With its currency volatility, one might expect Argentina's central bank to be hesitant in exploring blockchain technology.
But that wasn't the case at a hackathon held last week that united students, professionals, economists and bitcoin and blockchain enthusiasts. Held on Friday and Saturday, the two-day event saw $ARS150,000 ($9,677) awarded to the three most innovative projects, including one blockchain startup.
Blockchain notarization platform Signatura won second place at the event, receiving a check from the central bank for $ARS50,000 ($3,226).
In interview, Franco Amati, member and founder of Signatura, recalled how his company used the competition to propose a product called 'Financial Passport' that demos how consumers can use blockchain to share data, while keeping it encrypted.
Using the product, the consumer could revoke a bank's access key to the passport, and the flow is digitally signed using the bitcoin blockchain, assuring its date, authorship and integrity.
Amati told CoinDesk:
"When a bank needs it, for a loan for example, it requests the information using the platform, and the consumer is notified to grant or reject the request to access its details."
In this sense, Amati said, the project highlights how blockchain could be used to help financial institutions reduce paperwork and speed up processes.
And there are signs that the Central Bank of Argentina may be interested in concepts like these.
Signatura said it's even open to working with the central bank.
When asked about what blockchain technology can offer to the central banks, Amati said he believes "transparency, open-government and settlement", and there are signs those at the institution agree.
On the first day of the hackathon, central bank vice president, Lucas Llach (known in the local bitcoin community for his antagonist view on cryptocurrencies), talked about how blockchain could be a source of innovation in the financial industry.
Amati said he was excited "to see a positive reception and outlook for these ideas", but he believes that this technology is still new to those in government.
For example, one of the hackathon judges asked how the blockchain could be trusted and that, he said, is "not an easy thing to explain without enough time".
Progress is in some ways limited by the early nature of the tech.
Only two of the roughly 40 hackathon projects were blockchain related, and both were proposed by members of bitcoin organizations or startups.
"Bitcoin and blockchain are still related not only on a technical level, but also in their users and entrepreneurs. And this kind of events helps showing them to people outside of that circle," Amati said.
Cross-collaboration has started to happen elsewhere.
For example, during the Latin American Bitcoin Conference in Buenos Aires, Tiziano M Di Biase, managing director of economic research at the central bank, invited the bitcoin-friendly audience to participate in the hackathon.
When asked by the moderator if the Central Bank is investigating the use of the blockchain, he said that its focus now is to work on improving new payment methods.
But he added:
"The blockchain is an extremely interesting technology and many central banks are closely analyzing it today."
Argentinian peso image via Shutterstock