Blockchain Announces Expansion in Middle East

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Davos 2017 WEF, Blockchain Partners with Dubai Government
Image credit: The exterior of the Congress Centre in Davos, by the World Economic Forum/Ciaran McCrickard

Blockchain, a startup based in Luxembourg providing bitcoin-related services, has signed a partnership with the government of Dubai to help the municipality in its push to bring all government documents and transactions on a blockchain by 2020.

Speaking during the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Peter Smith, CEO of Blockchain, unveiled his company’s major expansion plans in the Middle East, and told the audience:

“I am very optimistic about the Middle East and we plan to invest big there. I’m really excited about it. It’s a great chance to build a new financial infrastructure in the region.

“What’s exciting is that there’s this big drive for change in the economies. Saudi Arabia and the UAE want to leapfrog into the digital age in financial technology.”

Saudi Arabia is seeking to adopt fintech as part of its National Transformation Plan, said Khaled Biyari, CEO of Saudi Telecom. He further noted the recent US$45 billion investment by the kingdom in Japanese SoftBank’s US$100 billion high-tech investment vehicle.

“We in the kingdom and others in the region have been addicted to natural resources and as a result we have been always subject to price fluctuations,” Biyari said. “The Saudi vision is looking to convert the focus towards investment in technology.”

Dubai unveiled plans to become paperless last year when it formerly launched the Dubai Blockchain Strategy. A collaboration between the Smart Dubai Office and the Dubai Future Foundation, the program focuses on leveraging blockchain technology to increase efficiency and cut costs. Notably, the initiative aims to put all of government transaction onto a blockchain network by 2020 and encouraging paperless transactions, cutting almost 100 million paper transactions annually.

It is part of Dubai’s boarder smart city initiative, Smart Dubai, which focuses on introducing strategic initiatives and developing partnerships to contribute to the municipality’s digital transformation.

The Dubai Future Foundation also runs the Dubai Future Accelerators, a intensive 12-week startup acceleration program supported by the government that pairs top companies and entrepreneurs with leading partners in Dubai to create cutting-edge solutions.