Opinion

Don’t Dial Back History: Why Cryptocurrency Needs Parity

A new wave of commerce is emerging. The possibilities echo the not so distant past of digital innovation. Yet the opportunity is viable and urgent for history not to repeat itself and to make the landscape of cryptocurrency and blockchain backbone flush with gender parity.

All 20 people listed on the Forbes 2018 list of richest people in cryptocurrency are men.

Cryptocurrency is the first application on the blockchain technology backbone. Voice calls were the first application on the mobile internet backbone that exploded globally in 1990s. You can use a cellphone without thinking about how it operates.

In 2018, there are more than 4.93 billion cellphones globally in use, with that number expected to surpass 5 billion in 2019, according to Statista.

As a former wireless telecom and internet backbone sales person during the dot-com explosion at Nortel Networks, I was on the team that delivered the infrastructure system for our first billion-dollar contract for a nationwide mobile backbone.

Mobile phones have made many tasks and products obsolete — rotary dialing, paper maps, printed phone books and bank account books. Mobile internet has transformed how we navigate driving, get a ride, look up information and work remotely.

I made my first investment in bitcoin cryptocurrency this month to better understand this new blockchain backbone and how it could change the way we use currency.

The transformation in the remittances sector for cryptocurrency is promising. The Pew Research Center reports that the flow of remittances each year has grown three times since 2000, and exceeded $500 billion in 2013.

The average cost of sending cross-border remittances through private companies such as Western Union, TransferWise and Money Gram is around 7.5 percent, according to Global Radar.

In 2016, Medici Insights reported that 19 bitcoin remittance startups vied to get a piece of this lucrative market by charging 50 percent less in fees using cryptocurrency on the blockchain backbone.

The blockchain backbone for cryptocurrency can be applied to any kind of service that provides tracking, verification and ownership guarantee of information, such as personal identity, health information, title to land, oil and gas rights, sale and purchase of assets and transfer of funds.

Ramifications are enormous for middlemen like lawyers, title companies, banks, and insurance and health providers. With low barriers to entry, everyone can participate. Blockchain may replace centralized business models and render obsolete all kinds of middlemen services like Amazon, Ebay, Netflix and banks.

When solving one piece of the massive transaction puzzle like a security verification process, simple steps to complete a complex transaction such as buying a home can be extremely valuable. Providers of these solutions can emerge as global players or be acquired by larger companies to complete their portfolios. The race is on.

Big-name companies Intel and Oracle are joining the blockchain ecosystem with processors that enhance blockchain security. IBM has 1,500 technical and industry experts in their IBM Blockchain Services business.

New York Stock Exchange is reportedly working on a bitcoin exchange for large investors, and Goldman Sachs is planning to open a bitcoin trading unit. Facebook announced recently it is setting up a business to look into blockchain, as part of the company’s biggest executive shakeup in 15 years.

There are naysayers; more traditional business titan Warren Buffett is negative on cryptocurrencies.

The gender disparity in technology and innovation, however, prevails. In its analysis of 450 million candidates in its database, Entelo’s 2018 report shows only 18 percent of roles in technology, including engineering, data science, product design and more, are held by women in the United States, and that drops to 10 percent at executive level roles.

Uber recently released a report that shows women in leadership roles make up only 21 percent of the company’s workforce.

In the relatively new world of blockchain, it appears gender disparity is deepening.

Coin.dance reported last month that 94.7 percent of bitcoin community engagement and active participation comes from men, and 5.3 percent from women.

In October of last year, a survey conducted by Reddit found that 96 percent of Ether cryptocurrency users are men. MyEtherWallet reported that 84 percent of its Ether cryptocurrency wallet holders were male.

Women can fully and equally participate in the creation of global blockchain. Otherwise, as in earlier fields of innovation, the same old tune will play on loop.


Cynthia Yung is executive director of The Boone Family Foundation and a public voices fellow through The OpEd Project.

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