The Republic of Ireland, as it is officially referenced, has a population of 4,757,976 according to the 2016 census. The county’s economy grew a respectable 5.2 percent last year — a rate that exceeded all other euro zone countries and most official forecasts for the third successive year.
It is the country’s ascension, though, as an epicenter for blockchain innovation in Europe that is garnering attention. Highlighting this was the blockchain hackathon event that took place in November of 2016 at Dublin City University. It attracted more than 150 technologists and fintech entrepreneurs, collaborating together on the creation of new apps and services using blockchain technology.
Last year also saw Travacoin, an Irish startup, achieve acclaim for its work on a blockchain-based voucher system that facilitates a refund and compensation system for delayed and canceled flights.
In early 2017, global consulting firm Deloitte, which works with 90 percent of the world’s largest financial institutions, launched their new EMEA blockchain lab in Dublin’s “Silicon Docks” district. This fintech and innovation center joins a network of global labs that includes one on Wall Street in New York. Co-located with the likes of Google, Facebook and others, it is fueled by a team of over 40 blockchain developers and designers committed to cutting-edge advancement in the distributed technology space. In its brief existence Deloitte has already engaged in working partnerships with the Bank of Ireland and blockchain software developer ConsenSys.
A signature project for Deloitte’s blockchain lab involved a collaboration with a group of stakeholders that included Deutsche Bank, Metzler, Northern Trust, Irish Funds and State Street as participants. This use case involving blockchain technology to manage and oversee regulatory reporting resulted in a regulatory “proof of concept” reporting protocol that captures transactions and uses smart contracts capability to manage reporting, resulting in increased transparency and accountability.
Reuben Godfrey is the director of the Blockchain Association of Ireland, an organization headquartered in Dublin that aims to foster and coordinate Ireland’s depth of talent, drive and enthusiasm to position the country globally as a thought leader on blockchain development. The goal is to achieve this through engagement with regulators, policymakers, educators, other not-for-profit organizations and technology entrepreneurs, all with the intent of guiding public dialogue around emerging blockchain trends in the country.
In an interview with Bitcoin Magazine, Godfrey said that a number of local and multinational companies have been producing good results on a number of collaborative projects. The fact that Deloitte chose Ireland as the landing spot for their EMEA Blockchain Hub, he notes, was was a huge vote of confidence for Ireland in terms of being recognized as a global blockchain player.
A big issue at the moment in Ireland, said Godfrey, is the race to hire programmers who understand the technology. “It’s becoming evident that there simply aren’t enough ‘experts’ to fill these roles. In the coming year to eighteen months, I foresee a growing need for cross-training of existing talent. In the meantime companies in this space will need to fundamentally rethink their current approaches. Those that fail to keep up may see their business model quickly outdated and face serious disruption from new startups.”
Godfrey pointed out that the blockchain community in Ireland remains slightly fragmented. “There is still no guidance at a national level so it’s up to us and other organizations, universities and the private sector to bring the conversation forward and elicit a stance from policymakers and regulators.”
In terms of the long-term future for blockchain technology and bitcoin in Ireland, Godfrey concluded, “I always answer the same way on this, namely, that it’s like the internet was 25 years ago. We could have predicted the web’s impact on, say, print media, but it would have been far harder to predict the social and political impact of the broader social media landscape of Twitter [and] Facebook. So I’ll close by quoting Donald Rumsfeld: ‘There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns … But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.’”