Interview with Jane Thomason


Interview with Dr Jane Thomason, Blockchain Social Impact Though Leader, Australia on blockchain use cases in making social impact. She talks about fixing economic disparity, call for social cause, her work in third world nations and much more.

[00:01:40] Ganesh: Hello viewers, today we have a very interesting guest with us to share about her thoughts and her work in terms of blockchain and she’s been one of the very prominent names in blockchain world. And she’s been doing a lot of community work. And let’s have a listen to Jane Thomason from Australia.

[00:02:13] Ganesh: So welcome to our show and can you please tell us more about yourself and how did you get involved with the blockchain and your work and they would like to hear from you.

[00:02:26] Jane: Yes sure. I’ve been working in emerging economies for most of my life working on international development programs a lot in the health sector. Poverty reduction governance women’s empowerment. A little more than three years ago my son told me about blockchain and he advised me to start learning about it because he said it was going to change the world. So I paid attention to him and I started trying to understand it. And then after a while, I suddenly realized what an impact that it could have on problems of poverty and inequality. So since then, I’ve really been on a journey to persuade institutions how blockchain really could change the lives of many people.

[00:03:36] Ganesh: So you seem to be taking the blockchain use case to a whole new level. Please share us about your work in various countries and social sectors.

[00:03:48] Jane: So I’m not personally running blockchain projects. What I do however connect with people who are doing social impact projects and I’m an adviser on a number of projects and I’m working with people in India and Africa on a number of different projects and trying to support them and encourage them and see how the implementation of their projects go. So there’s a whole range of different projects around the world that I’m tracking. And increasingly it’s a lot of the government of Kenya is about to put out a report that had a blockchain taskforce and they’re looking very seriously at this for a whole range of government services.

[00:05:32] Ganesh: That’s pretty interesting. So do you really feel blockchain can help eliminate financial inequality in the societies across geographical boundaries and how?

[00:05:42] Jane: I would like to answer it in this way because there’s there’s a sort of philosophical group who is saying that block change will be the great equalizer and everyone will have an abundant future. I’m not sure that I’m in that camp. If you can find a way to allow anyone to be able to sell their data if they would like to earn money from it then that’s only going to be a good thing. But I don’t think that that will create supreme equality in the world. But I think it will improve significantly the lives of the poor and vulnerable.

[00:07:25] Ganesh: That’s kind of revolutionary in picking the economy to the nooks and corners of the world where people have access to the mainstream, what to say, a level playing field.

[00:07:42] Jane: I think that that’s why I get excited about it because if we can do it which is a big if that it really can change people’s lives. I’ve worked for many years on women’s and children’s health and thinking about the key things that impact on women’s and children’s health. So there’s a whole lot of different ways in which blockchain can apply at different parts of the system that are going to improve women’s and children’s health as well as climate change. Green energy everywhere we see if we can make it work it’s got a lot of potentials.

[00:08:38] Ganesh: So for many developing countries like India the blockchain adoption is at an entry level. So please share your experience of ‘blockchain for e-governance’ in 2018.

[00:08:53] Jane: Well I think the reality is that blockchain is a very early stage technology. I mean bitcoin was the first example of a blockchain at scale but most of the other projects with blockchain are at the sort of use case or multiple use cases as timing so it’s going to take some time before all of those things can connect up and actually be scaled. And I believe that it’s in the interests of governments and international institutions to get involved to help shape the technology so it actually starts to be used for the benefit of citizens in a way that governments are going to be able to want to use. So if you start with Estonia it’s probably the most digitized country in the world and it’s also a country that’s done this using blockchain and we have Dubai who is now saying that by 2020 they’ll be paperless on the blockchain and you have other smaller fast moving countries like Mauritius and Bermuda who are all moving very fast because they see the benefits for their citizens.

[00:11:23] Ganesh: So how has blockchain progressed in the African continent and how does it compare with the developed nations of all of America and Europe.

[00:11:34] Jane: Well I do believe that we are going to see more and more and more innovation coming out of emerging economies. We’re seeing it already. And I think we’re going to see it increasing. And quite simply their problems are greater. I think the second thing is that emerging economies have this massive youth bulge so they have young people who are digitally literate and who will be welcoming digital solutions to to their problems. I was really amazed actually last year I went we did a hackathon in a blockchain conference in Nigeria in Lagos and there was so much innovation such a strong tech community such a sense of purpose and intent. And we’re seeing that right across the number of African countries as well. So I think we’re just going to see it booming.

[00:13:11] Ganesh: So what kind of impact block change could make in healthcare specifically?

[00:13:13] Jane: Well there’s a whole range of different ways that blockchain can help with health care. And people are working on it. Again my prediction is that we’re going to see this move much faster in emerging economies. Health care whether it’s medical records or drug trials or provenance in drug supply systems or you know in credentialing of health workers for example because if you need to go back to the original institution that doctors graduated and get an original copy of their record that takes months and months and months where whereas people are now working on projects where universities can the first time they issue a certificate recorded up onto the blockchain and then that can move with the person wherever they go in the world. So it will speed up credentialing in health care.

[00:14:27] Ganesh: And how can integrating artificial intelligence on the blockchain help common people have better access to health care facilities?

[00:14:42] Jane: Well it’s not access to health care facilities it’s access to health care. Because one of the things that we need to be moving on is getting people out of hospitals into the home. So artificial intelligence is going to be able to help people be managed better at home help medicine be more precise in terms of looking at an individual’s particular problems makeup diagnostics and so forth and so that they can be managed at home. Artificial intelligence agents are going to be able to help save remote community health workers to make better diagnosis a diagnosis and treatment of patients and artificial intelligence coupled with things like satellite data is going to be able to be much more effective at predicting epidemics for example.

And being hackathon judge what suggestions you would give two participants to perform even better or win the competition. What would be your advice for them?

[00:16:32] Jane: Look I think the first thing and often this is the last thing the teams do is a lot of winning a hackathon is in your pitch so don’t spend the whole time in the hackathon developing your code and developing your idea. So I move as quickly as you can to get the ideas shaped up and then divide the work amongst different team members so someone can be coding someone can be working on the pitch deck and the most important thing which teams often struggle with is don’t get your brilliant coder up to be the person who does the pitch just because he can build the product.

[00:17:32] Ganesh: So how can block team help revolutionize supply chain related use cases?

[00:17:34] Jane: Well supply chain actually is the one that in the commercial world is moving the fastest because both in the two areas I think the most significant one is to the track and trace of a commodity and so also the provenance. So you know exactly where it came from exactly. Every point of handling and until it gets to its destination. And the second one is in payments because blockchain can enable the smart contracts can enable payments to be instantaneous so if certain things happen then a payment will be made. So we’re seeing a lot of activity with supply chain all around the world in different ways.

[00:18:25] Ganesh: So how does your company deal with the regulations in blockchain space. Are they posing any hindrance to your social projects?

[00:18:35] Jane: Look not really because I think we all need to be working together with the regulator’s people from industry and people who are thinking about policy need to work together with the regulators and help them understand what’s happening with the technology. And so it takes to be a collaboration between industry and the regulators to actually think about what’s the reasonable way of regulating. You know I think the other thing too is to look at what different countries are doing in terms of regulation and regulatory sandboxes and learn from other countries because everyone’s learning at the same time no one actually knows the answer to this. And so we’re trying to figure out how to reasonably govern the future and everyone’s with that same problem together.

[00:19:45] Ganesh: So were you able to influence regulators or even the government in terms of bringing in the new policy or really altering the existing policies. Have you been able to succeed on that front?

[00:19:58] Jane: Well I wouldn’t say succeed but what I would say is I’ve been in two conversations one with the AP that’s the Asia-Pacific Economic Community regulators and one with another. Both of them closed-door meetings talking with regulators about what’s happening with blockchain and the new technologies and what worries them and what their responses might be. So what I could say is you know no one’s really come down with the conclusion that the regulators are very keen on having the conversation on learning themselves and then thinking about how they protect citizens and how they ensure that technology is used in a responsible way. So you know you’ve got for example Bermuda in May this year launched the first comprehensive cryptocurrency regulations. So the old style of a sovereign government regulates within geography actually isn’t going to be effective in this new digital world.

[00:21:32] Ganesh: So how a blockchain technology will play a role in addressing environmental and global warming challenges?

[00:21:47] Jane: Well there was actually a book published last year around blockchain and climate change and green energy. And it’s a really interesting book by Alistair markets a series of case studies on different aspects of climate change and blockchain. But I think that the three areas that you would be looking at. One is carbon trading. The second one is actually the flow of climate funds to make sure that it gets down to the beneficiaries because the system of distributing climate funds is currently very cumbersome. And then the third one is the ability for people in villages to microgrid trade solar energy so you can create producers and consumers of solar energy and small amounts of solar energy can be sold in villages to different people.  So I think the three to be looking at but there’s a lot of work going on in this area.

[00:22:54] Ganesh: So you have been looking on a lot of social projects. So how do you get blockchain projects challenges socioeconomic disparity?

[00:23:06] Jane: Well we’re learning about that. We’re learning methods as they go. And one of the challenges that we have is because most of these projects only started at the earliest in 2016 some in 2017. So they’re rolling out now. So we’re learning as they do it. What the impact is going to be so I’m one of the things we need is for people to start writing up and documenting these case studies so that people can learn.

[00:24:09] Ganesh: So why not have a consensus on a mechanism for cross-border regulations similar to that of that very blockchain technology itself or even the WTO. Is it a possibility?

[00:24:24] Jane: I think it’s more than a possibility and I think it will have to come. But I don’t think anyone’s ready for it yet because the challenge that the world will face with this is that our old style of governance structure whether it’s sovereign governments and the United Nations and the various regional bodies probably is going to be challenged by technology and we’ll be challenged to have to change. So I think this is the big question of how the digital economy is going to be regulated.

[00:25:29] Ganesh: So you were mentioning about you’re writing a book at the beginning of our conversation. Would you like to share more about the book the contents and when you are going to publish them?

[00:25:47] Jane: The book on blockchain and social impact which is really my interest because what I want to do is accelerate people’s adoption of not just blockchain but blockchain AI and other frontier technologies to solve social problems that we think share elements with for many decades. So essentially the book is around that it talks about how it’s going to help in humanitarian settings with the government with cities and then deals with a range of different use cases including healthcare and agricultural supply chain Big Data and analytics and so forth.

[00:26:44] Ganesh: When can we expect the book of being published?

[00:26:47] Jane: Probably around April.

[00:26:50] Ganesh: April, so another two months down the line.

[00:27:16] Jane: Thanks very much. And thank you to everyone for listening. Yeah.

[00:27:20] Ganesh: We wish you all the best for your book. Thank You.