This week in tech: Saudi Arabia, UAE, France, Afghanistan, Germany turn to blockchain

While the previous week was marked by corporate adoption of blockchain, this week saw several countries take steps towards integrating blockchain technology into their operations. France believes blockchain could change the finance industry, Saudi and UAE plan on launching a digital currency, while Afghanistan is using the technology in healthcare. The week also saw the hacking of South Korea’s largest exchange in what is turning out to be a complicated tale, while some of the biggest banks globally continue their venture into blockchain.

In Afghanistan, the country’s Ministry of Public Health signed an MOU this week with a blockchain startup to integrate blockchain into its operations. The ministry is seeking to use blockchain to crack down on counterfeit drugs, digitize patients’ files and create medical registries in hospitals. With studies showing that at least 40% of the medicine enters the country illegally, blockchain will go a long way in ridding the country of this vice.

Over in Thailand, the government is set to use blockchain to issue tax refunds for oil exporters. The country’s excise department will require oil exporters to use the system by 2020, replacing the current cumbersome paper process. The move comes weeks after the country’s Finance Ministry announced that it would be using blockchain to issue tourist VAT refunds.

The French central bank could also turn to blockchain soon, with the bank’s first deputy governor calling for the integration of DLT-based settlements and payments systems. Speaking this week at an industry event, Denis Beau stated that tokenization and use of blockchain could “help answering market demands.”

Two of the biggest economies in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are working on a joint digital currency. According to local reports, leaders of the two countries met this week, with the issuance of a digital currency top on their agenda. The currency is expected to make inter-bank payments between the two oil-rich countries easier.

Yet another country is considering launching a digital currency, this time in Africa. The Central Bank of Ghana revealed that it has been in discussions with some of the stakeholders in the industry regarding launching a digital currency. The bank’s governor stated during an event that the digital currency will complement the recent growth in mobile money in the West African nation.

And despite being unfriendly to cryptocurrencies, the Indian government is proving to be pro-blockchain. This week, the country’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology revealed that it’s working on a national blockchain strategy. The strategy will bring onboard other ministries as well, targeting governance, cybersecurity, finance and banking among other industries.

In the banking industry, HSBC revealed this week that it will move $20 billion worth of assets into a new blockchain-based custody platform. The move will help the banking giant to digitize the tedious paper-based records that are associated with private placements. Over in the U.S., yet another banking giant, Bank of New York Mellon, revealed this week that it had joined the Marco Polo blockchain consortium. The bank hopes that the consortium will assist in its push to digitize most of its paper-based processes and expand its expertise in blockchain technology.

Audit giant KPMG this week unveiled a blockchain-based supply chain tool targeting Australia, Japan and China. The Big Four firm believes the tool will increase transparency for companies in agriculture, finance and manufacturing.

Blockchain regulation is also taking huge strides, with Switzerland, South Korea and Germany leading the pack. In South Korea, the country’s national assembly is passed a bill that will lay the groundwork for the regulation of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology this week.

In Europe, the Swiss government is set to make blockchain development easier, with plans underway to adopt a legal framework for blockchain. The government believes that the legal certainty will remove any and all barriers associated with blockchain and foster development of the technology in the country. Switzerland’s neighbor Germany is also proving to be a safe haven for crypto and blockchain. In a new bill, the European superpower wants to allow banks to legally offer cryptos by 2020.

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