Dubai looks to improve fintech credentials with bitcoin technology

Emirate plans to position itself at the forefront of blockchain technology with several new initiatives



Dubai has announced several world first initiatives in healthcare, wills and diamond transactions using bitcoin database technology blockchain, with the intention of positioning itself as a hub for digital financial products.

Under the plans announced at a Dubai Museum of the Future Foundation event today, block chain – a distributed database list system designed to prevent tampering and revision – will be used by several prominent entities in the emirate including healthcare providers, Dubai International Financial Centre and Dubai Multi Commodities Centre.

The move follows the formation of the Global Blockchain Council by DMFF in February.

The first to be announced by local telecoms provider du will see patient healthcare records made directly accessible to doctors in the emirate using the blockchain system. The initiative is designed to prevent mistakes, make sure doctors have access to the most up to date records and reduce the need for patients to carry their own paperwork.

Elsewhere, Dubai Multi Commodities Centre said it planned to combine the Kimberly Process initiative with a blockchain record system to combat the trade of conflict diamonds. The free zone also plans to digitise the transfer, storage, and trade data provided by each country on diamond transactions. DMCC director of business development James Bernard said this data would be “immediately visible to everyone across the world”, limit risk and “vastly reduce” the costs and complexity of current systems by creating a permanent database.

The DIFC initiative will see the free zone preserve and record wills and trusts in a blockchain system designed to streamline the succession process for family businesses and expatriates.

Meanwhile, loyalty and rewards platform Loyalty plans to create a customised programme for Dubai enabling users to collect points and spend them at various attractions in the emirate, to create a more customised tourism experience.

Other initiatives will see technology company IBM work with local companies, including logistics providers and an investment bank, to digitise and record trade flows and fintech start-up BitOasis said it was working with free zones to simplify the process of setting up a company in the emirate. It is using a blockchain system to digitally verify records and keep track of paperwork with the intention of speeding up the licensing process.

The pilot projects are the first that are ready to be announced to the public but there are several others in the works, according to Museum of the Future Foundation chief operating officer Dr Noah Raford.

They are scheduled for completion within three to six months with the intention of reflecting on their success after a year.

Blockchain was originally designed as a digital ledger to record every bitcoin transaction that ever occurred. However, there is a growing realisation in the technology community that it may have applications beyond the cryptocurrency.

IBM Cloud’s chief technology officer Anthony Butler said the technology had some interesting use cases and could change the way people interact with each other.

Its applications are still being explored and there is a risk it is being “overhyped”, according to fintech company ANX International’s chief operating officer David Chapman, who warned that many blockchain initiatives had failed to last 12 months.

But, through its support, Dubai is hoping to position itself at the forefront of financial technology.

Beco Capital managing partner Alvaro Abella said blockchain had enormous potential to facilitate trade in areas like Jebel Ali Port, particularly with the support of the Dubai government.

“Dubai is providing an example of what other governments should be doing to support the development of blockchain,” he said.