Compete Caribbean’s Blockchain Innovation Initiative (BII) – The Virtual Pitch Event of April 8th and 9th was the first of its kind in the Caribbean, involving 80 world-class experts and +6, 000 people watching online via Facebook Live.
With most of the region under lockdown and curfew, Compete Caribbean sought to e-connect the Global Blockchain Community to pitch solutions to seven issues affecting inclusive economic development in the region. These problems were framed based on a call for challenges launched earlier this year to Caribbean public and private entities interested in exploring the value of how blockchain technology in addressing these social and economic issues): can be used to address them:
- Digital Transactions & Money: Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), Dominica Cooperative Societies League
- Digital Identity: Ministry of Innovation, Science and SMART Technology – Barbados
- Traceability: Fine Cocoa Company, Cocoa Research Centre at UWI, Brasso Seco Morne La Croix Farmer Association for Honey. (Trinidad)
- Intellectual Property: Association of Caribbean Copyright Society (ACCS)
- Asset Registry (Land, Property, Vehicle): Ministry of Information Technology in St. Kitts; Ministry of Innovation, Science and SMART Technology – Barbados
- Customs: Ministry of Trade and Industry -Trinidad & Tobago
- Post Disaster Insurance Claims Processing: Climate Resilience Execution Agency for Dominica (CREAD)
Among the 40 blockchain companies short-listed to pitch their solution across categories, 30 were from the Caribbean.
Firms included: Cari, CariPay, Consensys, DIAGON, Emerge, Farm Credibly, Liquidus, PwC, Shyft, Bitt, Blue Cay Capital (Neotech), Deep Minds, DOEX, MINVES N.V.,Zed Labs, AgriLedger, bmat Music Innovators, Innovate10x, Rexy, DevelBlock, Deloitte.
Marcos Allende, Blockchain expert and tech lead with LACCHAIN at the IDB Lab was highly impressed by the event:
“I have to say: WOW. I go every year to the most important blockchain events in the world (Consensus, BSIC, Labitconf, Convergence, …) and this was just something new, dierent and necessary. The format, the topics, the engagement, the moderators, the proposals, the problem owners and, of course, the organizers. Simply amazing.”
Of the featured events included a lunchtime discussion with two of the most advanced Central Banks in the world in terms of Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) – both from the Caribbean.
Sybil Welsh of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) explained the EC Digital Cash (DXCD) – designed as a safer, cheaper, faster platform to make EC$ payments and transfers – this platform will be piloted in (4) countries (Antigua and Barbuda; Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis and Saint Lucia) during the second half of 2020.
The DXCD Pilot Project is a component of the Strategic Priorities of the ECCU Payment System Modernization Initiative. The objective is to provide a secure, affordable and accessible payment and settlement instrument that can promote economic growth and competitiveness and help expand financial inclusion in the ECCU.
Bobby Chen from the Central Bank of The Bahamas (CBOB) discussed the launch of the Digital Sand Dollar expedited as a result of the impact of the hurricane in an effort to support economic recovery within affected locales.
Following the successful launch of the pilots in two of the islands, CBOB is monitoring the economic activity and feedback from the various stakeholders and, in turn, applying a heuristic approach to refine this payment system’s model.
While the on-going crisis underscores the importance of upgrading the country’s financial infrastructure, the urgent need to implement contactless payment methods also serves as a timely opportunity to further drive the adoption of Sand Dollar and create more use cases within other industries.
The Digital Dollar enabled some of the most vulnerable groups to receive payment via their phone and pay for some services which accelerated emotional and economic recovery given the impact of the disaster.
IDB Economist and Moderator Laura Giles highlighted that the progress of these Central Banks in the Caribbean can make an important difference in improving financial inclusion in the region.
Finally, the event was closed with a Call for Proposals and next steps presentation by Annie Bertrand, Productivity & Innovation Coordinator at Compete Caribbean. Bertrand mentioned that the value of the technical assistance grant may range from USD$25,000 to $200,000 depending on the scope of the project proposed. Caribbean companies and problem owners will have at least 60 days to work on a proposal eligible for funding. Details will be released on the Compete Caribbean website in April 2020.
All content from the 2-day virtual event remains available on the Compete Caribbean channels and possibly transitioned over to the Caribbean Blockchain Alliance (CBA) to support the emerging world-class entrepreneurs in the space.
Sylvia Dohnert, Executive Director of Compete Caribbean expressed:
“We are very excited to see how much interest this event raised in the Caribbean and abroad, both from Caribbean problem owners and global and Caribbean solutions’ providers. The event showed that there is large appetite in this region for adopting and developing blockchain solutions to complex problems. Compete Caribbean is happy to have contributed to knowledge sharing on these issues in the blockchain space, and to have brought global visibility to the initiatives taking place in the region.”
Compete Caribbean is a technical assistance, private sector development program financed by the Inter-American Development Bank, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, the Caribbean Development Bank, and the Government of Canada.