europe.

Blockchain technology will be one of the digital technologies with the greatest impact in the future because it allows to empower citizens within a new model of decentralized digital society. On the other hand, blockchain technology will allow the creation of a new digital economy and therefore the generation de new startups and new jobs.

What are the possible applications of Blockchain in the Catalan public administration? Is blockchain present in the activity of the Catalan public administration already?

The Government of Catalonia has started some proof-of-concept and pilots in different areas such as health, waste management, public services and digital identity to test how this disruptive technology will transform our administration and the way we are providing public services. Some of the blockchain projects already on going in the Government are:

- Self-sovereign Digital Identity. The IdentiCAT project for a self-sovereign digital identity based on blockchain will allow each citizen to manage his or her data, decide which piece wants to share, and with whom.

- Support waste management. Register in a blockchain of all the transactions that the waste operators are performing, what gives transparency to the process and real-time availability of all the performed operations made by the various agents in the value chain.

- Empower citizens to share their own health data. Use blockchain technology so that a patient can give its authorisation to a third agent to his or her generated health data to make research.

- Support in Organ Transplants. Ability to share biological indicator data between hospitals and the Catalan agency for transplants in order to make a faster and more accurate selection of the organ receptor (first test with kidney transplants).

- Support the energetic transition boosting photovoltaic self-consumption. It aims to promote photovoltaic consumption and allow citizens to generate their own energy shared it without intermediaries using blockchain technology and tokens.

Blockchain Challenge, organizers and participants. Held in 2019 & organised by the Catalan Government

One of the biggest challenges in any nascent ecosystem is always talent. Many say that the coronavirus outbreak and the rise of the remote work will bring opportunities for, among other hubs, Barcelona and Catalonia. Why should any blockchain startup or developer move here?

The development of this Catalonia Blockchain Strategy will only be possible with the right talent and the talent of our blockchian community will be the best strength for our success. For this reason, generating, retaining and attracting talent is one of the top priorities for us.

During the last years Barcelona has become one of the most relevant digital hubs in Europe, and the determining factor for the establishment of technology companies in the city have been the ability to generate and attract talent. Barcelona is one of the relative winners in this field, as it is proportionally able to generate and attract more technological talent and quicker than other cities. According to the “Digital Talent Overview” study of the Barcelona Digital Talent initiative, published in June 2020, 77,000 digital professionals work in Barcelona, ​​9,600 more than last year.

Barcelona and Catalonia is open to business and open to the world. A talented proactive workforce in a dynamic business climate offers new companies numerous competitive advantages. We combine an emergent digital talent hub with a strategic geographical position, which makes for a unique environment for investing and doing business.

For this and other reasons, the Financial Times has recognized Catalonia as Southern Europe’s best region for foreign investment in 2020–2021. This is the third time in a row that this biannual ranking places Catalonia in this position.