NRIs collaborative session: Digital currency and blockchain technology 

19 Dec 2017 15:00h - 16:30h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 12th Internet Governance Forum]

Mr Yuri Grin, Director and Chief, Administration & Operations Coordination Department of the Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT), International Telecommunication Union (ITU), moderated the collaborative session and opened by mentioning two focus groups working on bitcoin. He introduced the ITU Focus Group on Digital Currency including Digital Fiat Currency, and the Focus Group on Application of Distributed Ledger Technology, also inviting all interested individuals to join them.

First two speakers introduced the topic and gave a brief history of blockchain and bitcoin. Mr Walid Al-Saqaf, Internet Society Board of Trustees, spoke of the roots of bitcoin coming from a utopian desire to release currency from the control of central authority. According to Al-Saqaf, the debate should focus on the scalability of the bitcoin network, understanding if it is experiencing a bubble, how different types of ledgers exist, and what they enable. He also mentioned the benefits to governments in securing data through the blockchain, and how distributed ledger technologies carry the potential for improving security and stability in financial systems.

Mr Patrick Dai, Chair, Qtum Foundation, said there is a new trend of people moving from real world currency to digital interactions and cryptocurrency. For Dai, the value is in the disruptive technology that enables new apps to be built on the blockchain platform. The currency and the platform are two separate values that blockchain provides.

Mr Arvin Kamberi, DiploFoundation, mentioned the Digital Watch Observatory that follows developments of cryptocurrencies and reminded the audience that peer-to-peer exchange is not a new idea. The real potential lies in the open blockchain that gives a new way of organisation. He compared the current state of blockchain to the early days of the development of the Internet. Kamberi also addressed questions from the audience as to how dangerous it is to invest in cryptocurrencies by noting that there are no guarantees of profit, but that potential for loss resembles that of early investment in Internet.

Ms Nathalia Sautchuk Patrício, Technical Advisor, Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (, outlined the experience of the Brazilian IGF where cryptocurrency became a topic after the Central Bank published a bulletin on the risks of using it. In Brazil, Sautchuk Patrício said, not many people know about the technology underlying bitcoin, but that the possibilities of adopting blockchain are being studied. In her opinion, the traditional banking system and cryptocurrencies are complementary. She proposed that regional and national insights and good practice examples should be examined first by building a map of initiatives related to blockchain technology. Knowing more about the maturity level of each country or region, as well as about challenges and opportunities is a valuable step to take.

Mr Satish Babu, Chair, Australasian and Pacific Islands Regional At-Large Organization (APRALO), at International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), noted that his focus is on the blockchain technology, which is a revolution of peer-to-peer trust. The fingerprint of blockchain technology provides for traceability, identity for users and global transfers, among other positive outcomes. He marked issues of the bad image of blockchain due to abuse by criminals, hackers and the deep web. Babu addressed a question from the audience on cryptocurrencies awarding early adopters disproportionately, by disagreeing and noting that in the current growth trend, all owners of bitcoin can gain. ‘The final link between the real world and the legal world will be smart contracts,’ he said, noting the possibilities for blockchain to battle possible legal abuses in finance.

Ms Tian Luo, China IGF, brought up the issue of governance. She also noted that collaboration among individuals is necessary in order to give power back to the ordinary citizen. Luo agreed that exchanges of national IGF experience and collaboration are beneficial. One of the major points of discussion was energy consumption for mining bitcoins, but this was not fully addressed by the end of the session.

By Jana Mišić