The technology behind Bitcoin makes its way in Uruguay
Digitized governments, smart insurance, and more private medical records. What are the Uruguayan government and companies planning for this new way of sharing information? In parallel, the Central Bank of Uruguay (BCU) is advancing with its project to start issuing digital banknotes.
The world of technology can boast of one thing with its incessant rhythm, which is to make the new look old even before we become accustomed to it. And Bitcoin, the now famous cryptocurrency that does not stop beating historic prices, is no exception. As hundreds of curious investors turn to digital currency to find out how to get their share, some are already looking beyond it. Or rather, behind it.
Satoshi Nakamoto, whose true identity remains unknown, created Bitcoin in 2008 alongside a way to transmit and record information, which proved to have more potential than the currency itself. Bitcoin aimed to create a currency that would not be controlled by any entity.
It was about blockchain, a technology with as many applications as followers, including several companies and state agencies in Uruguay.
But how does it work and what are its advantages? On the one hand, the blockchain system continuously records information in units called “blocks” (hence its name), linking them together like the wagons of a freight train, providing great traceability. On the other hand, and unlike the classic internet architecture, which stores information on centralized servers, this technology houses it on thousands of computers throughout the network. Storing data in a block in a transparent, verifiable, and permanent manner is virtually impossible for a single person to alter.
Blockchain technology, which is the cornerstone of Bitcoin, is not limited to transactions and is a key factor for maintaining trust in the currency. According to Carlos Alba, director of Strategic Planning of the Agency for Electronic Government and the Information and Knowledge Society (Agesic), “blockchain is applicable to all sectors and industries, and its benefits include improvements in security, privacy, efficiency, veracity of the information and its registration over time ”.
As an advisory body on information and communication technologies (ICT), Agesic is in charge of studying its benefits and evaluating its potential to improve the services provided by the State.
Blockchain is innovative in the public sphere worldwide, but it is not a pioneer. India uses it to register land ownership, and the European Union discussed it as an alternative for the civic registry of refugees.
Alba clarifies that in Uruguay the idea is still “in the research and feasibility analysis phase”; However, this discussion will be part of the agenda of the 2020 Digital Government Plan, which includes objectives such as the digitization of procedures, the release of public data and the increase of the security of state systems. Furthermore, Alba has stated that the initial tests will take place at the end of this year, and concrete implementation is expected to begin in 2018.
But the State’s commitment to blockchain is not limited to applying the technology to its organizations but also to investing in it. The director of the National Research and Innovation Agency (ANII), Fernando Brum, says that they have already received proposals related to this technology. One was Thales Labs, a funder and startup accelerator that has specialized in this technology since 2016. According to Sylvia Chebi, its director, the agreement with ANII will target promising companies in the sector. “We expect projects in the areas of finance, insurance, medicine and in any industry in which contracts are made between parties that require their mutual trust”, she explains.
ANNI + Blockchain
ANII already has a history financing blockchain projects. In 2016, it awarded ZirconTech 2.2 million pesos to develop Seguros 2020, a platform that enables auto insurers to offer discounted policies as a reward for good driving habits. “Drivers will report data on their driving style through an application that will record parameters such as location, speed and acceleration, and will detect everything from sudden braking to rush hour trips”, says Alejandro Narancio, the company’s head of Technology. Smart contracts, computer programs that work on blockchain, will execute and assign a reward based on the management score calculated from the information. The platform is set to launch later this year, with ongoing implementation negotiations in Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile.
In any case, the project is far from being its first encounter with blockchain, a technology with which he has been conducting pilot tests since almost two years ago. “The most interesting area was in healthcare, where we created a system of medical records that allowed patients to have control over their data, and they were the ones who authorized doctors to see it”, he explains.
In the private sector, not only startups experiment with these new systems. Mauro Flores, manager of Security Services and technical leader of blockchain for Latin America at Deloitte, says that he already works with several companies to identify the benefits of this technology. He adds, ‘The use of blockchain is very recent, but we anticipate that real solutions will start going into production in 2018’. The president of the FinTech Chamber of Uruguay, Sebastián Olivera, believes that blockchain has high potential in finance, medicine, insurance, energy and agriculture, and that the talent and installed infrastructure of Uruguay position it to become a regional benchmark.
Officials from ANII, AGESIC, the National Development Agency, the ministries of Industry and Economy, and the Central Bank attended the Montevideo FinTech Forum in June, demonstrating the event’s success.
Posted in Bitcoin, Blockchain, News