This article outlines some of the conclusions from a 2016-17 research project conducted by the Tapscott Group on behalf of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and written by Don and Alex Tapscott. The full report is available here.
The first era of the Internet was based on information and content being available anywhere and any time. Now, the second era – powered by blockchain technology – is bringing us the Internet of value: a new, distributed platform that will help us reshape the world of business and transform the old order of human affairs for the better.
Blockchain is a distributed ledger in which anything of value can be stored, ranging from money, stocks, bonds and intellectual property, to votes, art, music, loyalty points, carbon credits, health-care records and student accomplishments. Even our identities can be stored, transacted, communicated and managed securely and privately.
In addition to revolutionizing financial services, blockchain will be the foundation for integrating into our economy technologies such as artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, the Internet of Things and robots. Governments will shift their computer systems to blockchain. Even the Canadian dollar could become a digital dollar based on blockchain.
In Internet parlance, this is “1993” for blockchain. In 1993, we talked about the information highway and how it would transform every aspect of our society. And it did, dramatically. The coming decade will see blockchain technology affecting the way we do business, govern, communicate, manage our affairs and build value. There will be astonishing creative destruction.
Could the second era of the Internet be centred in Canada?
There will be winners and losers – companies, industries and countries. But if we do this right, blockchain technology could deliver prosperity for all citizens, and Canada could lead the way.
Canada has a head start on becoming the second era’s global hub or, at least, one of a handful of such hubs. The tech corridor between Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo is emerging as Canada’s first “technology supercluster.” This region is already a world leader in quantum physics and artificial intelligence. Blockchain is ideally placed to be the third leg of the Tech North stool.
Canadian entrepreneurs and companies are on the leading edge of blockchain innovation. Ethereum, viewed by some as the most important blockchain company in the world, recently surpassed $1-billion (U.S.) in value. And Consensus Systems is building decentralized applications that could transform a number of industries, including financial services, professional services, manufacturing, telecommunications, music and film. Many of the bitcoin core developers are Canadian and many work in the startup community. A growing constellation of entrepreneurs and technologists (Paycase, Protocol Fund, Tendermint, Nuco, Smartwallet, BlockStream and others) are trying to build the future with companies in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and elsewhere.
Canada’s banks – strong, stable and innovative – are ideally situated to foster blockchain growth. Because we have a small number of big banks, the likelihood of collaboration between them to build a new transactional infrastructure for banking is higher than other countries, such as the United States.
The Bank of Canada is a big asset, too. Executives such as deputy Govenor Carolyn Wilkins are viewed by their peers globally as insightful innovators on blockchain and financial technology.
Canada has a growing number of powerful incubators and accelerators, such as the Ryerson DMZ, rated No. 1 in North America. We have world-class computer-science schools that can work with other centres of excellence in business, innovation and public policy.