A mathematical genius on blockchain: Q&A with Christiana Imafidon

Featured by MIT Technology Review as a Blockchain Believer, Christiana Imafidon passed GCSE Maths at 9 and became the youngest person to embark on undergraduate studies at 11. Her interest in Mathematics and Statistics led her to start her career first at HSBC, then Citibank, and she was also invited at the London Stock Exchange. Last year, she became the youngest ever Cherie Blair Foundation Women in Business mentor at 25.

Christiana, how you became interested in blockchain?

I first became interested in blockchain when I took part in a hackathon in 2015. We were tasked with using the technology to help identify 230 million children who had been unaccounted for by authorities in Africa and India. My team and I came up with the idea of taking a picture of the child’s face and record their fingerprints every year of their life. In the end, we won the hackathon, and shortly after I was at Cambridge Blockchain Conference where I was interviewed by MIT Technology Review on Blockchain. I was also approached to join the Government Blockchain Association and collaborate on projects around Blockchain in Education and Blockchain Education in General.

What do you think is the biggest impact blockchain will have in the financial services beyond cryptocurrencies?

Post-trade settlements, clearing functions and derivatives trade processing

What are some of the best uses cases of blockchain you can think of?

  1. Coffee Supply Chain Management with CoffeeCoin

  2. Digital ID on Blockchain/Self-Sovereign Identity and Identity Management

  3. Music and Distribution Rights stored on Blockchain (and royalties shared with artists etc. executed through a smart contract)

What are the challenges in your opinion to the wider adoption of blockchain?

E-D-U-C-A-T-I-O-N! Few know what it is, and of those who do, we underestimate its true power because we haven’t given it time to manifest yet. Often, the hype around blockchain is compared to the dot com bubble at the turn of the Millenium. In Economics a ‘bubble’ is defined as: ‘A situation where an item surges in price due to collective delusion and irrational exuberance’ and frequently comes up in conversations I have with sceptics and people who don’t fully grasp what blockchain is. What adds to the complexity of blockchain education is the fact it is abstract. Cryptocurrency is not something you can easily see… it exists in the ether. How do you then break that down to a child?

I had the pleasure of answering that question at the STEAMCo Festival I spoke at last weekend and had fun explaining how blockchain in cryptocurrency circumvented the traditional banking and entire financial system here.

It is not easy, but it is possible.

IBM, Microsoft, Amazon and many others are investing millions of dollars in blockchain projects but not many seem to have successfully been commercialised (see TradeLenses) or for the matter, are live. What are your thoughts?

Have you ever lost a package in the mail? IBM wants to make you get it in a timely fashion, on-time! Well at least with cargo as opposed a present from your great-aunt that didn’t make it to you before Christmas!

On a serious note, this is fantastic start but it is too early to draw any conclusive information or conclusions yet as there is not enough empirical evidence to do that! Besides, there seems to be a widespread misunderstanding around Blockchain with many not acknowledging it is in its infancy, so any commercial Blockchain (or even DLT) solutions are going to be in the early stages of development… or primitive at best

They have identified a great use case for Blockchain in Shipping (especially when it comes to Supply Chain Management). Implementation will take time as: 1) this is a pilot and 2) it is cross-border... it is international, so naturally logistics is something they would need work around.

I acknowledge it is not a small scale project but it is still a pilot/test/in incubation or inception stages so there will be stumbles along the way. It is not bad to face a challenges, slip-ups or hiccups it's how you deal with them that matters and carry those lessons into the next phase or venture.

It doesn’t surprise me about Microsoft because Bill Gates famously said ‘We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next 10,’ and that is so true!

The fact that companies of that size and stature are getting involved whilst beginning to understand the scope of what blockchain can do is phenomenal and more power to them! It shows innovation as well as  the willingness to test and embrace new and emerging technologies. Corporations of similar size who are looking to get into this space should take note. This is only the beginning!

My hope is that more companies and institutions follow suit because there is no better time to explore the possibilities of blockchain than now! Statements like that are evidence I am a Blockchain Believer, I believe in the power of blockchain, it's here to stay.

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