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Blockchain and Productivity

Productivity and technology have gone hand in hand for years. However, labor productivity has been dwindling since the 1990s and appears to be at a nadir. One of the biggest weaknesses in the system right now is the flow and movement of money. While it is nearly costless to send an email across the globe, it is a lot more difficult to send a dollar to another country.

This is where the blockchain can play a role by facilitating the flow and transfer of money, whether for purchases, payroll, invoicing, or receiving payment.

Blockchain’s potential

Blockchain has great potential to improve productivity not only in government, but in the private sector as well. Its secure, decentralized storage is encrypted in a way such that the information is available only to its users. Blockchain may well usher in the next big productivity revolution.

How is blockchain helpful?

Blockchain is an online open ledger that ensures that all transactions taking place are recorded in a shared database. Transactions are validated within that same decentralized shared database, and the blockchain is thus protected attacks from third parties.  The blockchain requires no validating authorities present in the middle of transactions, which increases efficiency.  You can get more work done using fewer resources, which is the key to high productivity.

The first and the second Industrial Revolutions contributed massively to the growth of productivity, as did revolutions in computing, before productivity began to slow again.  With the introduction of the blockchain, an IT Revolution may be at hand. Since we are residing in a more information and data-based world, more than 90% of financial transactions are conducted digitally. Blockchain can improve the way this 90% works.

Future of blockchain

For example, blockchain technology could be applied to enterprise asset management by keeping track of physical assets, which in turn leads to higher productivity and operational efficiencies. It could also be used to protect digital identities for financial institutions, telecommunication companies, and can reduce the cost of cross-border transfers.  All of these contribute towards getting more work done from fewer resources!

How Blockchain Technology Can Help Create Better Governance

One of the initial advantages of blockchain technology was to avoid the restrictions of central governments by having a decentralized, independent system. Ironically, the technology is now being considered by many governments which see its potential to improve their operations. Some governments are taking the lead in implementing the technology, and many others have plans to adopt it.

In mature, established economies, proponents of blockchain technology hope it will not only save money but improve existing services. In emerging economies, governments are excited about using blockchain technology to address issues such as the lack of essential public services. Keys to successful implementation depend on education and application.

What does blockchain technology offer governments?

Blockchain technology has certain inherent qualities that can assist governments. Data is recorded at each step of a transaction, and is secured and can only be accessed by approved stakeholders when necessary. ‘Who’ is accessing the data and ‘when’ it is accessed is recorded and accessible. Determining authenticity of data and checking identities of owners is made possible.

Each distributed ledger is not maintained or stored by one entity but by many users in a decentralized system. All changes appear on each user’s ledger copy and are encrypted in such a way that they cannot be deleted or changed. Each new block is permanently linked in an unbreakable chain.

How can blockchain benefit ordinary citizens?

In the digital age, many transactions where citizens interface with governments still require bringing personal documents, standing in line and getting the required government stamp, a process which is mistake-prone and inefficient. Blockchain technology could enable any citizen to automatically transact with the government without having to wait in line at a government department. They would be able to do so with complete trust, knowing that the transaction was being certified.

Blockchain could be used to digitize record-keeping of births, deaths and other personal details. The database would form the foundation and transactions would then take place for various services, such as performing a background check.

It can help with social welfare benefits: blockchain uses ‘time stamps’ that record exactly when something takes place, like a birth or a death. ‘Smart blocks’ can self-execute when a trigger is reached. An example of this would be a person losing a job and his or her unemployment status triggering automatic unemployment benefits.

With blockchain, voting could be done directly from home, reducing costs, errors and probably increasing the percentage of people voting. Once votes are cast, it would be virtually impossible to alter them. Many people believe that blockchain technology is the answer to making future elections more secure.

In the U.S., states are taking the lead

A recent Congressional report in the U.S. recommends that the government look at blockchain technology to make it more efficient. In the report from the Joint Economic Committee, no real specifics were given on how functions could be improved. The paper’s authors did mention that it could prevent errors in data and reduce the burden of paperwork. One application it mentioned was the management of the electrical grid and utilities.

On the federal level, paying taxes, receiving social security and veteran’s benefits, getting passports and other services could all be streamlined by using blockchain technologies. Different government departments could coordinate easily, sharing relevant details to reduce bureaucratic delays. Any data recorded once in any department could be requested by another department. Budgets could also be allocated to various departments, releasing funds automatically when certain milestones were reached.

At the state level in the U.S., Illinois has been actively cultivating and investigating the use of blockchain technology. It is keeping a light touch in terms of governance, supporting the building of a blockchain ecosystem and promoting government integration. It’s not the only state that recognizes how government can foster the technology. Delaware has passed a law that allows companies to use blockchain technology to communicate with shareholders as well as to store and transfer securities. Initiatives in the U.S. are seen more on the state level than at federal level at this point.

Public and private sectors will need to co-operate

Blockchain technology has the potential to transform the way businesses operate. It will have a great impact on accounting, auditing and any other process with data lineage.  Banking institutions are looking at ways of using the technology to eliminate certain administrative processes.

In the public sector, governments in Europe and Asia have been looking it as a way to consolidate and link records. Sweden is testing a land registry that is based on blockchain technology. Dubai wants to run its whole government on distributed ledger technology by the year 2020.

The public and private sector will need to collaborate for blockchain technology to be implemented successfully. Regulations would need to be put in place and welcoming environments created for startups. Introducing blockchain strategies at national and local levels could offer competitive advantages.

Emerging markets are likely to lead the way

The governments of emerging markets are more open-minded about using blockchain-based solutions because of the obvious problems the technology could solve. Identity management through a blockchain-based solution is one compelling benefit. Another benefit could be in the delivery of social welfare benefits. Cash is often currently used to pay benefits in rural areas.

Innovation will probably take place faster in developing countries. Mature economies will learn what works and doesn’t work for startups in developing countries before making their own implementations.

A new kind of governance

A private blockchain has efficiency as its main goal, whereas a public blockchain is important for decentralization, independent security, and interoperability. Governments need to look at how to leverage public blockchains. Many countries around the world are taking blockchain technology seriously. It could signal the beginning stages of a new kind of governance with closer and more secure interaction between government, the private sector, and citizens.

Did Cambridge Analytica Get your Facebook Data?

Facebook is trying to contact around 87 million people whose details could have been shared with a third party in the largest data breach yet involving the social media giant. The users, whose data was shared with the research firm Cambridge Analytica, will get a detailed message on their news feeds, according to the tech company.

Didn’t get the notification? Check manually

The political research firm obtained information of roughly 87 million people, of which 70 million are from the United States alone. The rest of the affected people are primarily from Indonesia, the Philippines, the UK and India. If your data was not obtained by the research firm, a notification will appear on your newsfeed along with a button which enables you to change your privacy settings. There are over 2.2 billion users on Facebook, which is why the process is taking time and not all users are able to see the notification yet. The tech giant is rolling out the notification to all users.

But if you want to know about the safety of your data now, then you can manually check it by going to Facebook’s help center.  Mark Zuckerberg, the Chief Executive Officer of the tech giant, revealed while testifying before the Congress that his personal data was also stolen in the Cambridge Analytica breach.

Facebook suspended two more research companies over the past weekend, and asserts that it is taking steps to control the data breach and prevent any future mishaps. The social network has shut down the data analytics company dubbed CubeYou for misusing data from personality quizzes. Moreover, it booted the Canadian analytics firm AggregateIQ for having ties with Cambridge Analytica.

Zuckerberg answers questions over data misuse

At the U.S. congressional hearing on Tuesday, the Facebook CEO and members of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees covered several important topics related to data abuse and security. Despite some verbal fumbles, Zuckerberg seemed both calm and confident while giving answers to the Senate.

When Senator Chuck Grassley asked if Facebook ever required an audit to ensure the elimination of improperly transferred data, the Facebook CEO said “yes.” Zuckerberg added that he did not have the exact figure yet, but his team would follow up with the Senate about the past statistics. In a line of questioning designed to determine whether Facebook had a monopoly, Zuckerberg was asked if Facebook had any direct competitors; he replied that he felt there were several, even when he couldn’t name one specifically.

The Facebook CEO noted that his main priority had always been their social mission of building community, connecting people and bringing the world closer together. He added that developers and advertisers will never take priority over that as long as he is running Facebook.

The stock of the tech giant has plunged more than 15% in the last few weeks, and it will be interesting to see how it holds up in the near future. Several big brands have been leaving the social media giant as well, such as Space X and Tesla (both co-founded by CEO Elon Musk). Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple, has said that he is leaving Facebook. Recently, Playboy fled from the platform as well.


Cryptocurrency Wallets

A cryptocurrency wallet is used for the sending and receipt of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, and are essential in order to use cryptocurrencies. Wallets feature keys which allow only their owners to use them.

For any given coin, it is strongly recommended to use the official, or at least an officially endorsed, wallet, because some ‘wallets’ are nothing more than malware. Never use a wallet if you do not know or do not trust its source.

In spite of their name, cryptocurrency wallets is that they do not actually store your Cryptocurrency. Then why are they called wallets?


Keys of a Wallet

Every Cryptocurrency wallet has two types of keys: a private key and a public key. A private key is a completely secure digital code that is known only by the wallet’s owner.

A public key corresponds to a certain value of cryptocurrency. Public keys can be shared with the person with whom you are trying to make a transaction. The private key enables you to sign a personal message with the public key, which enables you to prove to the other party that you are the owner of your cryptocurrency wallet.

It is important to note that the private key is essential for keeping your cryptocurrency account and the money inside it. You should not share your private key with anyone.


Classification of Cryptocurrency Wallets

There are various types of wallets, which differ based on the type of functionality, the online/offline mode, and the method through which the wallet is accessed. The major types of wallets are:

  1. Desktop Wallet:

A desktop wallet is basically a desktop application which connects with online servers.

  1. Mobile Wallet:

There are cryptocurrency wallet applications that are designed for smartphones as well. These not only involve remote accessibility but also give the option of mobility.

  1. Online Wallet:

An online wallet is a cloud-based service, accessible through a web browser on a desktop or mobile device. These are secure services and allow secure transaction–if the online wallet is from a reputable company. But if the wallet is offered by an organization which lacks security or good synchronization, it could be risky.

  1. Hardware Wallet:

Hardware wallets are specific physical devices—like a USB or a hard drive– that are used for the purpose of safekeeping cryptocurrencies. When they go online, they can connect to cryptocurrency networks, and when the transactions are completed, they can be disconnected and stored safely offline.

  1. Paper Wallet:

Paper wallets act as a hardcopy key for accessing cryptocurrency. Essentially, your private key is stored as a QR code and printed out on paper; it can be inputted whenever you need to make a transaction. Since the paper just contains a QR code and no other data about your cryptocurrency, it can improve security and functionality.


How Secure Are Cryptocurrency Wallets?

Security of cryptocurrency wallets varies. Some of the best wallets use biometric locks as well as other security features. One feature you can insist on is multi-signature transactions. Encrypt your keys.  As with all software, it is important to back up.

You should have at least one backup on an external hard drive of some sort, preferably with no internet connection, so that you can retrieve it in case of a hard drive crash or other data emergency. If you lose access to your cryptocurrency wallet, then you can say goodbye to your cryptocurrency!


How to ensure the security of a Cryptocurrency Wallet?

There are additional measures that you can take to make sure your Cryptocurrency is safe. These include:

  1. Keep your wallet backed up:

You should only store a small amount of cryptocurrency in your online or desktop wallets. These wallets can be accessed by hackers.  For amounts of cryptocurrency, it is better to use a physical or a paper wallet. These wallets act like a backup and work even if your computer gets hacked or stolen.

  1. Keep your wallet up to date:

If your wallet uses any type of software, always make sure that you have that it is updated regularly. Updates help ensure that any vulnerabilities or bugs in the system are fixed in order to thwart hackers.

  1. Maximize the number of security layers you use:

When it comes to cryptocurrency wallets, the more layers of security, the better. Make sure that you are using a cryptocurrency wallet that is popular and known to be secure. Use a strong and complex password to access your cryptocurrency wallet–don’t use simple passwords, guessable phrases about you, or dictionary words.

Bitcoin Hard Forks: Why Bitcoin Rhodium Was Created

The dawn of cryptocurrency and blockchain has brought with it some interesting concepts–along with new jargon to describe them–such as “soft forks” and “hard forks.”  A hard fork refers to a change in the protocol or an upgrade to the protocol software. This often results in the creation of new cryptocurrency out of the old one–the old one continues to exist alongside the new one. A soft fork happens when previous transactions are invalidated through a change in the software protocol. Hard forks are the more common of the two types of forks.

Bitcoin forks

Bitcoin, which is currently the most popular cryptocurrency in the world, has been split multiple times in the past, yielding other cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin Smart, and Bitcoin Gold. The Bitcoin blockchain has so far been forked a total of 29 times, giving birth to 29 other cryptocurrencies. However, the three major hard forks are the ones that led to the creation of Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin Gold and Bitcoin Private.

The first Bitcoin hard fork took place on August 1, 2017, leading to the creation of Bitcoin Cash, which was distributed to all Bitcoin holders at a 1:1 ratio. This means that every Bitcoin holder got 1 Bitcoin Cash in addition to every 1 Bitcoin he or she owned. The second major hard fork took place on October 24, 2017, resulting in the creation of Bitcoin Gold. Bitcoin holders also got Bitcoin Gold at a 1:1 ratio. The third Bitcoin hard fork took place on February 28 this year, and the resulting cryptocurrency was Bitcoin Private, which was also awarded to Bitcoin holders at the same ratio.

Bitcoin Rhodium

A lesser-known coin, known as Bitcoin Rhodium (BTR), is a Bitcoin descendant, but not from a hard fork.  According to its website, it is one of the rarest cryptocurrencies, with only 2.1 million BTR available in the market. It was created by Bitcoin’s blockchain development team and introduced towards the end of last year through an “airdrop,” a process in which tokens are distributed to existing cryptocurrency holders, which started in December and was scheduled to end on March 31.

Bitcoin Rhodium is being developed as a new cryptocurrency–in spite of its name–using C# as the programming language.

The agenda of the team working on BTR was to work on a coin that would be extremely rare while still containing all the best features of Bitcoin. According to the coin’s introduction paper, only 2.1 million BTR will ever be available; half of them were introduced into the market for trading while the other half will be acquired through crypto mining over the next 100 years.

Making Bitcoin Rhodium a scarce cryptocurrency was part of the development team’s idea of not only offering it as a payment method but also as a valuable coin. Even the name was adopted from one of the rarest metals on earth. This rare nature of Bitcoin Rhodium also makes it designed to be an ideal store of wealth. The development team created a community that will provide long-term support through a VoIP app called Discord.

Comparison between Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Rhodium

While Bitcoin Rhodium was centred on scarcity, Bitcoin Cash was created as a solution for Bitcoin scalability problems. It is also used to make payments and can also be mined just like Bitcoin Rhodium.

Fake News Travels Faster On Twitter than True Stories, Reveals an MIT Study

The micro-blogging site Twitter has struggled to regulate the trolls, Russian bots, fake news and alt-right agitators that have infested its platform. Amid this comes a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology which discovered that false news spreads faster on the micro-blogging giant than real news.

Fake, new spam is not due to bots

The new study, implemented by MIT scholars Soroush Vosoughi, Deb Roy and Sinan Aral, found that the spread of false information is not essentially because of bots that are programmed to disseminate false stories. Further, Sinal Aral, who is a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, said that the researchers found that “falsehood diffuses significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth, in all categories of information, and in many cases by an order of magnitude.”

The researchers found that the spread of false news was largely because people were retweeting inaccurate information. The study, published in the paper “The Spread of True and False News Online,” revealed many important figures.  For example, false news is 70% more likely to be retweeted than accurate news stories; it takes accurate news about 6 times longer than false news to reach 1.5k people; and users are more likely to retweet false news than true statements. The three researchers tracked almost 126,000 cascades of news stories on the social media platform to conduct the study. These news stories were tweeted around 4.5 million times by over 3 million users between the years 2006 and 2017.

The study also found that the spread of inaccurate news was mostly in the political news category. In their paper, the researchers used the term “False News” instead of “Fake News” because the latter had multiple, broad meanings.

Reflecting on a simple idea, Roy, who is an associate professor of media arts and sciences at the MIT Media Lab, said “Think before you retweet.”

Twitter CEO asks for help

Twitter, as well as Facebook, is now feeling government pressure to clean the fake news mess.  Twitter has reached a point where it is asking for academic and public help.

Saying that he is not very sure about what will work for the social networking site, the company’s Chief Executive Officer, Jack Dorsey, asked for aid in solving the systemic abuses of Twitter. In a Twitter thread, Dorsey wrote that instead of creating a systemic framework to help motivate healthy conversations, debates and critical thinking, Twitter’s team has in the past focused most of their efforts on removing content that violates Twitter’s terms of service.  Dorsey wrote that they must develop a metric to measure healthy conversation in order to help people in increasing community, as well as individual, and eventually global, public health.  The social network is turning its attention to enhancing the quality of the conversation now.

No social media platform has done something similar yet, so we will have to wait and see what the results will be. Until then, #SAFERETWEETING!