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The blockchain effect

The use of blockchain technology is spiraling in almost all industries, including the insurance sector, food and beverage provenance and health. Find out more in my article as it was featured on EY Cyprus Tax&Legi Newsletter, October 2020.

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Cyprus is “all in” for blockchain regulation

Announcement by the Cyprus Ministry of Finance on the drafting of a Blockchain Bill to be adopted in Cyprus.

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Primetel partners up with Revolut for Primetel Revolut Visa

The two companies launching their partnership card to benefit Primetel subscribers with perks redeemed via Revolut.

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The blockchain effect

Article featured in EY Cyprus – TaxLegi Newsletter, October 2020

01 October 2020

When discussing about blockchain and its existing or potential uses across various industries, many are those who instantly wonder as to what blockchain really is and then declare it “far too complicated”, without any further analysis. Others may directly relate blockchain with cryptocurrencies, instantly dismissing any further discussion since cryptocurrencies have had their share of bad publicity by being considered to enable money laundering/terrorist financing. Nonetheless, the capabilities of the underlying technology of blockchain are far more numerous than just for rewarding miners with cryptocurrencies.

The technological innovation stemming from blockchain technology is challenging social and legal concepts which we have for years considered set in stone. The use of blockchain has demonstrated to fundamentally speed up transactions, reduce costs, remove middlemen and provide transaction transparency, for which businesses spend hefty fees to safeguard and ring-fence their rights.

In its simplest form, blockchain is a decentralised technology or distributed ledger on which data is anonymously recorded based on pre-agreed consensus algorithms in the network of users. It is a form of database where data is stored in a chain of fixed structures called ‘blocks’, hence the name “blockchain”. The stored information is mirrored on all participating computers, called “nodes”, over the distributed network of users. Blockchain technology offers a decentralised solution that is not locally or centrally stored nor maintained by one single party. Depending on the blockchain type and whether it is a permission-less or permissioned blockchain, transactions are only recorded on the chain if all the users agree with the transaction’s accurateness. Once a transaction is codified and added on the blockchain it is permanently stored, cannot be modified or erased and can be traced all the way back to its origination. This makes the blockchain ledger exceptionally accurate and secure. The use of blockchain technology is spiralling in almost all industries, examples of which are included below.

Insurance Sector

In the efforts of establishing a more transparent and trustworthy experience in the insurance sector, blockchain technology is being utilised to boost efficiency and productivity against cumbersome and fragmented processes currently being used. InsurTech companies utilizing blockchain technology can substitute manual business processes of insurance claims for handling, payment, subrogation and assessment (using smart contracts) and ensure that data cannot be altered, manifested or manipulated by recording it on the blockchain.

Food and Beverage Provenance 

To enhance supplier reliability to consumers and give answers to questions such as “where does my food really come from” blockchain can be used in the food and beverage provenance industry. The underlying technology of blockchain can assist producers and suppliers alike to achieve end-to-end near real-time transparent tracking of goods, ensure food authentication and information from all stages in the supply chain and have a trusted audit trail from production to the end-consumers. Utilisation of blockchain can further assist with the ongoing monitoring requirements of suppliers with regards to food safety by regulators and governmental bodies.

Health Sector

In the health sector, blockchain technology is used for the setting up of decentralised platforms which enable secure, fast and transparent exchange and use of medical data. Such platforms create a user-focused electronic health record and maintain a single true version of that patient’s data. Blockchain companies are also developing health data marketplaces through which users can negotiate commercial terms with third parties for alternative uses or applications of their health data (i.e. allowing their data to be used in medical research and being financially rewarded for it).

Legal Registries

Legal registries that can be “codified” on the blockchain may include land registries, corporate, commercial, patent or trademark, listed entity registers and in general all types of registries that document status, identity or rights of a person/legal entity. Due to the immutability characteristic of blockchain technology, having the register entry being verified on the blockchain can allow for an impenetrable and fully transparent audit trail throughout the history of the said entry. This will optimize tracing efforts in identifying legal ownership of assets as well as provide security and comfort that the entries are the true and accurate positions, as well as speed-up transaction tracing time and procedures.

Social Impact

Other than its abovementioned uses, blockchain can be applied or developed to fulfil purposes with a social impact. In a move towards smarter and more efficient governance, blockchain can be used to record everything from birth and death certificates to marriage licenses, travel history tracing, citizenship status or even voting rights. For a more transparent charity and donation ecosystem, blockchain can help with tracing charitable donations tied to specific outcomes, ensuring that philanthropists’ contributions indeed reach their end purpose.

Overall, for some it might indeed feel daunting that blockchain is revolutionizing almost every industry we have known so far. The potential of this technology is enormous, and it depends on the innovator to put this technology to good use and create unique solutions. In fact, blockchain can have a tremendous impact on societies and it can be used to solve problems that have troubled countries and governments for years.

The legal effects of implementing such solutions in our everyday society are numerous and implementing changes to existing systems may in fact require lengthy legislative procedures. Furthermore, it will have to be ensured that all information stored on blockchains meet the requirements of secrecy, privacy and data protection, as well as modifiability and erasability, going in fact against one of the main characteristics of blockchain. Nonetheless, it cannot be ignored that blockchain is disrupting the way we are doing things going forward, from today to tomorrow.

Cyprus is “all in” for blockchain regulation

17 July 2019

The Cyprus Ministry of Finance announced on 04 July 2019 that the country is looking at finalising its very own draft bill on blockchain regulation by the end of 2019.

The draft bill will aim to regulate blockchain technology whilst bringing Cyprus among some of the few countries, together with Malta and Gibraltar, that will have developed “a national strategy in regulating and exploiting blockchain technology“, resulting to the country’s national legislative framework.

In presenting the national strategy, Minister of Finance Mr Harris Georgiades mentioned that pilot implementation of blockchain technology will be initiated within the Departments of Land and Surveys, Customs and Excise, the Tax Department and the National Betting Authority; agencies that are faced with excessive bureaucracy and administrative burden on a daily basis. A successful and legally viable blockchain regulation may also serve as an additional stimulus for start-ups and other companies to develop business models based on blockchain technology.

Following the announcement for the set-up of a Deputy Ministry for Digital Strategy, Research and Innovation by the President of the Republic at the end of June 2019, the news on the release of a draft blockchain bill are greeted with positivity and an open-mind; signalling a shift towards greater acceptance of technology to be embedded in the public sector and the launching of the digital transformation of the country.

More details on the official Blockchain Strategy as issued by the Ministry of Finance can be found here (available in Greek only).

Primetel and Revolut partner up for Primetel Revolut Visa

27 June 2018

Primetel, one of the upcoming telecom providers in Cyprus, published a press release on 13th June 2018, to share their collaboration with Revolut – yes, that online “bank” we’ve written two posts on by now at “How to save money during your summer holiday” and at “Revolut v. Transferwise: We’ve done it for you” – . 

The two companies are launching the Primetel Revolut Prepaid Visa Card which is powered by Revolut and will offer the same features as any Revolut Standard card would. The additional perks this Primetel Revolut Card will offer “unique benefits and exciting rewards and local discounts to all new and existing Primetel subscribers“. What those benefits and rewards exactly might be remains to be seen.

The one perk that has been revealed however, is that with the use of the Primetel Revolut Card the users will be rewarded with 1GB mobile internet upon activation of the Card and extra free MBs with every purchase, adding towards their Primetel mobile internet/data consumption each month.

So, for someone like my mum, who is a Revolut user (yay mum!) and who most often than not insists to call via Facebook Messenger than over the usial route (regardless of the “unlimited minutes for calls” her Primetel mobile package already offers), and most often than not runs out of data every month, always wondering why (!!), this would be ideal. If you relate to the above scenario, then you could perhaps try this offer out.

Whether you’re a Primetel user or not and whether you’re considering to change your telecom provider or not,  having a Revolut card, or any online banking application’s prepaid card, is the way forward, so check it out. It might be a “two birds with one stone” type of thing.

In any case, such innovative and progressive collaborations are always welcome in the FinTech space and we like seeing companies making a move towards alternative offers to their customers. Nice one!

Full news release from Primetel here: Read news article

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