Catalonia must be at the forefront of the blockchain revolution

Quirze Salomó. Executive President of the CBCat.
Article published in Economic Report of the Council of Chambers of Catalonia 2020


The CBCat, or Blockchain Center of Catalonia, was born about a year ago now, with the clear objective of disseminating blockchain technology, in order to promote its adoption by the business fabric of Catalonia, with the clear conviction that it is essential that Catalan companies lead the revolution that this new technology will bring in the coming years. Ours is and has always been a pioneering land, with a leading spirit; it is only necessary to remember that, although it is less talked about, the industrial revolution began in our country at the same time as it did in England. 

The Chambers of Commerce of Catalonia are, precisely, an agent that understands more than anyone else the importance of leading change; already in the XNUMXth century, the emblematic building of La Llotja de Mar was a leading financial center of the time, a meeting place for the city's merchants, and where a high number of exchanges and contracts took place. The Chamber of Commerce of Barcelona is in fact the main driving force behind CBCat, together with the Department of Digital Policies of the Generalitat, and a number of key people in the Catalan ecosystem of the blockchain, who firmly support the adoption of technology

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It is important that we all understand that we cannot afford to be left out of this new revolution. We need to search again for the pioneering essence inherent in Catalan society, and to stand up as a driver of change and a digital actor in the international sphere. We have in our hands the opportunity to build the Chambers of Commerce of the XNUMXst century, and not only that, but to lead the digital revolution that is about to start, and that - it is important that we are clear -, it will whether we are in charge or not. 


Why is blockchain so revolutionary?

If you haven't started getting interested in blockchain technology yet (do it now, it's never too late, but never too early either), you might be wondering why there's so much buzz around this new tool. Well, I have to tell you something: it's not much talked about, considering all the changes it will bring! 

It all started in 2008, when an anonymous person (or a group of anonymous people), under the pseudonym of Satoshi Nakamoto, joined a series of previously existing technologies in order to create a digital currency: Bitcoin. The main characteristic of this new technology is decentralization; that is to say, no one has absolute power, but rather its control is distributed among all the participating actors. This guarantees three fundamental pillars: security, transparency and privacy among users. 

Technically, the blockchain is a kind of digital ledger that can only be updated with the consensus of the majority of participants in the system. Once any information is entered, a time stamp is created, and a link to the previous block is created, thus chaining together different blocks, representing the different actions or transactions (hence the name block chain, or blockchain). The data is verifiable and cannot be manipulated; this allows us to carry out transactions with third parties or unknown actors, without the need for intermediaries, and in a secure manner. 

Despite the fact that, indeed, blockchain technology was born as a result of the creation of the most recognized cryptocurrency, and that even today many people think that this is its only application, it is important to emphasize that cryptocurrencies are only one of the infinite applications that blockchain has, as are, for example, digital identity, data registration and verification, smart contracts or supply chains.


The tokenization of everything

one of the booms most recent of the blockchain technology are the NFTs, or Tokens non-fungible (Non-Fungible Tokens in English), which have revolutionized the world of art. An NFT is a cryptographic digital asset, with an identification code that makes it unique; and this is the crux of the matter: they are "non-fungible" because they are unique and cannot be replaced. The difference between an NFT and a fungible token, such as a Bitcoin, is that fungible tokens can be exchanged for each other because they have the same value: if I have a Bitcoin, I can exchange it for any other Bitcoin and it will have the same value value (leaving aside market fluctuations, of course). 

This technology, as we said, has recently been applied to the world of art, and especially digital art. Before, anyone could save an image of a digital work, and this meant that these, being replicable and indistinguishable from the original, did not have the same value as a tangible work of art. The blockchain, on the other hand, allows the creator to register his work on the block chain, and to sell it through it, leaving a record of who is the owner of that work, thus giving it a value that no digital work could have before. This phenomenon has revolutionized the world of art in general, and of digital art in particular, in the last two or three months, and is currently beginning to spread to the world of music, and even the audiovisual 

But the matter does not stop there; the tokenization of all kinds of assets - not just pieces of art - is a reality that is getting closer to our present. Tokenization is nothing more than the process of digitizing the value of any good, be it tangible or intangible. Thus, a token is the representation of something, and therefore the owner has the ownership rights, or the rights stipulated in the smart contract linked to the tokenization process. This technology opens up endless possibilities. One sector that has already begun to tokenize its assets is real estate, which takes advantage of the opportunity to fragment an asset into smaller parts, allowing fractional ownership. 

The tokenization of everything - because everything can be tokenized - is one of the clearest examples of how the blockchain can revolutionize different industries. Surely, now we all have a hard time imagining a society where blockchain is so present in our lives, in the same way that in the nineties we would not have been able to conceive of the revolution that ended up representing the Internet. But in the same way that we cannot imagine our daily life without the Internet, I do not think it is at all risky to predict that the day will soon come when we cannot imagine our life without all the changes that blockchain technology will bring us. 


CBCat projects

The CBCat has as its main objective the promotion and dissemination of the blockchain, so that it is adopted both by the Catalan business fabric, and for the future of this, which is among our students, thus placing Catalonia in a leading position to the revolution that this technology will entail - and currently does -. 

In order to fulfill this objective, the CBCat has developed several projects, such as the Blockchain4SDG, a series of 17 challenges associated with the SDGs created by the United Nations where students from Catalan universities propose solutions, based on blockchain, in order to solve the problems exposed through the challenges. Participation in this project is an opportunity for companies to come into direct contact with students, and find, together, solutions to the different problems raised; at the same time, these initiatives can become real business models. We have currently launched the first edition of this initiative, in collaboration with the company HIPRA, together with the University of Girona and the Polytechnic University of Catalonia. In the training sector, we are also offering introductory and in-depth seminars on blockchain technology, which have been very successful, both among students and among professionals from very diverse sectors. 

In another order, we are also the organizers of the international screening event Democracy4All, which will be held for the third time this year. It is a reference meeting point that links the themes of governance and blockchain, a world where this technology has a lot to contribute. Likewise, this 2021 we will organize for the first time the BxCat, an event of an absolutely local nature, where we want to represent the blockchain "by Catalans, and for Catalans", where we want to bring together all the key players in the ecosystem, as well as companies, professionals and curious, in order to create synergies and new opportunities. With this we want to demonstrate all the talent and innovation that exists in Catalonia, because sometimes we go far to look for what, without knowing it, we could find at home!


#ObrirGirona: A safe and controlled economic reopening is possible

Apart from our didactic and divulgative will, from the CBCat we also have in hand some projects that become clear current cases of application of blockchain technology. One of them, and the one that is certainly attracting the most interest at the moment, is Open Girona, a pilot test of vaccination certificates and digital tests, linked to a structured architecture through the Chambers of Commerce and the Pharmacies of Catalonia, through which we want to reopen the economy in a safe and controlled manner.

The current situation, in addition to being the biggest health crisis of the last hundred years, can become a huge economic crisis if measures are not taken to restore the safety and confidence of citizens, and that they can recover some normalcy as consumers. The name Obrir Girona wants to reflect this return to normality: reopening shops, restaurants, cultural and leisure activities among others in the safest possible way. 

The Open Girona project, started on April 23, aims to develop a pilot test within the city of Girona in order to fine-tune a system of certifications that allow to certify that a person is a Very Low Contagious Capacity (MBCC ). With this accreditation it is possible to access a series of social events organized especially for the occasion and which, given the MBCC status of the attendees, have more relaxed health security measures with respect to the capacity and the schedule that the rest of the events where the attendees have not been certified. 

Among the activities that are proposed are sports competitions with the public, trade, catering, cultural shows... in short, those that were common before the pandemic and those that should allow economic activity to resume. This pilot test must be as similar as possible to the future deployment throughout the territory. Girona is a representative ecosystem of our country and, therefore, doing the pilot test in this city is a good benchmark for future deployment throughout the territory.


Privacy by design

The key to this project lies in the fact that it is possible to carry out the initiative, while maintaining the privacy of personal data, in a secure and immutable way thanks to blockchain technology, which allows the user to be solely responsible of your data and that these cannot be altered. 

"Knowledge is power" is a phrase that everyone is probably familiar with; although this is a popular quote, the idea is old; it was a subject of study for Aristotle, around 300 BC, and continued to be so for great thinkers such as Francis Bacon, Thomas Hobbes or, more recently, Michael Foucault. The point is that nowadays, with Big Data, that phrase makes more sense than ever, and not exactly in a positive way. Today, data has become a very valuable asset for a large number of companies, who collect it, use it, and even resell it. 

But thanks to the privacy by design, or privacy from the design of the blockchain, for the first time users do not have to ask or demand that their data is not distributed, and that their privacy is respected, but that this privacy is already intrinsic, by default it is locked in the code, and cannot be modified. So, everyone has the certainty that, thanks to the blockchain, their data is not distributed, nor used, nor sold; their data, in fact, never leaves their mobile devices.


The CBCat: Catalonia's bid to lead the revolution 

Finally, I would like to finish by saying that Catalonia's commitment to the creation of CBCat is a declaration of intent to lead the revolution that blockchain technology will bring. And it is a very necessary bet, if we want to continue to be an innovative and attractive country for entrepreneurs and investors. Now is the time not to give up, we have to keep rowing together, and with strength, to be able not only to ride the wave, but to be among the first to surf it. Let's recover the pioneering spirit of our people!

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