Blockchain alone won't make the internet decentralised and other challenges

Oct 31 2018

At the NGI Forum 2018 in Porto, a session was led by  Marta Arniani (futuribile / curating futures) on behalf of the NGI Move project on the topic of "A secure, decentralised Internet".

The main challenge that echoed out from the session is to avoid the concentration of data (and power) in the hands of a few dominant players. Big corporates have limited interest in empowering their users, but are undoubtedly more competitive than decentralised solutions in the user experience. The challenges to be tackled in this run are building trust in decentralised systems, as well as creating a strong community around the topic while supporting a larger upskilling and literacy. Moreover, citizens will need to better understand what value they can extract from their personal data and become more responsible in managing them.

The session consisted of 4 debates led by experts -

  • fair and responsible data management (Pablo Ojanguren, Swell RT)
  • peer to peer approach for a truly decentralised governance (Antonio Tenorio, P2P Models)
  • a better economic model for our society (Alex D’Elia, Mangrovia Solutions)
  • a more effective and trackable public funding mechanisms (Sanyu Karani, Funding Box)

The following major challenges were output of each of the debate.

  • A decentralized infrastructure is not a sufficient condition for a decentralized world. Indeed, many Blockchain applications are build with the objective of becoming new monopolies, the winners that will take all off the markets to come (Antonio Tenorio, P2P Models).
  • Today the whole process of getting public funds takes in average 24 months. Two years make a brilliant idea obsolete. Blockchain could help shrinking the process to 24 weeks, keeping the procedure transparent, efficient and public. Blockchain-based funding delivery will be tested in the upcoming NGI calls for decentralised technologies and the requirements for it should be decided upon.
  • Economic models for the new Industrial Revolution: The Token economy in the new Blockchain industry is promoting a new model of “decentralized power” for a better wealth redistribution. Is it enough to use decentralized technologies to foster a better economic model for our society? How can these technologies help us step into the new Industrial Revolution and accelerate the transition?
  • Users don’t really control how their data are delivered to service providers, which gather it through centralized channels (user interface, web or app) and process them. Moreover, the information returned by the service can be only consumed in one controlled way. It is like buying shoes that you can only wear in the streets allowed by the vendor” (Pablo Ojanguren, Swell RT).

A trending topic at the event was around Blockchain. Blockchain is strongly emerging as an infrastructure appealing to all types of industries. Despite the decentralised nature of blockchain, the business models related to decentralised technologies are still extremely centralised and reinforce the revenue and power of a single player. The real bearers of decentralisation though are governance and business models which should be focussed rather than technology.

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