Interview with Jonathan Lehman, CSO Government Blockchain Association

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Blockchain’s bond with Governance

A synergy between blockchain development and government regulations is required. And in this interview with Mr. Jonathan Lehman, Chief Strategy Officer of Government Blockchain Association (GBA), we ask him about the pressing issues related to blockchain and government adoption of this high technology.

Ganesh: Hello viewers today we have got an awesome guest from the US, he is Mr.Jonathan Lehman, Chief Strategy Officer of Government Blockchain Association and he is going to share with us what’s the role and the critical aspects of Government Blockchain Association. So here we have Mr.Jonathan.

Hello Mr.Jonathan, how are you?

Jonathan: I am doing well, Ganesh, thank you very much. It’s an honor to be here and thanks for inviting me.

[00:00:44]

Ganesh: Our pleasure to have you on board and we are so excited to listen from you as to what’s ahead of us in 2019 as far as blockchain world is concerned. So let us start interview first and let me ask you to quickly introduce yourself for our viewers and also how you happen to get yourself involved in blockchain revolution.

Jonathan: Great, thanks. So my journey to blockchain till here has been rooted in very early long before the www. My latest background has been in enterprise social collaboration. And I happened to meet the president and founder of the GBA and first thing I said to him is how many people do you have working with and he said well two. Here we are today with 90 chapters and 45 countries and 45 working groups. So that’s what got me to this point.

[00:03:40]

Ganesh: That’s pretty interesting you know, you got into this out of curiosity, right? So can you elaborate on the various roles that GBA is playing to bring in the individuals, organizations, governments together.

Jonathan: GBA is a non-profit trade organization as I said 90 chapters and 45 countries. We are a connector and our mission is to promote blockchain organizations in the public sector. So we just built the playground where our members can collaborate and communicate on actual projects within our working groups.

[00:05:15]

Ganesh: Interesting. So GBA claims to be non-profit and not interested in lobbying. How different is this from lobbying?

Jonathan: Right, well that’s a great question and it comes up all the time. So in the US, the IRS designates the trade associations. We are C6 so we operate in accordance with those rules and regulations. We provide feature, not on lobbying but policymaking. We advise on policy, we advise members maybe in their working groups, their blog or white paper or presentation.

[00:07:08]

Ganesh: Can you highlight the impact of work GBA’s activities has been doing in terms of policy making or regulations or compliance etc?

Jonathan: This goes back into our position to contribute to policy awareness and knowledge. We’ve delivered white papers to the French government regarding their interest in cryptocurrency and regulations. We recently did a white paper for the country Cameroon looking at what impact raising tokens or raising security might have on the whole of the government and kind of what the pros and cons of that would be. Those are some areas where we are contributing to building awareness and maybe some guidelines but we are not pushing any specific agenda.

[00:08:56]

Ganesh: That’s nice. That’s an incredible work. Why is blockchain and governance a pressing issue? And is 2019 all set for government regulators to initiate blockchain pilots?

Jonathan: This is another great question. I do think the governance of cryptocurrencies is very complicated and I think that’s going to continue to be so. But here in the in the States, we’ve got states doing things like Wyoming Ohio Arizona Virginia all of these states are being extremely progressive in pursuing launching friendly environments.. Governments are really slow to implement blockchain developments, but it will be done with time. Resistance is futile.

[00:12:43]

Ganesh: How many Governments you are able to gain access to and bring them to a discussion table and how would you rate the engagement level?

Jonathan: Given the newness of this technology and given that GBA is little over 18 months old, we have interacted with the states at national and international levels.The interactions that are going to come out, I know, will be huge. It would result in an explosion of our chapters in the Asia region.

[00:14:31]

Ganesh: You seem to be offering courses on blockchain and cryptocurrency. Who are generally the beneficiaries of your courses? What’s their motto of getting educated through your certification?

Jonathan: Thanks for asking this question because our training and certification is one of our biggest values that our members can get. Our target student is generally business oriented. We don’t go into deep depths of technology. They empower our members to engage in conversations that they would never have done before.

[00:16:11]

Ganesh: So it is more sort of executive level courses?

Jonathan:  Right, you could say that. We are developing specialized courses. We are developing custom content for working groups.

[00:17:43]

Ganesh:Have any of the beneficiaries of your courses developed any products in blockchain that solve problems faced by public sector?

Jonathan: It is kind of tough question to answer. We have had members after going through the courses, getting some work done. However, we do not have many things coming up. It is like tending the garden. We have sown the seeds and watered it but not yet harvested.

Ganesh: This itself is a great work in a short span of time.

[00:19:32]

Ganesh:We saw that in your GBA certification, developer courses were Ethereum and Hyperledger. Any more courses in the pipeline?

Jonathan: The way our course program has evolved, well GBA has some training partners and they have to meet some requirements. So, GBA has gotten out of the training game for the most part. GBA does not engage in technical aspects. We are more into business.

[00:21:22]

Ganesh:Referring to your Students Chapter, GBA has suggested to introduce blockchain to graduate students. How to drive innovation from students, beyond mere awareness? What are the challenges involved in this initiative?

Jonathan: Really like that question. The way I look at it is that the students of today are the workforce of tomorrow. At this point we cannot tell our younger generation this is what you are going to do because we don’t have the questions. So all we can do is support them in their educational growth.

[00:24:21]

Ganesh: Can a decentralized system ledger like blockchain, work within the strongly centralized public sector? Is it a possibility?

Jonathan: Yes and no. Yes in terms of many of the services and data that the government provides for citizens. I say No to those that government provides requires strict regulations, mission-critical enterprise systems, personal identifiable information.

[00:27:47]

Ganesh: For a quick question. The recent shutdown in US, has it affected mainstream acceptance of blockchain?

Jonathan: That’s interesting. I have been following up on cryptocurrencies and no, the current situation has not affected it. [The shutdown] has had a ripple effect and how to prevent it in the future, the answer is blockchain.

[00:29:41]

Ganesh:With Chinese government drafting new regulation by asking blockchain users to register with their government IDs thereby scrapping the anonymity. What are your
thoughts about the restriction?

Jonathan: Since GBA does not involve in lobbying, i may be treading not too close to anything policy related. Things will shake out. China has a different structure, behind the wall that they have created. I don’t know whether individuals care much about their identity, like here in the states.

[00:31:27]

Ganesh: To continue on the same question, did GBA interact with Chinese government, bring them on the discussion table?

Jonathan: As GBA we could, absolutely. They could comment on our policies, good or bad. We could have some engagements with our chapters there. China may be a little way off, but it will happen.

Ganesh: That will be a real breakthrough if we can make this happen in the coming months. We’ll hope for that.

[00:33:40]

Ganesh: Can you name any solutions you or your member companies proposed to US Government or any other Government that were approved and implemented?

Jonathan: This goes back to one of our value props as part of GBM is to provide that environment where our members can expand their business development so within our cybersecurity working group we had an agency asked for our opinions on policies and a white paper on hosting blockchain technology within government approved data centers in order to. For an organization to get into a data center can take up to 18 months.

So are our working group lead. His company is Stratos Cyber and he led the working group for that and the whole group produced this white paper and it was about what would it take to get an ATO – authority to operate in. And so they they delivered that paper. Well they turned around and offered Stratus contract to further expand with the policy and with the research had uncovered.

That’s why people join it’s it really is not just to meet other people but the business development.

[00:36:23]

Ganesh:Should the government of countries nominate blockchain experts to the parliament? Would this help the upcoming technology?

Jonathan: Right.Absolutely. It will help. No question about that. And not only that your blockchain friendly legislators are going to build legislation around those benefits and what they can do with offering or enticing blockchain businesses to come to their state.

[00:39:35]

Ganesh: How critical it is bringing the Highly Sensitive Data into blockchain in terms of security and confidentiality?

Jonathan:I touched earlier the the highly sensitive data and mission critical enterprise systems that may hold things such as the personally identifiable information There isn’t any more or less risk than the current private cloud systems that they have in place. That’s not hacking the blockchain that’s just bad security.

[00:42:04]

Ganesh:You claim to be a non-profit organisation aimed at bringing about positive social changes using blockchain technology. Would GBA remain that way forever Or are there any possibilities of commercial ventures in developing solutions in collaboration with Industry and Governments on the cards?

Jonathan: I’d say it’s a great question because as a nonprofit we rely only on member memberships and is a little bit on training. So we have to look at creative ways. However given our non-profit status and and the type of nonprofit we are we’re somewhat limited in what we can do as far as services.

[00:44:34]

Ganesh: I know you’re not ruling it off completely.

Jonathan: When it comes to money obviously things change a bit. And you know it certainly is possible. You know it may make the best sense for us to have a for profit sister organization that we can take better advantage of, that profit status and better advantage than of the non-profit status. So yes, that’s a possibility.

[00:45:54]

Ganesh: What are the challenges your member companies encounter while applying blockchain solutions to solve the problems faced by the Governments? How do they overcome them?

Jonathan:That that goes back to the organizational change management. So overcoming them is no different than overcoming the change management that happened for ERP systems or e-mail. So it it basically I kind of think about that and I can just take blockchain away out of the question and it’s still the same answer.

[00:47:41]

Ganesh:Right. So where you able to provide any training or education to the government itself?

Jonathan: Several of our we’ve had several people come through our training then our government employees or past employees.

[00:48:06]

Ganesh: So, US governments or all other governments?

Jonathan: I’m glad you brought that up because I am focusing a lot on the US and federal government and state governments..This is you know this is what we tend to do in America. You know there’s a whole rest of the world out there. So we had to expand our thinking. The best analogy that that I see is that a foreign nation states are very similar to our states.

[00:50:27]

Ganesh:Is it possible to have uniform regulations of blockchain across the globe; since more countries imposing regulations on blockchain-related business are generating chaos among the businesses.

Jonathan:  If anyone is well positioned to do that it would be us. It would be GBA.That’s because we’re building a coalition.You know it’s not an exclusive club. You know if we could all do that. It would be a different place.

Ganesh: Maybe at the incremental level, not one shot.

Jonathan:So there will be things that happen. It definitely won’t be a big bang but a lot of what we do will be borderless much as the Internet is.

[00:54:09]

Ganesh:With more crypto-related firms hacked in the past; How do you justify Blockchain technology is highly secured and immutable, especially for Government Projects which you mentioned are mission critical?

Jonathan: There’s been a lot of hacks there’s been a lot of money lost. But has the chain ever been hacked? No it’s exchanges, its websites and  its databases. It’s not the chain itself. That was a matter of just sloppy systems.I don’t see a hacking of a public chain happening sort of anytime soon.

[00:57:48]

Ganesh:Can blockchain technology help in confronting global warming and terrorism; What’s your take on this?

Jonathan: That touches close to me. There have been many initiatives that touches upon human trafficking, water including global warming. Terrorism, yes, it works towards Anti Money Laundering,KYC. The FBI loves blockchain and can bring to book nefarious actors.

Ganesh: Thank you Mr. Jonathan Lehman. You have been kind enough to answer all our questions.