You hear “Blockchain Island.” You think “Malta!” – One of crypto’s most successful branding story.
The original concept – a virtual crypto-jurisdiction – will prove invaluable to negotiate the post-pandemic world. Let’s reclaim the original meaning. Ultimately, I coined the phrase to begin with, in 2016, as I designed Malta’s Blockchain Strategy.
“Blockchain island” captured the essence of the concept: A virtual jurisdiction bridging the cryptosphere and the rest of the global economy, bringing crypto-technologies to the masses. Alas! The term became a marketing expediency to refer to Malta itself. The original vision went missing in action.
In 2018 I discovered the Marshallese SOV. A project that truly embodies this essence of the “Blockchain Island” concept.
The Marshall Islands! A small Pacific Island nation. Population under 60,000. Over 1,000 islands. GDP/capita under $4,000. Only one, threatened, correspondent banking relationship. The highest cancer rates globally, thanks to US nuclear testing after WWII. Average elevation 2m above sea level; the most climate-change threatened nation. Isolated. In need to forge connections. Geographically, economically and logistically constrained. Multiple existential threats. In a worst-case scenario the islands sink away like Atlantis.
“Blockchain Island” is the perfect solution to such problems. A digital crypto-currency. A virtual jurisdiction. Make the entire citizenry digital. Preserve the shared identity. The SOV will bridge old and new: a crypto-fiat legal-tender currency, accepted as global money.
With unique compliance instruments, every user and transaction abides to KYC/AML regulations, but without exposing identities. Coin supply is fixed; out of the government’s reach. A trailblazer for monetary policy. New SOV are distributed directly to citizens, rather than the government! The first example of a national Universal Basic Income (UBI) – or more aptly Universal Basic Seniorage.
SOV isn’t only a cryptocurrency – it will be the best-designed money.
Malta saw the business opportunity. The Maltese project became challenged. The Marshall Islands see a solution to existential threats and is attracting multi-disciplinary experts, keen to join such an experiment in governance, identity and monetary policy. An inspiring project like no one else.
With the world turned upside-down, it’s also a crucial project. The pandemic may prompt to write off crypto-technologies as a failure. Who has time for moon-shot tech when the chips are down? If mainstream applications feel irrelevant, then the SOV seems fanciful.
This is not a failure of technology; but a failure of imagination. Many don’t grasp the potential of crypto-technologies — to help humanity. Not shiny toys!
The pandemic exposed a sudden, urgent need to coordinate; find solutions, not weighed down by bureaucracy; link many different parties, across different companies, industries and nations. Everyone works remotely, despite a lack of coordinating authority and limited amounts of trust.
Exactly what crypto-technologies solve!
Far from dismissing them, we can rely on crypto-technologies even more. SOV sets the bar for solutions to come. Global immunity database; allowing movement tracking; without exposing private data. Global contracts and payments infrastructure; with speed and confidence that everything is properly audited. Governments are signing off massive stimulus packages and considering UBI payments. SOV has UBI built-in at the protocol.
It is still early. SOV became legal tender by law in 2018. The Israel-based company SFB technologies worked on the rollout since then. A partnership with MIT-based Algorand was announced this year. The first auctions will start later in 2020. Unlike other projects, SOV is a government initiative. It is the legal tender of a sovereign nation in good standing with the UN. That cuts through a host of regulatory issues which have dogged private-sector projects.
The pandemic lockdown – with closed borders, halted transport, businesses shuttered and households isolated – is a new beginning to cooperate more than ever before, across governments, businesses, and academia. We can tear down silos and get initiatives rolling, fast; and maximize individual freedoms and privacy. It’s the greatest challenge humanity has faced.
Crypto-technologies have a crucial role to play.
Being a “Blockchain Island” isn’t just a Maltese branding trick or a Marshallese innovation: we’re all islands, in desperate need of bridges.
Blockchain technologies and the SOV can build them.