Standards needed to unblock blockchain confusion

A powerful coalition of business leaders have called for greater standards in the global use of blockchain technology.

It comes with the release of the Global Standards Mapping Initiative (GSMI), the first and most comprehensive effort to assess the current state of blockchain.

Based on input from over 30 technical standard-setting entities, 185 jurisdictions and nearly 400 industry groups, the reports are accessible to the public and intended to serve as a resource for the blockchain community to develop thoughtful frameworks and standards to propel the industry forward according to the organisations behind the initiative.

The reports, released by the World Economic Forum and the Global Blockchain Business Council (GBBC), map and assess the current blockchain and digital asset landscape across three distinct areas: technical standards; legislation and guidance by sovereign and international bodies; and industry best practices and standards.

They raise concerns around the technology’s fragmentation both worldwide and within jurisdictions, overlaps, gaps and conflicts in standard-setting – and where these activities may be premature – a lack of dynamic guidance for new uses of the technology, the need for proactive strategies from organisations, and the important role regulators will play in shaping the future of the technology. 

The initiative is led by the World Economic Forum and the Global Blockchain Business Council (GBBC), with collaboration from Accenture; Digital Currency Initiative, MIT Media Lab; ESG Intelligence; Global Digital Finance (GDF); Hyperledger, The Linux Foundation; ING; the Milken Institute; SIX Digital Exchange (SDX); and other global entities.

Sheila Warren, Head of Blockchain at the World Economic Forum, said: “There has been a strong demand signal for a catalogue of standards-related activity that could serve as a cornerstone for facilitating responsible deployment and interoperability. We were excited to collaborate with the Global Blockchain Business Council and members of our Blockchain Council to create this open resource that can be used by the ecosystem, policy-makers, and beyond, to inform their approaches to the technology and standards moving forward.”

Sandra Ro, Chief Executive Officer of the Global Blockchain Business Council, added: “GSMI partners and collaborators are a diverse group of stakeholders across industries, governments and academia who represent a range of perspectives and ideologies. Their coming together to lay the foundation towards greater harmonisation and clarity surrounding standard-setting exemplifies the unique ethos of the blockchain community rooted in collective progress and collaboration. The Global Blockchain Business Council (GBBC) is proud to have incubated this initiative alongside the World Economic Forum and looks forward to continued collaboration as the GSMI evolves and develops beyond this initial release. We invite new partners to join us as we build upon this initial body of work, GSMI version 1.0.”

As blockchain continues to evolve and scale, clarity on its technical, regulatory and governance models will be paramount in shaping the trajectory and potential of the technology, said the group’s statement. “The GSMI is an ongoing effort that will continue to grow.”

“The next wave of innovation will be driven by collaborative ecosystems, underpinned by blockchain and multiparty systems,” explained David Treat, GBBC Board Chair and Senior Managing Director and Head of Accenture’s Blockchain Business. “The technology is advancing quickly, but the complexities of the standards, frameworks and policies necessary to align to best practices have risked slowing progress to broad-based adoption. At Accenture, we believe this important initiative offers a significant leap forward as we help our clients to drive business transformation and shape the future with more resilient, transparent and secure infrastructures.”

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