As South Korea cracks down on bitcoin, countries including Singapore and Malaysia are backing the technology behind it to drive technological change in areas as far afield as electoral rolls and health care records CONFIDENCE IN cryptocurrency markets may have taken a major hit in recent weeks, but the same cannot be said of the value of the technology it relies on – the blockchain. Bitcoin’s price plunged this week to less than US$11,000, from almost US$20,000 in mid-December, after South Korea announced that all anonymous accounts, foreigners without local banking services and minors would be banned from trading on exchanges from January 30.

But, particularly in Southeast Asia, much confidence remains that the blockchain technology underlying bitcoin can be adapted to drive development in everything from bank remittances to electoral rolls and health care records. Essentially, a blockchain is a digital ledger – a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, that are designed to be resistant to modification.

Blockchains enable information to be shared in peer-to-peer networks, and because the data in any given block cannot be altered without altering all subsequent blocks, they are secure against fraud. It’s this quality that has raised hopes it can be adapted for a wide range of uses beyond the financial sector.

Rates at Bithumb cryptocurrencies exchange in Seoul. Photo: Reuters In Singapore, the monetary authority has launched extensive blockchain research efforts, while its members have formed a blockchain-based trading network with Hong Kong, to be rolled out early next year.  Indonesia’s Central Bank is following Singapore’s lead with its own research programmes, according to Eni Panggabean, head of payment system policy and the oversight department.  “There is nothing wrong with the [blockchain] technology and it can be utilised in various sectors,” she said, adding that research was still in its early stages.  Malaysia, meanwhile, is seeking to develop global blockchain standards with industry groups predicting the technology will be in widespread use by 2025.

In Australia, the government has invested A$8.6 million (US$6.9 million) into a blockchain project by Perth company Power Ledger, in which energy is exchanged between households during periods of excess or shortage. And even in the midst of South Korea’s clampdown on bitcoin, the science and technology minister Yoo Young-min has gone on record as saying that blockchain should be considered quite separately from the volatile trading scene. Read more from scmp.com…

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