Exclusive Interview: Ekkehard Ernst, president at Geneva Macro Labs & Future of work

What are the Geneva Macro Labs main activities?

Geneva Macro Labs is a Geneva-based Do-Tank that co-creates innovative business and policy solutions to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We leverage the collective intelligence of our community around Lake Geneva, partnering with the private sector, international agencies, civil society organisations, regulators, academia and policy makers. We focus on concrete solutions that help address our most pressing challenges related to technology, climate change, health or political stability.

What are the main goals of the conference hosted by Geneva Macro Labs and co-hosted by the Joint Inspection Unit of the United Nations that will be held from 26 to 27 September in Geneva?

Blockchain is a new technology that has first emerged as a new digital currency. But people realized that it has the potential for a much wider range of applications, many of which could help addressing some key problems we currently have in our global supply chains, with climate change, international migration or simply for responsible consumption. Our conference aims at demonstrating that potential. We bring together practitioners, policy makers, regulators and the general public to discuss where and when blockchain can be used, what needs to be considered when developing new blockchain-based applications and what the current limitations of this technology is. We are in the process of establishing a new platform for dialogue and exchange around blockchain in Geneva and contribute to a responsible development of this technology in achieving the SDGs.  

How can Blockchain technology support a sustainable future, according to Geneva Macro Labs?

We, at Geneva Macro Labs, believe that carefully designed and developed blockchain applications can help in at least three areas: many parts of the world are still excluded from affordable financial services, preventing them from mobilizing savings, developing business and growing. In our view, blockchain applications could offer a cheap and accessible way to address this. Second, as globalization continues to progress, supply chain management that guarantees ecological and socially responsible production and distribution of commodities, goods and services remains a challenge. Distributed ledger technologies (DLTs) are designed to address these issues and ensure that protocols are respected and certified. Finally, and maybe most importantly: Blockchain applications, for the first time, give access to an affordable and easily scalable technology to document property rights in a range of areas. Whether it concerns the protection of your personal data, of ecological capital such as the Brazilian rain forest, or simply of private housing in countries where a well-established cadastre system is missing, blockchain offers the potential to establish reliable, trust-worthy documents and property rights that are protected and can be exchanged in an equitable manner.

What is your view on cryptocurrency and why is Blockchain a trusted approach?

In many countries with weak monetary institutions or a history of hyperinflation, cryptocurrencies can offer a reliable way of helping people to manage their payments and savings without fearing an erosion of the purchasing power. Blockchain-based applications have the potential to re-establish trust in money because of their unique features combining cryptography, decentralization and automatic execution. But there remain obstacles and no single and unique cryptocurrency model exist. Central Banks are reluctant to give up their privilege of printing money and financial regulators are worried about financial stability. In our conference, we will be discussing with experts and policy makers to see how these concerns can be addressed.

How is a blockchain ledger different from an ordinary one?

Blockchain combines three different aspects that make it so powerful: it is decentralised, uses cryptography for account authorization and automatically executed (i.e. smart contracts). All three aspects can exist separately but it is the combination of the three that makes this technology unique.

What are the benefits of Blockchain that you know?

The blockchain technology offers a secure way of recording transaction that has a wide range of applications and is easily scalable because of its digital nature. Using the same or similar protocols to record transactions makes it cheap and accessible and can be applied in areas as diverse as payment systems, supply chain management, voting systems or property rights ledgers. For the moment, we are merely scratching the surface but we hope that thanks to our conference “Blockchain 4 Impact” we can bring together a community to further reflect on new ideas and the appropriate regulatory environment to support them.

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