Don Tapscott is a Canadian business executive, author, consultant, and speaker, who specializes in business strategy, organizational transformation and the role of technology in business and society. He is the CEO of the Tapscott Group and the co-founder and Executive Chairman of the Blockchain Research Institute.


Mediaplanet: What has been the most exciting recent development in blockchain?

Don Tapscott: In the past year we have seen more widespread enterprise adoption of blockchain than ever before. Many of the enterprise innovations have focused on financial services and supply chain management, where they’re helping to build a frictionless global market. However, I think the innovations in privacy and identity management have been especially notable. This is the second era of the internet, and it’s going to fundamentally change the way we conduct ourselves online. 

What opportunities does blockchain open in the finance sector? 

Blockchain serves as a native medium for value, allowing us to build trust and transact digitally without the need for large intermediaries. That has a particularly notable impact on things like payments and remittances, for example, but it’s also turning venture capital upside down through an innovation called “initial coin offerings.” Projects can now raise capital while bypassing a lot of the traditional intermediaries, which has enormous implications for banking. 

How will blockchain technologies promote innovation in areas like financial technologies? 

Blockchain provides a foundational layer for other forms of technology. For instance, if you’re going to incorporate AI into finance, you will want a secure platform with which that AI might make transactions or share data. Blockchain provides that platform.

What are the key challenges associated with integrating blockchain into an organization? 

At the Blockchain Research Institute a lot of our research focuses on the implementation hurdles that companies face. Often, embracing blockchain requires reimagining the way your company adds value, and how a peer-to-peer value exchange might impact that. The technology is also immature, although there is significant progress weekly.

How can firms effectively navigate these challenges? 

It starts at the leadership level, by identifying the specific opportunities for blockchain to improve your business. Collaboration across companies and industries is absolutely crucial. Many of the companies we work with are having constant conversation with their competitors, in the interest of establishing the standards necessary for mass adoption of the technology. Which is why FedEx, UPS, and DHL are coordinating their blockchain efforts.

What impact will blockchain have on data privacy? 

All the data you create in your everyday life constitutes what you might call a “digital identity.” Right now, that data — and the money that can be made off of it — is expropriated by a few large companies. Using blockchain, we can build a “self-sovereign identity,” where the data you create is collected and secured in a sort of “digital black box,” owned by you. That means the individual controls, benefits from, and even profits from, their own digital footprint.

How do you see blockchain shaping the Canadian economy in the years to come? 

Canada is already emerging as a global leader in blockchain, not least because of our strong financial system and thriving tech sector. But there are impediments. Regulators and governments are slow to understand and could do better to encourage the evolution of this technology. Government leaders seem more focused on AI, which is a mistake. Rather, view AI and blockchain as a couple.