My first task as the Internet Society’s Regional Community Manager for the Middle East was to organize three events in a span of a week in three different cities around the Middle East about Blockchain with Dr. Walid Al Saqaf, Internet Society Board of Trustees, as the keynote speaker.
Amman, Beirut, and Dubai
July 8th was D-Day for Amman at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in partnership with Int@j Jordan and Tank by Omnia. July 19th was Beirut, Lebanon, at the Movenpick Beirut, co-organized with the Internet Society Lebanon Chapter. July 12th was Dubai, UAE, at DTEC Silicon Oasis Authority, co-organized with the ISOC UAE Chapter. All three cities differed in the type of attendees, but the subjects were the same: Blockchain, Internet Governance, and Cryptocurrency.
Dr. Walid Al Saqaf, along with Waheed Al Barghouti, a cryptocurrency expert, conducted a four-hour morning workshop with a live mining demo, “create your blockchain” exercise, and smart contract creation, rules, and regulations. Moreover, there was an open forum in the afternoon that included high-level government representatives as well as private and public sector attendees.
Blockchain had been ambiguous to me, yet after the first workshop I found myself knowing more and more about this decentralized world that is creating endless opportunities in implementations in different domains around the world. We all learned how blockchain started, how bitcoin incepted, and how different cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum work.
Waheed Al Barghouthi explained that smart contracts were open source, and anyone can create one. He showed us an example of a smart contract used for a ticketing system, how the ticket is issued, then refunded. These contracts can become the future for dealing with any purchase in the world. Walid Al Saqaf jumped in to mention that Georgia is the first country to use smart contracts and blockchain in all of its real estate transactions.
One of the funniest things to hear during the day was “gas.” What is gas you say? It’s not pumped out of the earth when it comes to cryptocurrencies; it is the fee used by Ethereum. For example, if you’re sending Ethereum to anyone and want your transaction to happen immediately, your gas fee is higher than if you wait 48 hours. It was also my first time hearing about something called Bitcoin ATMs where you can exchange bitcoin from your wallets into cash. These ATM’s exist around the world and can be used for withdrawals. At all times, Mr. Waheed confirmed that Dr. Walid was doing a great job, as a humorous side of the workshop.
Dr. Walid confirmed that the Internet cannot be destroyed; it’s built in a way to sustain a nuclear attack! That was reassuring to know. What we know is, just like the Internet first started, blockchain is taking a similar route. As much as the Internet is here to stay, blockchain is also here to stay. It’s a new world and we need to learn more about and welcome its adoption.