Shamma M Raghib is one of the founding organizers of ‘Data Pioneers’, a global grassroots level group of data professionals, and Business Consultant for Experian Data Quality in Sydney, Australia, where she is currently based. Born in Bangladesh, Raghib has lived in many different parts of the world and continues to come visit to her home country.
During her last visit to Bangladesh the MIT trained blockchain expert conducted a workshop in Dhaka, which she hadn’t planned, but went ahead with it anyway when Dhaka based ISP company Dnet put it together. Raghib underwent training at MIT on ‘Fintech Future of Commerce’, specializing in blockchain and future payments infrastructure. Since then she has been training online and offline, at local and corporate workshops to make people more aware of blockchain technology and the future applications of it.
We caught up with her while she was here and asked her a few questions. Here is what she said:
FINTECH: Where you are based? And did you grow up in BD?
SMR: I have lived all over the world, but mainly Bangladesh, Belgium, Saudi Arabia and a brief time in India. I have lived in Bangladesh for about 12 years overall. I am soon moving to Sydney on a new role in the enterprise data world.
Fintech: Please summarize for us what you discussed in the workshop.
SMR: In the workshop we discussed about Bitcoin, cryptocurencies, how bitcoin is mined, what is the underlying technology of Bitcoin – the blockchain foundations, blockchain applications and use-cases in different industries like supply chain, governance, healthcare, creative industry, finance and fintech; mainly all data driven industries.
Fintech: The participants at the workshop appeared to have at least rudimentary knowledge of blockchain. What area needed most explaining?
SMR: Somehow everyone was most interested about bitcoin mining. This shows a lot of entrepreneurial spirit which is essential for any project to be successful.
Fintech: What you think participants took away from the workshop? And what was the most important thing you wanted to convey?
SMR: Upon speaking to quite a few participants at the end of the workshop, most seemed to be satisfied by the fact that their initial understanding about bitcoin, cyryptocurrencies and blockchain was further enhanced into a deeper practical understanding. The most important thing I wanted to convey was to allow them to take home a business case that they build themselves, based on blockchain application. Anyone can build a blockchain application, but it is not easy to build a strategic business case given that we do not have a lot of data in such an emerging technology.
Fintech: Where someone, a lay person or IT/banking professionals, wanting to learn about blockchain should start? Where good resources are available?
SMR: Most of the existing online courses contain fundamentals about Bitcoin and blockchain. However, for a deeper practical know how from industry experts, I think it is important to get corporate and local innovation hub training from experts working in the fields at home and abroad.
Fintech: With what appears to be a very positive response to the workshop, are you likely to think about future events or a bigger initiative in Bangladesh?
SMR: Yes, I am looking for potential sponsors for a two-day blockchain event with experts from home and abroad. If someone is interested they can reach me at: be.linkedin.com/in/shammaraghib.
Fintech: Please explain in simple words what blockchain technology is? Even though you demonstrated that it can be so much more than just cryptocurrency, which sector can potentially benefit most from it in BD?
SMR: Blockchain is a concept that is hard to pin down in a sentence or two. But for the sake of simplicity and further curiosity, let us say it is a “Distributed Trust Platform” which can be verified by anyone who is part of that particular blockchain network.
In Bangladesh, potentially, I see applications in financial industries – like remittance, credits and payment industries – and also in e-governance: voting, digital identity and certification of legal contracts.
Fintech: Where in the banking and NBFI sector blockchain can be immediately implemented in BD? Do you think without an ecosystem this can be/should be attempted?
SMR: In the banking sector, blockchain based payment solutions, know-Your-Customer requirements, may potentially have a great impact. In NBFI, blockchain can be used for investment records, settlement and clearance and trust based smart contracts and digital identity.
Fintech: could you put a specific time when blockchain will potentially enter the ‘enlightenment’ and ‘plateau of productivity’ phase?
SMR: No, giving a specific timing is very difficult. Let me explain. This is dependent on multitude of factors. Following the media hype, we see blockchain startups getting funding amassing more than 1.2 Billion! However, some key challenges remain: regulatory confidence, cost of technology, data security (PII data), cost of technology and investment to link and implement with existing systems are some of the considerations that are must and upcoming.
Without further support from Bangladesh government, it would be extremely difficult to realize the full potential of blockchain in Bangladesh. I am so proud of the current on-going works in e-governance and certifications, know your customer, microfinance related blockchain programs that are already starting off in the country. However, I believe that government backed funding and support on regulatory drivers are critical. The reason is simple, access to finance is essential in the world and is key to productivity in economic growth in this emerging technology. In fact, blockchain based businesses will have the greatest impact in developing countries like Bangladesh, and we need to play the right cards way before we enter the “enlightenment” and “plateau of productivity phase” from the Gartner Emerging Technology Hype Cycle.
Thanks very much for your time
SMR: You are welcome. ■