INATBA Convenes Global Conversation on Standards, Governance and Interoperability

The International Association for Trusted Blockchain Applications (INATBA) on Thursday convened global leaders on standards, governance and interoperability for a thoughtful series of online discussions about how the blockchain and DLT ecosystem can collaborate more productively, deliver greater value and hasten mainstream adoption of the technology.

The virtual event, “Transacting Beyond Borders — Building a Global Blockchain Infrastructure,” was hosted by the INATBA Standards Committee and Governance and Interoperability Working Groups.

“Why do we need interoperability?” asked Virginia Cram Martos, CEO of Triangularity and a domain coordinator for the United Nations Center for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business. She spoke during the first session, which focused on governance and interoperability. “We need it in order to share data, truth and assets. It takes 2 to Tango. But 100 couples in a small room called called “common rules” all dancing to different tunes — begin to crash into one another and step on toes.”

During the same session, Roman Beck, a professor at IT University of Copenhagen and head of the European Blockchain Center, said blockchain could become the operating system of the network economy.

Added Beck: “Blockchain solutions have the potential to become the ‘supply chain operating system’ to record the quantity and transfer of assets as they move between supply chain nodes, track purchase orders, change orders, receipts, shipment notifications, or other trade-related documents, assign or verify certifications or certain properties of physical products, link physical goods to serial numbers, bar codes, digital tags like RFID, etc., and share information about manufacturing process, assembly, delivery, and maintenance of products with suppliers and vendors.”

Other key highlights from the first session, which focused on governance and interoperability:

  • “To discuss the interoperability issue, we need to first define what are the interoperability problems we are facing in developing the blockchain based applications.” said Wei Kai, vice director of Cloud and Big Data Institute with the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology. He went on to introduce the current developments in China and how the government is actively promoting blockchain technology on all the different levels.
  • “Trust, threat of insider job and inefficiency in the process of document verification in education is what drives the Indian Government to focus on blockchain initiatives” said Santosh K Misra, Commissioner of e-Governance in the Tamil Nadu Government in India.
  • Chloe White with the Australian Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, discussed her government’s February 2020 release of a National Blockchain Roadmap, which provides a broad vision for blockchain technology’s application in the Australian economy. The Roadmap was developed in partnership with industry and the research sector, with a focus on blockchain’s potential beyond the fintech sector. “Ongoing collaboration across all sectors will be essential to realising blockchain’s potential, which is why the first action taken has been to formalise and expand the advisory committee.” White said the Australian government is looking to engage with countries interested in collaboration, experience using blockchain for agricultural supply chains and credentialing, and roadmap success stories.
  • Moisés Menéndez, LACChain Principal Advisor and BEBAP expert, said the term “interoperability” in the DLT space does not have yet a single globally agreed upon definition. “But what are we’re really talking about?” he said. “It can mean interactions with existing systems/infrastructures, with different assets on the same ledger, between applications in the same ledger, between ledgers with varying protocols of network on the same platform or interactions between different platforms.”
  • Daniel Du Seuil, convenor of the European Self-Sovereign Identity Framework, discussed his European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI) project. Du Seuil said the EBSI offers cross-border public services. “Our vision is for EBSI to become a network where EBP Members can flexibly use the infrastructure to cooperate via cross-border public services, connect existing solutions or integrate specific services,” he said.

Key highlights from the second session, which focused on how to establish a set of standards for blockchain and DLT technologies:

  • Paolo Campegiani, head of Innovation at Bit4id and Project Leader of ISO TC307 Technical Report 23249, said it’s important for people to participate in the process of creating standards. “Why should [you] participate?” he said. “To exchange ideas with bright people drawing from academia, research, governments, companies of any size and work on an equal basis. Standards will be done, with or without you.”
  • “We need ICT standards because they enable interoperability of systems/services, encourage and spread innovation and transfer of research, help prevent duplication of effort, open up new markets, expands the market, brings down costs and increases competition,” said Emilio Davila with the European Commission. “Standards also create trust and confidence in products and services, eases participation in procurement, builds reputation and strategic partnerships and eliminates technical barriers to trade.”
  • Diego Lopez, chairman at ETSI ISG PDL, said that there is a need to go beyond the unconstrained environments that built the distributed ledger case because of several considerations like manageability, scalability, time and energy efficiency etc. That is why in standards, it is important to avoid this one headed solution and seek for multi-sector environments.
  • Martin Adolph, a program manager at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies, said UN organizations including ITU are embracing DLTs according to their respective mandates. “ITU membership responded to the need for international standards in the field of distributed ledger technologies,” he said. “Work is underway in ITU on a wide range of DLT-related standards, driven by representatives of governments, industry and academia. Work is underway in ITU on a wide range of DLT-related standards, driven by representatives of governments, industry and academia.”
  • “It seems like every interoperability discussion begins with two (or more) things you wish to hook together. There is rarely a discussion of how to find a chain with a particular feature (such as identity management, access rights, etc.),” said Eric Cohen, a Canadian expert at ISO TC 307 SG7 on interoperability. “We need to recognize that tomorrow’s efficient and more automated environment will need to indicate and describe their presence and how to interact with them.”

Special thanks are due to the event’s chief organizers: INATBA’s Working Group co-chairs Monique Bachner and Marianna Belotti of Governance, Ad Kroft, an active Governance WG member, Joachim Lohkamp and Ismael Arribas of Interoperability, as well as Gilbert Verdian of the INATBA Standardization Committee. INATBA organizers plan to follow up on key findings and next steps in the coming weeks.

The International Association for Trusted Blockchain Applications (INATBA) offers developers and users of DLT a global forum to interact with regulators and policy makers and bring blockchain technology to the next stage.

Initiated by the European Commission and launched in April 2019, the association already has a membership base of more than 150 organizations, from start-ups to key industry players of various sectors. The association is additionally supported by an Advisory Board including organizations like OECD, World Food Program, the World Bank, and the United Nations.

The core objectives of INATBA are to:

  • Establish a permanent dialogue with public authorities and regulators.
  • Promote open, transparent and inclusive global governance models for blockchain and DLT.
  • Support the development and adoption of interoperability guidelines and global standards.
  • Develop sector-specific guidelines and specifications.

Rachel Pipan
INATBA Head of Communications