A Tale Of Two Divergent Blockchain Policies: India And Pakistan

A Tale Of Two Divergent Blockchain Policies: India And Pakistan
In the month of May 2023, two important incidents took place. Two types of reactions were noticed. Two different types of stories were narrated. However, there was one commonality. They were both related to the discourse around cryptocurrency and blockchain technology regulation.

Contrasting priorities

On one hand, Shri Pankaj Chaudhary, the Minister of State Finance India, announced that the proposed Cryptocurrency Bill scheduled in 2021 needs more scrutiny and international collaboration because crypto assets are essentially borderless. On the other hand, Pakistan’s Minister of State for Finance and Revenue, Aisha Ghaus Pasha, bluntly said that cryptocurrencies will never be legalised in the country.

There is no denying that one can sense apprehension in Chaudhary’s statement. However, at the same time, India has been leveraging blockchain technology in its major sectors such as farming, e-governance, supply chain, pharma, manufacturing, etc. Cryptocurrency and blockchain may not have a level playing field in India for there are still growing gaps when it comes to complete regulation. But the country is definitely considered a frontrunner when it comes to blockchain adoption. On the other hand, blockchain and cryptocurrency barely have any playing field in Pakistan.

India’s all-hands-on-deck approach

As recently as the start of the year 2023 India’s apex public policy think tank, the National Institute of Transforming India (NITI Aayog), introduced a Blockchain Module in partnership with 5ire and Network Capital. This Module is present in 10,000 different schools in India via Atal Tinkering Labs (ATL). It is aimed at inculcating computational thinking, adaptive learning, and physical computing in over 75 lakh schoolchildren’s minds. India, as of today, has over 450 web3 startups which have collectively raised a total of USD 1.3 billion in the last two years. Nearly 75,000 blockchain developers in the world today are from India.

On the other hand, no particular record for blockchain developers from Pakistan is found. It is said that at present there are 33 companies that provide blockchain services, but official numbers are not found. This hints that not much work has been done in the blockchain sector in Pakistan.

It may be argued that there is still an air of uncertainty with blockchain technology and that countries are doubtful about blockchain regulation. While that is true in its own right and only a handful of countries (El Salvador and Central African Republic) have given blockchain technology a legal tender, it is important to note that blockchain is still regulated in many developed and a few developing economies in different capacities.

It may also be argued that blockchain technology has not matured yet and that it still has a long way to go. Well, Kevin Werbach, a professor of legal studies and business ethics at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania is of a different point of view. The author of The Blockchain and the New Architecture of Trust, back in 2018, shared that blockchain technology has a myriad of benefits. He identified a number of use cases that can greatly leverage blockchain to benefit trust gaps. He also shared that it is the technology inherently is not the challenge; it is the issues relating to implementation and trust.

Addressing the blockchain education gap

Personally, after writing in the blockchain domain for well over six months, I have come to realise that blockchain adoption, especially cryptocurrency ownership in any country, is only possible with the required training. Trust and implementation are secondary parameters. Take, for instance, the African bureaucracies that have noticed a number of opportunities in blockchain that can be used to mitigate potential inefficiencies within the system.

However, one of their biggest challenges in using blockchain technology to do the needful is the lack of technical skills (Shava & Mhlanga, 2023). The gap in blockchain technical skills can only be fulfilled with the right kind of education which is conspicuously missing in the case of Pakistan.

On the contrary, digital employment in India has expanded and grown to the extent that blockchain is one of the fastest-growing skillsets, with jobs growing at a whopping 2,000-6,000%. This indeed did not happen overnight. The implementation of blockchain technology was greatly leveraged by the already strong workforce in India which includes software and financial experts and legal acumen. Blockchain has officially become a part of Indian diplomacy and that speaks volumes.

As much as we don’t like it, the bitter reality is that while the Indian youth minted capital by developing blockchains and an ecosystem in which they can transform a wide range of industries, hundreds of defrauded Pakistanis grappled with getting justice in a billion-dollar, get-rich-quick cryptocurrency scam.

Realistically speaking, Pakistan has a number of sectors that can greatly reap the benefits of blockchain technology. Its booming and rapidly developing real estate sector is a great example. Blockchain’s ledger technology, traceability, end-to-end communication, and security make it extremely effective for electoral voting as well.

The proverbial ball is in Pakistan’s court

But it is not all doom and gloom for blockchain technology in Pakistan. The Pakistan Blockchain Institute (PBI) founded in 2019 is definitely a positive step, for it is important to have a governing body in place. However, it needs strict monitoring and evaluation.

PBI must also work on the outreach prospects and target and train as many potential developers as it can and strengthen the ecosystem. The online training center of PBI, albeit a platform that can be leveraged, is lacking the required material. Partnerships with web3 learning schools like Metashool, Web3 University and Questbook can also add much value.
Pakistan not playing on the field does not mean that the field does not exist. For Pakistan, blockchain is uncharted territory with nothing barring entry.

The author is a policy student whose interests lie in education and academia