Blockchain technology is here to stay, and governments around the world are taking note. South Korea is the most recent government to show its dedication to the tech with an investment of $90 million to create blockchain specialists who steer national technology decisions and conversations. It’s an investment in education and a sizeable one at that. However, South Korea follows in the footsteps of governments like Estonia and Singapore in supporting the technology and investing accordingly.
The message from these governments is clear: upskill and educate in blockchain or be left behind.
South Korea’s $90 million blockchain bet
So, what exactly has South Korea done? Early last month the government announced its intention to create the nation’s “first batch of blockchain specialists.” This is reportedly supported by the rolling out of a “blockchain technology development strategy” course in tertiary education, which is backed by a 100 billion Korean Won ($90 million) investment. The course includes more than 40 students who were selected through an amassment of applications and interviews to determine the best candidates.
The selection process was rigorous and for a good reason: students will need to work through six months of eight-hour days that consist of tutelage, assessment, and activities. The hope is for graduates to guide governmental decisions on blockchain and put their skills into real-life scenarios and cryptocurrency firms.
While South Korea is not the first government to get involved with the blockchain in some way, it appears to be the first country to invest in the education of the technology on this kind of scale. This move certainly puts other future-forward nations on notice and could mark the beginning of a global trend.
South Korea – so what?
South Korea’s decision is a major step in further investment and education of blockchain – and it is not the only government making such investments in innovation. Estonia, named “the most advanced digital society in the world” by Wired, has become a startup hub and an early adopter of blockchain. With digital citizen identities and the possibility of launching its own crypto token called the “estcoin,” the European nation of 1.3 million people is a prime example of blockchain integration done right.
Or look at Singapore: The country has partnered with The IBM Center for Blockchain Innovation nurture local talent and foster innovation in the region and to make the tiny nation a pioneer in fintech innovation. The private-public partnership will also focus on the development of applications based on enterprise blockchain, cyber-security, and cognitive computing, with an end-goal of creating a digital blockchain ecosystem in the island city-state.
And how about Switzerland? Its blockchain infrastructure has led to the establishment of the Swiss Crypto Valley. Its top 50 blockchain companies are worth a combined estimate of $44 million, and it has more than $2 billion in cash to spend on research and development.
Why is this important? Education is a cornerstone of any society and one of the biggest social goods that a company or government can provide. Unlike Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality or Biotech, Blockchain decentralizes power structures. The other tech types come from the top – from government research and university funding. Blockchain started as an anonymous white-paper in 2008 with zero institutional recognition; it was an outlier. For governments to invest heavily validates the tech and proves its functionality for future infrastructure.
Getting schooled on the blockchain
There is already significant hype and buzz about blockchain. People in the street know about it, although not many people can explain what it is. There is a lot of education needed as blockchain has many applications in many domains.
This isn’t just about governmental policy. In an ideal world, blockchain would be a subject in schools, as it’s a core subject in the field of computer science with almost unlimited applications. It should be thought of like personal computers in the 1990s. It wasn’t so long ago that would have seemed like computing seemed like new and exciting tech; blockchain is not all that different.
Universities are already on this trend. Coinbase released a report last month highlighting the current state of crypto in higher education, which showed that more than 40 percent of the world’s 50 foremost universities offer some sort of academically-endorsed, blockchain-related course. Moreover, 70 percent of universities offer at least one cryptography related class, which may relate to distributed ledgers in some way, shape or form.
Why might more governments invest in blockchain education? Transparency, cost saving, opportunity and the ease of interaction between citizens using government services are all strong reasons. It is a flexible technology with many possible applications in life and society. The potential is limitless and governments who integrate the tech today will be best prepared for tomorrow.
Where to now?
Some governments are slow, and others fast in adopting blockchain technology – but the reality is that all will likely need to adopt the tech at some point. Those who are better prepared and educated on the topic will no doubt be better positioned for future opportunities. Places like South Korea, Estonia, and Singapore are ahead of the curve: They are preparing for the tech realities of tomorrow and offering their young people the background for limitless creation.