The event started with an introductory speech by Antanas Guoga- Founder of #Switch and the Blockchain Centre Vilnius and Member of European Parliament.
Guoga identified the conference #Switch Launch as “non-for-profit event focused on inspiring young people” emphasizing that this was a dream of his and his team four years ago, to make Lithuania as “the capital of the world for start-ups” according to him.
“How do we deliver this sort of projects that can change the world and help people solve problems… we need one project; one project can change the world” he added.
Guoga drew the attendees’ attention to the significant contribution the centre has made so far in Lithuania.
Barriers to Mass Adoption of Blockchain Technology Under the Light
To identify the barriers and obstacles that obstruct the the mass adoption of blockchain, a panel discussion was carried out to enrich the talk.
The panel included prominent names in the financial scope in Lithuania and the EU, like Arnoldas Pranckevičius- Head of European Commission Representation Office in Lithuania, Martinš Liberts- CEO of Debitum Network, Elijus Čivilis- CIO of the Government & Vice-Minister of Economy of the Republic of Lithuania, Eglė Nemeikštytė- CEO of Blockchain Centre Vilnius, in addition to Magdalena Golebiewska- Country Manager (Eastern Europe) at LUNO.
Zygimantas Zabieta - the host presenter of the event, opened the panel discussion by identifying the barriers of Blockchain adoption in three points: institutional, technical, and educational barriers, describing Lithuania to be “definitely among the leaders in developing Blockchain businesses, in raising the capital, in ICO, and in building the product”, seeing that Lithuania “can be an example in the EU”, according to him.
In an answer to whether there are any examples the government of Lithuania has, or is planning to have, to implement solutions for Blockchain technology in public services,
Elijus Čivilis- being presented as “the representative of the government”, started the discussion in drawing attention to that neither Blockchain or ICOs were invented by governments, adding: “We as a government are highly excited about this, that Lithuanians are being so successful in that, and as policymakers, we do want to enable and foster that”, stressing out that many governmental bodies in Lithuania keep an eye on this industry and think positive about it, which- from his point of view- means it is an acknowledgment that the industry exists, encouraging people to “go for it” to buy bitcoin “if they intend to do something good”, without waiting until issuing the regulations for that, while regulating it is still on the agenda.
“In general, I just wanted to give a positive message: it is a fantastic thing what is happening, we are supporting it, and let’s continue the same attitude as we had up until now”, Čivilis concluded.
Blockchain from the Lithuanian Standpoint VS Other European States – EU Regulation in Process
Taking the discussion a dimension further, Zabieta cited that "while the Lithuanian Minister of Finance stands by the blockchain’s side, the Lithuanian stance was contrasted with its other counterparts in the EU", forwarding a question to Arnoldas Pranckevičius, about how other ministers and policymakers in other EU states feel about Blockchain and cryptocurrency, emphasizing the posture of Brussels, who in his turn gave a statement that “finance ministers are always reticent, skeptical and conservative on many issues, unlike the ministers of economy who are always driving the change and innovation, so that is an actual balance, in any government” in his vision.
“Naturally, the mood in European institutions is also changing quite rapidly, especially in the executive branch -the European Commission- which I represent”, Pranckevičius added.
In his opinion, the European Commission believes that the blockchain technologies are transformative ones, not only in the banking and finance sectors we see at the moment, however, thirty percent of the whole activities happening in that sector.
Pranckevičius briefed that they also “hope that in the future, in the fields of E-health, E-government, E-voting, and E-taxing, etc... There will be so much wider application that can have major benefits to the society”, in terms of increasing the trust, feasibility and security.
“We would like to be at the forefront of this innovation, and therefore, the European Commission already created in February this year the EU blockchain observatory and forum, which aims for mapping the blockchain initiatives in Europe, and the Lithuanian deeds in that context are big spots on that map of Europe” unveiled Pranckevičius.
The latter pointed out as well to that the European Commission has dedicated eighty-four million EUR so far for the research and development in Blockchain technologies, and is planning to invest in three hundred forty million by 2020, trying to facilitate the dialogue, and share expertise, in addition to providing financing for future research, and that in the future, the European Commission will take a significant role in clarifying the legal and regulatory framework, so that “we all can function in the area of certainty and productivity” according to him.
Competition is the Key to Change
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”, Mahatma Gandhi says!
Having spent a considerable period of time in the same business in Brussels too, from her perspective, Eglė Nemeikštytė deems that the best way to change the attitude of those ministers who keep a distance form the blockchain technology and virtual money is “to show competition”, reminding that Lithuania is competing very well in that field today.
“We showed that so many start-ups are in Lithuania for a reason” added Nemeikštytė.
According to the latter as well, Lithuania has so many institutions that are open to talk directly to companies and discuss the problems with them.
The “great ecosystem in Lithuania helps people learn about the blockchain technology and cryptocurrency” as per her.
“People have the opportunity for trying this technology at blockchain centres”,as she sees, in addition to the fact that Lithuania enjoys the advantage of having “great developers” who are interested in blockchain technology and learn new coding languages “quite quickly”, described she.
“showing what Lithuania has achieved in this regard over the past years may interest other ministers” Nemeikštytė commented.
“In Brussels, the discussion about blockchain and cryptocurrency started several years ago, starting at the European Parliament, which adopted a report about blockchain technology this year, which came up with a positive outcome, which reflects that European politicians do believe in blockchain technology and endorse it, as Nemeikštytė briefed.
“Where there are risks, there are opportunities, and the European Commission and other member-states, in addition to the European Parliament, adopted a new legislative framework about AML, and next year it will be clearer for companies regarding how they should do their KYC procedures, and this is very important, so I would say that the competition is the key”, closed Nemeikštytė.
Quality of Usability and User Experience Paves the Way
In a statement on whether there are any evident technical barriers that the technology has still not overcome, in his turn, Martinš Liberts commented “In reality it is quite hard to get into crypto, to transfer money somewhere, to make the first purchase, so I think there are some technical issues and barriers at the moment, and I think as companies, what we have to do, is to remember that we are not blockchain companies, we are regular companies doing variant businesses, like fintech, health, etc... and we just happen to be in the blockchain technology. So what it means is that, we need to put usability, user experience in front of everything, and this is something I have seen it needs to change a bit, that maybe the crypto community doesn’t want to push that usability so fast, rather than technology, but for people to start using it, usability should be put in the first place, as long as with user experience.
For instance, when you use your mobile phone, you don’t care about how the operating system of that phone works, and you just care about benefiting from the services it is supposed to deliver.
So I think that this is something we have to do at technology’s side, as there are still barriers, and only specialized companies are working on fixing them, to make it available for the mainstream layer as well”, Martinš closed.
Blockchain Technology Changes Rapidly- How to Follow Up the Market Trends?
To answer a question about how Luno deals with the market in this context, Magdalena Golebiewska explains “Obviously, every company wants to make its services simple and easy to use. It is about how to interact with the customer, so as for usability, companies usually tend to think about the products they provide as being new and they have to focus on the customer. Toyota, as an example company, started to take that into their consideration a long time ago, so they made themselves a focused company, and cared about getting feedback from customers. They did that with their employees as well, and asked them for feedback, which in my opinion is the first milestone in usability”.
Golebiewska sees that the issue is, the changes that take place in the world have to be followed up, commenting that at the beginning, it was their surroundings and meeting rooms only in the company.
“We found ourselves emerging the digital world, where the computer was prevailing. Now we have the mobile phone, so mobile devices are taking over the biggest share of usability, so it is about changing our system if we are to develop something. Now the change demand is constant, and almost every month the product should be changed, to contain the rapid change in the market trends, especially in the blockchain industry, where the most important thing is to observe the customer” added Golebiewska.
The latter revealed as well that Luno carries out surveys and research on customers every month, focusing on quantity and quality, and the feedback they sometimes receive is “mind-blowing”, as per her description.
One of the surveys Luno has recently conducted is highlighted in the article: Crypto Market in Lithuania: Where is it Today?.
Golebiewska comments: “Based on my experience in the places I have traveled to so far, I can say that there are no two markets that are the same. Every market is different from the other. Every chance I had to explore new spaces allowed me to identify there is something unique in it”
In her point of view, if the the customer gets interviewed, and told they are being presented this product, alongside with giving enough account of information about the product, and the service it can deliver to that supposed customer, that customer will say they will use the product, when they get convinced it is for them, and this is how loyalty is built, the thing that will guarantee success in the business being done, emphasising that “the job of regulating cryptocurrency is the government’s. They have to do that. The purpose of the governmental financial institutions is to help people”, as she concluded.
Emerging Market in figures
On the margin of the event the Blockchain Centre Vilnius ran, it was mentioned that emerging market is now 2.6 billion people. It is 30 percent of the whole number of the world population. In 2025, it will be two more billion people, which means 50% of the world population will be in emerging market, the thing that translates into having the blockchain the most appropriate means for delivering services to them under fast-delivery demands.