#ITUWorld: AI and blockchain could enable smart banking for all

smart cities smart banking
Inside the Smart City Leaders roundtable at ITU Telecom World 2017. Image credit: ITU/R.Farrell

Decentralized banking services powered by blockchain and AI could widen financial inclusion, but trust is critical, say ITU Telecom World panelists

“AI is going to eliminate jobs.”

“Jobs will not be eliminated, they will simply change.”

This was a central line of debate at a session on smart banking for smart cities at ITU Telecom World in Busan, South Korea.

The key question at the heart of it all was: How will stakeholders in smart-city banking, from government and telcos to financial institutions and regulators, need to reposition and collaborate in the age of artificial intelligence – and what will be the impact for society?

“Seventy percent of the world do not trust their government or their banks,” asserted Toufi Saliba, CEO of the blockchain advisory group PrivacyShell and Toda-Algorand. This has opened the door to new business models for banking, and has allowed AI-supported blockchain and cryptocurrencies to come in, in a big and disruptive way, he said.

As a serial entrepreneur, he was optimistic that new user-centric, decentralized banking services could bring financial inclusion to more people than ever before.

“Money should be like water, people should have access,” he stated.

Blockchain technologies are increasingly becoming the backbone of decentralized smart banking.

“Seventy-three percent of banks have some blockchain, and 100% will by the end of the year. As a phenomenon, it has taken hold,” said Jane Treadwell, practice manager of ICT, Digital Platforms and Solutions at The World Bank.

There are currently 1.2 billion people without a formal or registered identity and there are 2.9 billion without a bank account, said panelists – so how can new financial services reach these people, considering 3.9 billion citizens are still without internet and connectivity?

According to Treadwell, the role of government in the increasingly connected age should be to “facilitate the closure of the gap.”

Danial Mausoof, head of strategic marketing for Nokia Asia Pacific and Japan, said that from the infrastructure perspective, regulation has been a block to connecting those 3.9 billion, and that’s what heralded the uptake of new platforms – including AI and blockchain – enabled by the smartphone as the device that we interact on and connect to these new technologies.

In the smart cities of the future, the outcomes of these advancements may be even greater in emerging markets than in the developed countries, but a key element will be ensuring user’s trust in these AI-enabled systems.

On the need to build trust in these new systems, Satoshi Amagai, president and CEO of Mofiria Corporation, talked about new authentication technologies that could help foster confidence in these new banking systems, many of which are already well-known, such as fingerprint and facial recognition. Newer methods such as vein recognition may prove even more secure.

Throughout the various discussions at ITU Telecom World 2017, many debates have centered around the disruptive nature of tech innovation – especially for telecom regulators trying to respond to OTT players and AI-enabled self-regulating systems.

A key takeaway form the lively and engaging debate around jobs was made by Nokia’s Mausoof when he said, “The narrative [of eliminating jobs] is slightly disruptive. Why not engage the regulators – not scare them into thinking they don’t have a job. It’s simply changing… Same argument with jobs. Jobs will not be eliminated, they will simply change.”

The original version of this article first appeared in ITU News

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