I’m an ICT industry executive based in Vancouver, Canada.
In the course of my career I have lived and worked in various cities so consider myself a “global” citizen. I am also a global Netizen, having gone on-line with email and X25 networking protocols in the mid eighties. I continue to be amazed at the power and spread of the internet, with its current spinning of new social media sites and dynamic new marketing models. Despite all its vulnerabilities, its dark underbelly , from unlawful intrusions, to identity theft and scams, I remain optimistic about the liberating potential the internet gives to all of us who have unfettered access; a public forum and an open, accountable marketplace.
A large part of my work has been in the telecommunications industry. I have seen the industry restructure from large corporate monopolies, that went from cosy government departments, to nimble CLECs, to the darlings of M&A investment banking. In various roles, I have lived through privatization, deregulation, start-up innovation, massive capitalization and subsequent collapse of the telecom bubble. A very interesting ride, marvelously described by Bill Koss in his book, Six Years that Shook the World.
But in the course of my business travels around the planet, as I am sure happened to many others, I had my “Piketty” moment. It became impossible not to notice the huge discrepancies between the comfortable worlds we work from and those that we sell to or pillage from; of the imbalances in global trade, the social injustices that prevail, the conflict between corrupt and fair trade practices, the huge environmental impact of accelerated modernization. When the current economic meltdown turned the banking system into an unrealistic bubble, similar in many ways to that telecom bubble, far removed from its asset base, it struck me that amidst the chaos, some good opportunities had to arise; opportunities for ICT to improve regulatory and accounting services for the financial sector as it underwent a much needed restructuring. I began to look at microfinance operations and how those systems operated and were financed.
It also led to my interest in other forms of digital currency (bitcoin, complementary currencies, time banks) and the new security layers being built with blockchain technology.
We are seeing profound changes taking place in the financial services sector. One of these is the application of ICT and cloud based services within existing legacy systems; a complete overhaul of how banking is done. The other is a proliferation of service providers that are creating RT banking services, more efficient than current services because of their low overhead and improved customer service.
Payment processing and money transfers are the most immediate efficiencies that can be improved upon. Big data management and storage are others. Not only is innovation driving the very large RT systems that manage global banking transactions for trade and commerce, but also, much smaller systems or microsystems aimed at the retail segment. Microsystem payments and exchange transactions can be optimized for specific market segments, especially via mobile platforms. Customer service can be improved and streamlined. New cryptographic and blockchain based tools provide the best possible protection from hackers and identity theft. They provide all the banking functions creditors and their customers require to establish and consolidate a transaction. Established blockchain ledgers provide better security and greater account access; big data tools can draw in credit and personal information to verify identities. Identity management and greater awareness of privacy rights are spawning new types of security services. They can be web based or inserted into a bank’s legacy ICT system. They also act as compliance tools for any regulatory body overseeing the transaction within a particular jurisdiction.
What makes the difference in today’s marketplace is that 1. these tools make possible instant, anonymous, encrypted transactions (IMT) between two entities and 2. they can be instantly available for use on any mobile phone. The first has raised a flurry of new regulations aimed at controlling money laundering and other criminal activity. The second, has created a massive new instantly monetizable market place for all kinds of interactive services. It has become a huge new market for advertising, one of the engines behind the internet’s growth.