Looking back at the Blockchain of Trust Summit 2017:“The Netherlands offers the perfect ecosystem for societal uses of blockchain”

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Last week, the international Blockchain Future of Trust Summit 2017 took place in the heart of Dutch democracy, the Dutch National Hall of Knights (de Ridderzaal). In the framework of the nationwide StartupFest Europe, the summit was co-organized by Dutch Blockchain Hackathon in partnership with the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Dutch Blockchain Coalition, and StartupDelta.

The uses of blockchain technology are endless and are likely to radically impact our future global economy. The World Economic Forum summarizes, “Blockchain will become a global, decentralized source of trust. By using math and cryptography, blockchain provides an open, decentralized database of any transaction involving value – money, goods, property, or even votes. It thereby creates a record whose authenticity can be verified by the entire community.”

Soft landing

The aspirations of the Blockchain Future of Trust Summit organizers are no small feat. They brought together 250 international blockchain pioneers and changemakers, in the hopes that they can jointly help blockchain to softland as the next operating system for society at large.

The summit united four ministries and twenty-five corporates and large organizations in their venture to create fundamental, scientifically solid building blocks for a flourishing blockchain ecosystem. “Forging connections between different societal domains that can complement each other is hugely important to make this happen,” innovation lead at Dutch Blockchain Hackathon, Stefan Kunst, said.

“The Netherlands is the best possible place in the world for starting, growing and internationalizing blockchain business” – Stefan Kunst, innovation lead at Dutch Blockchain Hackathon

Societal uses of blockchain

“By organizing this summit and expressing our big hopes for the future, we wish to put the Netherlands on the map as a country that offers the perfect ecosystem to operationalize future societal uses of blockchain,” Stefan explains their rationale. “The Netherlands is the best possible place in the world for starting, growing and internationalizing blockchain business, and is the number one gateway to the rest of Europe.”

Hackathon participant Duncan Smit of startup DutchVR said, “I’m excited to be a part of this. The location is great, as well as the wide variety of participants”. Anticipating the changes that virtual reality will have in store, DutchVR focuses on virtual user interfaces. “Blockchain is so new still, that it triggers different thinking in different people. When all this thinking is brought together, something beautiful will come out, I’m sure of it,” he added.

Blockchain for humanitarian relief

The City of The Hague’s Anna Menenti and Mariken Gaanderse co-hosted a round table in the “Humanitarian Aid” track that they chaired together with the Red Cross’s Stefania Giodini. They focused on a question that was brought in by the Red Cross: how to build a peer-to-peer system to realize humanitarian relief straight from the beneficiary to the victim, rather than a third party like an NGO or governmental organization being involved as an intermediary?

The question was inspired by the fact that organizing emergency relief often proves to be immensely hard in practice. “When areas, like the island of Sint Maarten, are completely devastated, it can be terribly complex to adequately organize the supply of goods within a short time period,” Steven Gort of ICTU summarized the context in which humanitarians often have to operate.

“In conflict areas, the transfer takes 5 to 6 months with many difficult control switches in between. We would love to end up having a solution where, on a business-to-business level and with proper identification, the demand will be taken care of within a shorter time period,” he added.

Startup solutions for Sint Maarten

In order to translate the abstract notion of blockchain to a real-life situation, the round table’s participants focused on the current needs of the island of Sint Maarten. Anna, Mariken and Stefania encouraged their participants to take a stab at the brand new “Startup Solutions for Sint Maarten” challenge that was just launched at Impact Startup Fest earlier this week.

StartupDelta special envoy Constantijn Van Oranje and Vice-Chief of Defence Martin Wijnen jointly launched Startup Solutions for Sint Maarten in The Hague last Tuesday. They call on startups to contribute to accelerated recovery of the island of Sint Maarten after the disastrous effects of Hurricane Irma earlier this month. It’s the first initiative of its scale worldwide.

The Netherlands Red Cross’s in-house startup, 510, expressed its commitment to take away the ideas from the round table and turn them into a pilot on the island of Sint Maarten in the next two years. 510 plays an exemplary role in leading the way for future startup involvement in humanitarian relief. They are keen to build an ecosystem of NGOs, governments and IT and financial organizations that are willing to partner to come up with scalable and reusable game changers in humanitarian aid.