The Alchemy of Talent and Technology:

Leveraging technology to create human-centred economies

Christopher Holmes, Lord Holmes of Richmond

Originally published in the GDF Annual Report 2020.

Covid is an indiscriminate infector yet discriminating deliverer of death. My heart goes out to all those affected by the virus and to all those souls taken before their time. The crisis has also exposed much which is sub-optimal in our social and economic fabric. Covid, like so much of what currently faces us, is more than a matter for the nation state. Be it the pandemic or climate, problems are international, and the solutions must be collaboratively global. The tools at our disposal for these problems will be the alchemy of talent and technology.

By digitizing finance, we have the potential to transform global trading relationships. And the choice is clear: it’s international trade, cooperation and interconnectivity, or get left behind.

I was fortunate to lead on an international proof of concept, Reducing Friction in International Trade (RFIT), deploying Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) and Internet of Things (IoT) to digitize paper processes of the Australia-United Kingdom wine trade. It was a truly collaborative, pro bono effort, demonstrating the possibility of doing things differently and delivering on the promise set out in my 2017 report. It is more than possible for every nation to deliver digitally enabled borders if we choose and if we don’t choose, we all, to varying extents, lose.

Finance doesn’t need to be the dough that divides. Finance can be an enabler, a grower, a public-private good. It must include and through that inclusion empower every citizen. Financial exclusion blights economies, scars societies and locks down individual potential. Financially include and an economy grows, financially include and everyone benefits. And it is possible: all we must do is look a little differently at the issues in broader context.

Fintech has come up with so many solutions to financial exclusion. Covid saw many perfected, pro bono, over a weekend around the globe: people focused on getting the finance to individuals traceably, speedily, and efficiently.

One such solution based on DLT has enabled those in refugee camps in Syria to gain some financial independence and digital identity. What an example of talent and technology at its humane best. If it can be done here, there seems no excuse and rather, some shame, that we in the West still have so many shut out through the failings of traditional financial services.

Technology is not a silver bullet, but seeing that we have such phenomenal tools in our well washed hands, it is on us to determine how we deploy them. The goal must be to enable the citizens to look at a new social contract. We can align the individual interest with the societal, and the lot, with the planetary. We can reimagine innovative, human-centred, interconnected “future states”.

We have the opportunity to secure DLT and all elements of 4IR as a benefit for public good. We can create public-private partnerships worthy of that title. We can own, really own, our identity, our data, and be digital citizens. We can use the technology to empower and include, both financially and digitally. Technology is neither servant nor master. Technology is the partner.

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Global Digital Finance

Global Digital Finance

GDF is an industry body promoting the development of best practices and conduct standards for the cryptoasset industry and advocacy with policy makers.