Dubai pursues blockchain initiatives

Dubai pursues blockchain initiatives
Dubai pursues blockchain initiatives | Courtesy of Shutterstock

In the emerging industry known as “fintech,” the Gulf Coast city of Dubai is taking big steps to implement something called blockchain technology, applying this cutting-edge digital ledger system to various industries.

A 2016 article in Gulf Business shows the establishment of something called the Global Blockchain Council by government parties in coordination with the Dubai Museum of the Future Foundation (DMFF). The DMFF is showcasing new blockchain systems to be utilized by the Dubai International Finance Center and Dubai Multi-Commodity Center (DMCC), as well as health care providers.

One application of blockchain, which has been described as providing an “immutable ledger record” for transactions and data items, is directed toward the country's health care system, in order to make patient records more traceable, to prevent medical mistakes and to make it easier for health records to become portable.

The DMCC plans to use blockchain to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the market. Other initiatives will involve rewards platforms for tourism, and the archiving of wills and trusts of Dubai residents.

All of this represents an astounding initiative to use brand-new technology in ways that will probably be replicated around the world in the future.

Gary Patterson, who runs the FiscalDoctor consulting business, spoke to Gulf News Journal Friday about the blockchain initiatives and what’s likely to result from them.

“The common thread seems to be that Dubai is moving to exploit an opportunity made possible by a very recent change -- the ability to more quickly and more accurately create a chain of information in areas where you absolutely have to have an ongoing link on data across a huge volume of data,” Patterson said.

Patterson described blockchain’s relevance to health care systems around the world, which he called “inefficient.”

“There is a huge need to get better in the area of health care,” he said.

In America, the field is over-regulated and inefficient, while making up approximately one-sixth of the whole economy, according to recent Forbes reporting. However, Patterson said, there is often very little political will to reform health care systems, partly because -- whether it is the national health programs of most modernized countries or the American system of private insurers -- in either case, people aren't paying directly for health care with their own money.

Better record-keeping, Patterson said, could help.

“There is a dire need to have this beginning-to-end traceability in health care,” he said.

Speaking on plans by a local telecom provider to facilitate blockchain for health care records, Patterson said the move makes sense, since telecom systems may have inherent access to the data at hand.

Overall, Dubai is working to become a world leader in finance by applying blockchain in key ways, before everyone else, according to Patterson.

“They're working across several sectors,” he said, adding that the national example has a big takeaway for individual businesses. “What are you doing in your business to seize an opportunity, rather than be the person who gets seized?”

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