Crypto and blockchain won’t catch on until they’re actually useful

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Taking blockchain tech from buzzword to essential technology should have a singular focus: Making it useful for people’s everyday lives.

A perennial question surrounding blockchain technology is: When will it make a mainstream impact? Understandably, enthusiasts in the industry are anxious to see this technology live up to its promise of empowering consumers, accelerating cross-border payments and bridging the financial inclusion gap for the under- and unbanked.

The reality is that today, its scope is limited. From what little data we have available about cryptocurrency adoption, we see that the pool of active users is relatively small in size and scope — largely millennial and largely male.

Related: Crypto could save millennials from the economy that failed them

Some countries have proven to be trendsetters; for example, one survey showed that 32% of respondents in Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, said they’ve used or owned cryptocurrency. To put that into perspective, only 7% said the same in the United States and 8% in China.

In part, this limited adoption can be attributed to the fact that today’s products are designed for users who know what they’re doing. It’s designed for people who know or are willing to learn the hoops they need to jump through to take their financial assets from fiat into crypto and back again and the benefits of doing so.

Crypto utility — that allows people to use it in their daily routine — will come from putting in the time to develop the right foundational infrastructure. This infrastructure will enable some of the most powerful crypto use cases, such as hedging inflation in volatile economies, enabling remittance and cross-border solutions, paying bills, and charging for goods and services as a merchant.

Stablecoins — tokens backed by fiat currencies — are essential to that infrastructure; they create a bridge between the digital and physical worlds, between virtual and physical value. They make digital currency useful so that they can be quickly and efficiently traded, exchanged, saved and spent — no matter where you are in the world. They represent the promise of blockchain technology.

But stablecoins won’t be useful on their own. They need a simple platform that makes it easy for consumers to use digital assets. Many of today’s platforms are designed for traders, sophisticated investors and experienced crypto adopters, not your average retail users. Driving greater blockchain adoption will rely on creating platforms that are accessible and familiar to consumers so they can trust in connecting their digital and physical assets. With mainstream consumers in mind, platforms that obfuscate the blockchain back-end should be designed in a way that is intuitive and integrates customers’ current digital habits.

Blockchain for business

That last component is essential for building the right infrastructure for greater blockchain adoption. However, it nevertheless requires a business-to-customer focus, as well as business-to-business. Blockchain infrastructure should be readily available and easy to integrate for businesses.

In its most recent analysis of the blockchain landscape, Big Four audit firm Deloitte argues that the appeal and sustainability of this technology hinge on “its use of digital assets and the roles those assets will play in the future of commerce.” To get there, it requires making crypto and crypto wallets business-friendly.

With digital payments on the rise, both e-commerce and brick-and-mortar — or, more generally, online and offline — businesses already have to adapt quickly to new payment methods. To incentivize them to see blockchain and innovations like stablecoins as a compelling addition (or alternative), there needs to be the right infrastructure, such as one-stop API endpoints so shops and businesses can offer crypto payment methods without bearing a significant operational burden.

Building infrastructure with B2B in mind and creating the ecosystem to support it ultimately drive greater consumer adoption because it means blockchain technology is available where consumers use it, delivering portable, universal money that can be used across business platforms.

The momentum is here to move blockchain technology into the mainstream. In the same Deloitte survey, 89% of respondents said that they believe digital assets will be very or somewhat important to their industries in the next three years. Now it’s up to us to build this technology to get the infrastructure right and prove that blockchain can live up to its promise.

This article was co-authored by Lisa Nestor and Mary Saracco.

The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the authors’ alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

Lisa Nestor is the senior strategist at the Stellar Development Foundation.
Mary Saracco is the chief financial officer at Settle.

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