Further Blockchain and cryptocurrency education initiatives are needed in Malta beyond that of undergraduate and postgraduate level, Dr Joshua Ellul, UM’s Director of the Centre for Distributed Ledger Technologies and Faculty of ICT Senior Lecturer, told the Newspoint team.
He made the statement in view of his perception that in Malta, although cryptocurrencies have become household names, many do not yet understand the changes they bring, and what this could imply to the future of service provision in many industries, not just the financial services sector.
“We should focus our efforts on educating a skilled workforce able to take lead in this exciting new area”, he says.
Having the skills to be able to take the lead is something of importance, due to challenges to be faced by jurisdictions that will having to deal with , and by businesses which need to stay afloat. Whilst these challenges are being looked into, there also needs to be a focus on solutions that provide immediate gains to society at large.
In view of this potential wide-ranging impact, even the general public with a limited understanding of the Blockchain and the cryptosphere should be more informed.
Dr Ellul speaks of two main changes that are occurring in many industries using this technology.
Firstly, there is decentralised computing, which, as opposed to centralised computing, involves a network of computers that are consistently reaching consensus for a transaction, and then there is disintermediation, which is the act of eliminating middlemen in such a transaction.
Whereas all services used to traditionally rely on central service providers, who chose whether to execute a transaction or otherwise, cryptocurrency gives the end user the full power to execute it.
A typical scenario would be processing job applications at a company. If a system won’t allow applications to be submitted after a particular deadline, but an employee decides to submit his friend’s application after the deadline even if it shouldn’t have been allowed, this could be done because the system is controlled by the company itself. Using a blockchain system, it would be possible to create an application that wouldn’t allow anyone to tamper with the rules because a copy of the data is available for all others to see. “The company itself has been removed as a trusted entity in this situation. So blockchain signifies transparency, tamper-proofing, and verifiability for anyone who conducts system checks”, explains Dr Ellul.
Another advantage brought about by cryptocurrencies would be immediacy of settlements, which traditional financial systems are not currently able to do. But this immediacy requires consistency among all computers in a network, and this is slowing down cryptocurrency transactions. Whilst work is being done to speed this up, there will always be trade-offs of between consistency, availability and decentralisation.
“Such potential alone should be a reason to be interested in studying how various professions may be affected and enhanced. For those that want to be part of potential radical change in shaping the future of society, they should look into understanding what it is all about”.
He is extremely proud of how Malta is leading in education regarding cryptocurrency and blockchain. Although other educational institutions have proposed programs in digital currencies and blockchain, the Masters in Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technologies at the University of Malta is the first to offer such a multidisciplinary Masters allowing for students to gain a multidisciplinary view of the sector.
The idea to develop a multidisciplinary Masters in Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology came about when Dr Ellul together with his colleagues were consulting with government officials on a number of legislative bills being proposed in the blockchain and innovative technology arrangements spaces.
“We noticed that techies, business professionals and legal professionals have very different points of view, different vocabularies and different biases due to their exposure to their areas of specialisation. After a lot of discussion and effort in training eachother to understand these challenges, we realised that different professions need to come together to solve these challenges.”
The course helps students gain expertise in their particular profession within the blockchain section while providing them with an appreciation and literacy of other peripheral professions which make up the blockchain sector. This is further strengthened by industry relevance by incorporating applied projects within which students can work with industry partners, and by inviting industry experts to provide their insights.