The World Economic Forum (WEF) and industry leaders have released what they call the ‘Global Standards Mapping Initiative’ (GSMI). Subtitled an effort to assess the current state of blockchain, it uses input from some 30 technical standard-setting entities, 185 jurisdictions and nearly 400 industry groups.
Sheila Warren, Head of Blockchain at the World Economic Forum, said: “There has been a strong demand signal for a catalogue of standards-related activity that could serve as a cornerstone for facilitating responsible deployment and interoperability. We were excited to collaborate with the Global Blockchain Business Council and members of our Blockchain Council to create this open resource that can be used by the ecosystem, policy-makers, and beyond, to inform their approaches to the technology and standards moving forward.”
WEF and GBBC involvement in the GSMI
The reports, released by the World Economic Forum and the Global Blockchain Business Council (GBBC), map and assess the current blockchain and digital asset landscape across three distinct areas:
- technical standards
- legislation and guidance by sovereign and international bodies
- industry best practices and standards
Led by the World Economic Forum and the GBBC, the GSMI includes (for a full list of contributors, see here) core collaborators:
- Digital Currency Initiative
- MIT Media Lab
- ESG Intelligence
- Global Digital Finance (GDF)
- Hyperledger and The Linux Foundation
- the Milken Institute
- SIX Digital Exchange (SDX). a full list of partners and collaborators, please see here.
David Treat, GBBC Board Chair and Senior Managing Director and Head of Accenture’s Blockchain Business, said: “The next wave of innovation will be driven by collaborative ecosystems, underpinned by blockchain and multiparty systems. The technology is advancing quickly, but the complexities of the standards, frameworks and policies necessary to align to best practices have risked slowing progress to broad-based adoption. At Accenture, we believe this important initiative offers a significant leap forward as we help our clients to drive business transformation and shape the future with more resilient, transparent and secure infrastructures.”
Key insights highlighted in the reports include:
- blockchain’s fragmentation – both worldwide and within jurisdictions
- overlaps, gaps and conflicts in standard-setting
- a lack of dynamic guidance for new uses of the technology
- the need for proactive strategies deployed by organisations
- the importance of the role which regulators should play in shaping the blockchain future
As Lawrence Wintermeyer, Executive Co-Chair, Global Digital Finance, put it: “The GSMI project was ambitious in its goal of mapping out the global regulatory and association landscape for crypto and digital assets. For the first time, business leaders and policy-makers can now access the (fragmented) landscape of jurisdictional regulatory intelligence and better understand which of the agencies and associations is best positioned to support their needs.”
Technical standards and volumes of activity
Thinking along more technology lines, analysis of technical standards found high volumes of activity related to:
- Security: including standards for data access, integrity and storage; adaptations to traditional IT security processes and procedures for distributed ledger technology (DLT); specific requirements, etc.
- Internet of Things (IoT): including data management for connected devices; use and exchange of data; the role of DLT in smart cities.
- Identity: including use of personal information; decentralised identification methods; key generation, storage, and management; interaction with regulation such as Anti-Money Laundering/Know Your Customer (AML/KYC).
- DLT requirements: including functional requirements for software and hardware components; operational procedures; governance models; data formats; risk controls.
- DLT taxonomy/terminology: including standardised definitions and reference architectures; defining types, functions, components and use cases of blockchain.
- Terminology: where clear and consistent definitions remain a challenge, with variations among standard-setting entities.
- Activity variations: where the number of initiatives seems to reflect the volume of hype surrounding blockchain (where the GSMI says that some initiatives have dropped off or not been published).
- Scope of blockchain standards: including division of the technical stack – which varies among entities and in so doing blurs the lines with related components (like cryptography and specific industry verticals).
- Gaps and overlaps: there are apparently several areas of overlap where alignment is not good as well as gaps that have not been given proper attention.
- Standards dissemination: a working model for deciding standards implementation remains unclear, particularly as DLT introduces new models for governance.
The reports also provide action-oriented guidance for public and private sector stakeholders and include an interactive world map of blockchain legislation and guidance.
Enterprise Times: what does this mean
Any effort to produce standards for blockchain should help enterprises. As such this GSMI is to be welcomed as is the fact that its reports are accessible to the public. They should serve as a resource for the blockchain community to develop the frameworks and standards needed to move the industry and technology forward.
One problem identified by the GSMI is worth highlighting. This concerns representation – whether of geographies, areas of expertise, consumers or interests. This is highly variable among entities. Yet broad representation matters when creating inclusive, useable standards.