As Argentina Embraces Blockchain, Emphasis on Politics Remains
Argentineans may be best known for their love crush on bitcoin, but the country's interest in its underlying technology, the blockchain, is growing.
That, at least, was the message of participants at the Latin American Bitcoin Conference (LaBitConf), which took place in Argentina this week.
Overall, downtown Buenos Aires provided a curious and action-packed backdrop for LaBitConf and its 450 attendees, as the venue was only few blocks away from several anti-government protests that underscored the social value many entrepreneurs still see in the technology.
For most attending the conference, the takeaway was that the local community is now more mature than it was in 2013, and that bitcoin and blockchain are now starting to be used more in "real life".
Indeed, blockchain technology is inspiring Argentinean entrepreneurs to use the technology in ways that are lined up with bitcoin's original ethos, such as lowering the levels of corruption of the country and creating solutions to mitigate economic instability.
Ruben Altman, member of RootStock, an open-source smart contract platform, expressed his optimism that future blockchain initiatives would bring about real change.
He told CoinDesk:
"The blockchain is useful if you want to build a society with different contract models than those that already exist today."
There's also a sense that blockchain technology can be used more broadly, in areas like law, that would not have been impacted by money alone.
Altman added: "You are very limited by what the law says in each country. With intelligent contracts, you can find more options. It will take you only 10 lines of code to write."
But it remains early for the local industry.
Marco Carnut, a Brazilian who works at blockchain provider Tempest Security Intelligence, said that while most bitcoiners think the digital currency is headed "to the moon", it is really in its early stages of adoption.
He compared blockchain to the Internet – not a small thing to say, but it was echoed by others.
"When the Internet began to exist many people did not understand what it was, few understood what the 'at symbol' was. The same is true today when we talk about bitcoin and blockchain…. People ask 'What is this?'" he said.
Carnut agreed with Altman that Latin Americans understand what a shaky economy is like, and perhaps better understand bitcoin's value. This has led to confidence here that Latin America can help lead the revolution.
Augusto Lemble, a local student, said he thinks that startups based in Argentina could be more disruptive than those based abroad.
"Maybe because we are much more familiar with economic problems that makes us adapt more quickly than others," he said.
Just as important, though, may be navigating industry changes.
Another participant, Francisco Gómez Salaverri, co-founder of CrowdJury, said he believes that it is equally important that the community understands how blockchain can be used as a database.
The comments come as Latin American banks begin to show an interest in blockchain, joining groups like R3CEV.
"We are able to transfer all kinds of files anonymously. We can see our transfers but at the same time safeguard our privacy," Salaverri said.
But CrowdJury's Juan Cruz Dimaio didn't see this as a change that would hurt blockchain's potential. He noted that issues with the government (in his startup's case, the judicial system), are also becoming the heart of many other local projects.
"[The blockchain] ensures that the evidence that you upload will be there, with far less manipulation of what is currently happening in Argentina."
Disclosure: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which has an ownership stake in RootStock.
Images via Cecilia Olive
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