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Blockchain Features In Caribbean’s Leading Tech Conference

The fourth edition of the ATECH Conference takes place at the Renaissance Convention Center in the Dutch Caribbean Island of Aruba on Thursday, 25th October.

The event is organized each year by the ATECH Foundation which was founded in 2015 by a group of Aruban entrepreneurs.  The first event was held that year and in the intervening period, it has established itself as the leading tech event in the Caribbean region.

Although largely a technology based event with a broader focus, this years Conference includes elements which turn the spotlight on blockchain technology.  The theme of this years event is Identity.

As it transpires, Identity is a key theme in the blockchain sector at present.  Many blockchain projects are currently working on various areas of technology which implicate online identity.  Decentralized blockchain is ideal for applications which both allow the use of personal data without compromising personal data via third party companies.

IBM has carried out a body of work in this field and it’s fitting that ATECH will feature Rebecca Duane of IBM Blockchain.  Duane fulfills a leadership role in facilitating business development efforts and enabling strategic partnerships for IBM Blockchain.  Prior to this, she worked for AID:Tech – a technology company which provides solutions which make it possible to deliver digital entitlements (eg. aid distributed through NGO’s in the developing world) through blockchain tech and digital identity.

Part of the conference encompasses a competition between the most promising startups.  This years event attracted more than 100 applicants from around the world.  Eight have been shortlisted to present at the conference.  One of those finalists – Hi5 Solutions – is right on point with this years theme of identity.  The company’s offering is aimed at both private and public sector clients.  It provides a trusted system for identity validation and document sharing to meet international compliance standards.  In achieving this, they utilize blockchain technology.  The Bitcoin Mag contacted Francis Laclé – co-founder and director – who explained further:

“The reason we chose a distributed ledger framework is that it provides many built-in features that are required for our product and business case.  One feature that is built on top of the stack fulfils the need for end-to-end asymmetric encryption. Private keys are never stored on our infrastructure.”

It’s platform incorporates true identity validation through ISO certified identity document scanners. In a lot of countries identity documents do not comply with certain ISO standards and are thus easier to tamper with than an international document such as a passport.

Another key note speaker at the event with relevance to blockchain is Vanessa Pestritto – Director of XPRING – an initiative by technology company Ripple to invest in, incubate, acquire and provide grants to companies run by proven entrepreneurs. XPRING only funds those entrepreneurs who use cryptocurrency XRP to solve their customers problems.

Pestritto previously worked as an Executive Director for New York Angels – an independent consortium of angel investors.

The Conference takes place against the backdrop of the Island of Aruba’s emerging entrepreneurial ecosystem.  Technological support initiatives are receiving substantial backing from the Aruban government in recent years in an effort to nurture tech startups and create the right environment for a Caribbean Silicon Valley.

It seems that with cryptocurrency and blockchain technology too, institutions on the Island are receptive to changing the policy approach.  Ryan Peterson – General Manager for Economic Policy at the Central Bank of Aruba – spoke at Consensus 2017 with a positive viewpoint when it comes to embracing digital currency:

“For the past three or four years, we have seen a very clear shift in our tourism consumer behavior, from cash to cards to adopting digital currencies.  So when you speak about financial stability, when you see your main consumer market, 90% of your economy is going digital.  To maintain that [financial] stability as a Central Bank, you have no choice, you need to get on-board of looking [at] how and where this will take the economy.”

He went on to say that the introduction of digital currency in Aruba would add 4-5% to GDP in a region that hasn’t seen more than 0.5% growth over the past 20 years.

As with the vast majority of tech and startup events recently, blockchain features prominently at ATECH.  The nascent nature of both the technology and companies involved in the sector mean that such events are increasingly likely to feature the technology strongly in one way or another.




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