While focusing on the modernization of financial management, advances in education and the diversification of assets, Middle Eastern officials are not neglecting some of the biggest technologies that have impacted finance in the last decade.
Keynote Events and other partners are holding the first Blockchain Technology Conference in Dubai, which kicked off Monday at the Burj Al Arab.
“Look, we know there are 1000-plus other technology conferences you can attend this year, filled with lame speeches and fluff," Keynote wrote on its website about the conference. "That’s why we’re here. Keynote 2016 is carefully curated to teach you about next-level, actionable innovation and technology you can utilize the very next day."
The event is supported by the Smart Dubai Initiative, the Museum of the Future Foundation and other partners. More than 200 C-level executives from Fortune 500 companies were expected to attend, along with investors and government officials.
Emerging from the bitcoin experiment, which pioneered digital currency, blockchain is a new modern ledger system that can help handle bitcoin transactions. Experts describe it as a distributed database to maintain data records that are resistant to tampering. Blockchain governs the peer-to-peer system of bitcoin transactions, providing transparency and integrity for financial processes.
“Once a block is written in the chain and the chain grows, the technology makes it very difficult to change that block, because it is so far behind in the chain.” Elias Wehbe, CEO and co-founder of Flip, told the Gulf News Journal while discussing the potential of the conference to highlight tech advances. “That's the beauty of blockchains - they are immutable and are difficult to forge, which is one of the reasons why financial institutions think they're useful to prevent fraud. This is where they come in as a ledger - to store transaction information in blocks of the chain which are impossible to change by a human, because the technology doesn't allow it."
Part of the appeal of blockchain, Wehbe said, is related to the hardware setup.
“The other thing about blockchains is that they're a 'distributed' ledger, as in: the chain doesn't sit on one server, but is controlled and managed by multiple nodes in a network anonymously (sort of).” Wehbe said. “That means that there is no central arbitrator/administrator of the blockchain. … Transactions can be completed without a middleman signing off on them because the blockchain is verifying them and that creates the 'trustless' system that everyone talks about. That has huge implications in the financial world as there wouldn't be the need for clearing houses or brokers in stock exchanges to verify that these transactions are taking place, all of it could be done on the blockchain.”
Wehbe also talked about some of the other big technologies that experts will be discussing at the Dubai meeting. For example, the Internet of Things (IoT) has enormous potential around the world, but could be applied differently in different areas.
“One of the main challenges of IoT adoption is the large infrastructure needed to start collecting data in large amount quantities for them to mean anything.” Wehbe said. “In places like the Emirates, where there is room to build completely new infrastructure (rather than upgrade the existing infrastructure which is a problem in the developed world), I don't think it's far-fetched for local emirates to invest in building large connected IoT devices across the whole country. That's the advantage of emerging economies when it comes to new technologies, they don't have to overcome legacy systems and infrastructures because those don't exist.”