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How ASEAN is shaping up to be a blockchain frontrunner

The ASEAN region may not be known as a leader in blockchain technology, but it is by no means a distant laggard. Southeast Asia is home to several blockchain startups such as Indonesia’s Hara, a blockchain-based food and agriculture data exchange platform, and Singapore’s Electrify, which seeks to integrate blockchain in the electric power industry.

Most Southeast Asian countries appear to be receptive to the idea of blockchain being used in various applications. If there are challenges encountered, the government and private sectors usually come up with solutions instead of retreating from any engagement with blockchain.

Welcoming governments
There are many promising developments that signal the growing support for blockchain technology in Southeast Asia. Financial access throughout the region is still considerably below par, but this does not indicate a weak opportunity for blockchain to flourish.

On the contrary, it provides a compelling impetus for companies to innovate and for governments to adjust policies in favour of financial inclusiveness.

The Indonesian government, for example, appears to acknowledge the potential of blockchain. The ASEAN bloc’s most populous state and largest economy has softened its stance on cryptocurrencies after initially issuing an outright ban on these digital assets in 2018.

While the country still does consider cryptocurrencies as legal money, Bappebti, Indonesia’s financial services regulator, has announced the creation of legal frameworks to enable blockchain innovations and the use of crypto assets.

Singapore, on the other hand, is becoming a destination for initial coin offerings (ICOs). In late 2017, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announced that it was regulating digital token offerings. In the same year, MAS also introduced a tokenized version of the Singaporean dollar. Since then, ICOs in Singapore have been surging.

The Thai government has likewise helped make it easy to adopt blockchain technology and its applications. Thailand introduced cryptocurrency laws in 2018 and its central bank has been supportive of efforts to integrate blockchain-powered solutions in cross-border payments, security settlement, and supply chain management.

In March 2020, Vietnam’s government released Resolution No. 17/NQ-CP, which lays out the essential tasks and solutions involved in developing the country’s e-government system. The resolution includes the creation of a legal framework for the application of modern technologies including blockchain, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, big data, and Open API.

Meanwhile, the Philippines claims the distinction of being the pioneer in using blockchain technology for the distribution of government bonds. A collaboration by the Philippine Bureau of Treasury, UnionBank, and the Philippine Digital Asset Exchange has resulted in the launch of an app powered by Distributed Ledger Technology (blockchain) to make it easier and more efficient for people to invest in retail treasury bonds.

Thriving startups
There are hundreds of blockchain startups in the Southeast Asian region. From the fintech system Vauld of Singapore to the agriculture data exchange platform Hara of Indonesia, many ASEAN businesses are already harnessing blockchain to explore novel business models or new facets of conventional businesses.
Crunchbase currently has a list of 385 ASEAN blockchain for-profit and nonprofit organisations. These include Biconomy, a tech firm that seeks to establish a transaction infrastructure for Web 3 applications; MathWallet, a multi-platform digital wallet that supports over 50 blockchains; and Conflux Network, an open network for digital assets and decentralised applications.

One of the most notable ASEAN blockchain startups is Singapore’s Electrify. Created by Electrify SG, the pioneering retail electricity marketplace in Southeast Asia, Electrify makes it possible for consumers to find the best power rates that match their needs and preferences.

Electrify has already facilitated the buying and selling of more than 60 gigawatt-hours of electricity. Through blockchain, Electrify is looking to decentralise its marketplace and enable faster transactions with lower fees.

Another standout is Bluzelle, a platform for sharing computing power. Established in 2014, this innovative business operates like a decentralised cloud service through which users store data in multiple computers, making their data safe from cyber theft and unlikely to be affected by server downtimes. The company successfully closed a US$19.5 million ICO in 2018.

Moreover, ASEAN can brag of being the origin of the world’s first blockchain-driven point-of-sale device: XPOS. The introduction of the concept of this blockchain-based solution was convincing enough that it attracted more than US$35 million in over three funding rounds. XPos makes it possible to accept payments through multiple modes including cryptocurrency. XPOS comes with complementary apps XWallet (e-wallet) and XPass, an NFC-based contactless transaction solution.

Considering the recent developments, the emergence of more promising and trailblazing blockchain startups from Southeast Asia is going to be unsurprising. With the rise of fintech and growing investor interest in the region, it is no longer that difficult to attract funds to bring innovative blockchain application ideas to the market.

Easier blockchain product development
Thanks to welcoming governments and brilliant technical and entrepreneurial minds, the ASEAN bloc is making strides at the forefront of blockchain technology. Even better, platforms and APIs for blockchain product development have been made more accessible nowadays.

The news of and Alchemy’s partnership, for one, is a significant development for everyone involved in the development of blockchain apps. This collaboration entails Alchemy’s role in the building of a developer platform and API that simplifies the process of creating applications on the chain.

It makes it easier to integrate apps for wallets and exchanges., a Hong Kong-based company, is set to serve thousands of developers in the ASEAN with its enhanced platform.

Alchemy is the entity behind Supernode, the most popular Ethereum API in the world. More than 70 percent of the world’s leading Ethereum apps use Alchemy’s APIs. This translates to over $15 billion transactions facilitated by applications that rely on an underlying technology produced by Alchemy. With the company’s record in delivering reliable, scalable, and accurate APIs, developers on the platform can expect better outcomes as they strive to build world-class apps.

Another example of an excellent platform that makes development easier is Game Protocol. It helps achieve faster, easier, and more efficient development through its digital currency and the creation of collaborative communities. It democratizes the development process and provides quick access to crowdfunding for developments. Likewise, it provides a decentralized marketplace where developers can sell their products.

Towards blockchain leadership
ASEAN as a global leader in blockchain application is far from far-fetched. There is abundant potential in the region especially in the field of financial technology and in novel or groundbreaking business ideas. Southeast Asia is still far from reaching its peak in blockchain applications. e27

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