Prime Minister Gaston Browne yesterday hosted and chaired a workshop at the Prime Minister’s Office for senior Government officials and industry stakeholders on the subject of blockchain technologies and cryptocurrencies.
The workshop was designed to bring Government and other stakeholders abreast of the current developments in the field and to explore the options open to Antigua and Barbuda in pursuing economic development utilizing these new technologies. Government ministers in attendance included the Attorney-General Hon. Steadroy ‘Cutie’ Benjamin and Hon. Melford Nicholas, Minister responsible for information technology.
The workshop was facilitated by two experts in the field, Ms. Loretta Joseph, a consultant to many Governments and institutions around the world; and Mr. John Narraway, a Canadian businessman resident in Bermuda who was involved in developing policy and legislation for the introduction of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies in Bermuda.
In welcoming the facilitators and participants, PM Browne emphasized that this new model of investment and conducting business was an innovative and disruptive technology that held great potential to transform the economy of Antigua and Barbuda. He pointed out that Antigua and Barbuda had always been a champion of innovation, recalling that a previous administration under Sir Lester Bird had started the first Internet gaming industry in the world during the 1990s.
The workshop looked at the potential of these new technologies to transform economic development, and focused on the experience of Bermuda as a small island-country which recently decided to introduce policies, legislation and regulations to govern the operation of the technologies in Bermuda.
Blockchain technologies and cryptocurrencies were described as a digital, transparent, secure means of storing value or transacting business on a global scale. Various applications of the technologies were examined in detail, including their use in business models as well as in the provision of Government services to citizens and residents, such as issuing drivers licences or the authentication of land titles in the land registry. It was pointed out that bitcoin itself had never been hacked, although the exchanges holding bitcoin had been.
While the tremendous potential of the technologies was explored, the various downside risks and challenges were not ignored as the participants examined a draft road-map that could guide Antigua and Barbuda in the introduction of its own system.
The workshop acknowledged that there was still a lot of technical work to be done, and in order to advance this work decided to appoint two task forces – one to look at regulatory issues and the other to focus on business development issues.
As the workshop concluded, PM Browne thanked the facilitators and the participants for a very rich exchange on an exciting and new area. He stated that the stage was now set for proper policies and machinery to be put in place to allow Antigua and Barbuda’s entry into the field.
‘This is a great opportunity to use innovative technologies to achieve economic growth and employment,’ PM Browne said, ‘and we should seize it with both hands.’
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