Market Spotlight: Why Blockchain Has Gone Beyond A Buzzword For Singapore’s Businesses

By Aqilliz  

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Market spotlight why blockchain is more than a buzzword

For years, Singapore has long stood as an emblem of innovation within the region, distinguished by its pioneering openness to experimentation across academia, commerce, and society at large. Branded as a unique value proposition to attract foreign investment, capital inflows, and to retain local talent, the country’s Smart Nation agenda has been an imperative at the heart of policymaking. Armed with regulatory robustness, Singapore is essentially able to offer a “plug-and-play business environment”, enabling tech companies to easily set-up shop in the country.

But beyond immediate applications of innovations in digital payments and e-commerce, the horizon is seemingly bright for deep tech: Singapore has steadily made its mark across emerging technology circles as blockchain fast-transcends experimentation to application on our shores. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic leading to seismic shifts within the nation’s business landscape, what are marketers and business leaders focusing on to help drive recovery within their organisations?

Setting the stage

As the world adjusts to the new normal and businesses continue to update their recovery strategies, it comes as no surprise that innovation is top of mind for many organisations. The growth of the Internet, along with emerging technologies, has made a substantial impact on the traditional marketing mix. Given consumers’ increased propensity for online shopping experiences, technologies such as blockchain can enable businesses to deliver relevant, tailored content while putting consumers at the forefront of security, privacy, trust, and transparency.

As part of the national trend towards building and adopting blockchain, a range of government bodies — such as MAS, IMDA, and GovTech — have emerged over the years, each taking the lead in working on blockchain-related projects across several sectors. For example, the blockchain-based, multi-currency payments network Project Ubin successfully completed its fifth and final phase last year, pointing to its commercial potential beyond the traditional finance space. Spurring on industry collaboration as much as ecosystem growth, these institutional forays into the technology are perceived as positive signs by the private sector, stamping a seal of approval on the technology’s promise.

Alongside grants and other forms of financial aid, the government has also taken on a productive approach to supporting fledgling deep tech startups and promising talent through grant programmes such as the government-backed TRIBE Accelerator and the IMDA Blockchain Challenge. With a pledge to allocate S$12 million to the Singapore Blockchain Innovation Programme that was announced in November last year, growth is only set to accelerate.

Moving beyond the doubt

Naturally, however, some doubts remain. The blockchain industry still needs to shed its oft-cited association with its arguably most recognisable use case — peer-to-peer payments in the form of cryptocurrency. With bitcoin and altcoin prices reaching new highs, attention towards digital assets has been greater than ever. However, curious consumers and business owners would do well to remember that blockchain is more than its most popularised use case, having seen impactful applications in the past few years.

Recently, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have entered the mainstream consciousness as unique digital collectors’ items, providing a new, creative canvas for clever marketers. Beyond its hype, NFTs represent one of the latest additions to content creation and distribution, with the potential to create communities, reward consumers, and boost engagement. From brands leveraging blockchain technologies to ensure data provenance and compliance across their advertising campaigns to blockchain-based credential services generating tamper-proof educational certificates, promising new use cases help to attest to the technology’s maturity. No longer burdened by the qualms of laggard network speeds and the conundrum of trust versus trustlessness, blockchain has evolved to better accommodate hybrid models that can provide the very best of what it has to offer in a controlled, familiar environment.

To that end, sentiment in Singapore is bright: OpenNodes’ Singapore Blockchain Ecosystem Report 2020 found that 80 percent of local businesses feel “optimistic” about blockchain’s growth and maturity, furthermore ranking as the number two tech priority among Singaporean business leaders. Like any new technology, education and exposure is a key roadblock to be overcome and it’s only with time that as blockchain’s value propositions are put into action, that the technology can truly speak for itself.

A long-term play

The appeal of blockchain has certainly reverberated throughout the region with many governments and corporations across both developing and developed markets recognising its potential. While it may be tempting to retain legacy infrastructures, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has served as a much-needed stress-test for existing tech stacks, pointing to limitations in agility or opportunities for further productivity maximisation. In emerging markets, leapfrogging digital transformation can prime established organisations and small businesses to better jumpstart their entrance into the digital economy — armed with tools built to address the challenges of the future and designed with longevity in mind.

In a period of economic recovery, this is key, as businesses find themselves evaluating digital enhancements based on their ability to boost cost-savings and operational efficiencies in the long-term. Designed to eliminate intermediaries to foster greater accountability and automation, blockchain is certainly poised to rise in importance as it meets these very needs. If the past year has been any indication, the growth of the digital economy can no longer be underestimated and with it, comes emergent threats surrounding fragmentation, complexity, and data privacy. No longer satisfied with today's existing infrastructures, marketers and business leaders alike will find that blockchain’s value propositions will soon no longer be a luxury, but a necessity for survival.

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