It was announced, on December 19, 2017, that the Foundation of the Chamber of Digital Commerce will be a charitable organization designed to provide ongoing support for cryptocurrency growth and development in America. Its three specific initiatives are workforce education, research and open source innovation, and public communication. The chamber will also continue to lobby political powers for an environment that is conducive to the growth of blockchain technology.
Founder of the Chamber of Digital Commerce Perianne Boring told ETHNews about one of the biggest challenges that industry participants face; there is a lack of individuals with the technological skills particular to this ecosystem. "One of the big projects that we want to do is address education of the workforce."
"I really have yet to see anyone solve that problem or set out a comprehensive plan to do that. There are a couple educational programs out there ... [that] can certify a couple hundred people a year. But this industry is growing at a pretty rapid pace; we need to be certifying technologists and engineers by the thousands, or tens of thousands, or even more a year, which would be a pretty massive feat for anyone to do."
Given that necessity, a goal of the foundation is furthering education. "I see the foundation as a platform to incubate that sort of program. That, in itself, could be its own organization."
Once established, she said, there are prospects for a partner organization to continue to develop the programs and certification processes. She said that while the program will provide additional certifications to people with technical backgrounds, another objective of the educational arm will be to initiate the next wave of young minds.
PB: "We're starting to train the younger generation of developers so as they enter the workforce, they're already prepared to jump into this industry, and they have the training necessary to be able to do that ... Hopefully, [a blockchain certification program] will scale and then we can even spin it out and it can just run on its own; we'll get it started and everyone can benefit from the education that comes out of that."
As the public often relies on mainstream media to inform them of happenings outside the scope of day-to-day life, it is often the unfortunate case that sensationalism takes a front seat to giving people the facts. Boring said that it can be harmful to the industry:
PB: "There's a lot of media that likes to focus on anything negative they can find and that oftentimes leaves the public with a skewed or sinister view of our ecosystem. And there's not equal coverage on the good things that are happening, like the benefits this technology is providing to society. And that's really caused a lot of damage to our industry.
"In the early days before the chamber launched ... there was MtGox and there was Silk Road. And this was all over the headlines, but nobody was able to say, 'Oh, by the way, [blockchain] technology is also being used to do positive things.' The only thing they wanted to point out was when somebody did something wrong or something bad happened."
To get the public off the skewed track, Boring said the communications arm of the Foundation "will be helping enhance the public narrative," and will produce materials to promote general awareness of the benefits of blockchain technology. These might include guides to help investors take value in a cryptocurrency, or informative materials designed to provide a more accurate portrayal of industry development.
Boring said that little progress has been made to improve certain aspects of the technology, such as scalability and interoperability. Representing a sort of synergy between academic and technical approaches, the research arm of the foundation is designed to be a platform of support for multiple open source collaborative initiatives.
PB: "There's plenty of people all over the world who are super excited about what's going on in this ecosystem. We should be supporting these people. We should get them involved and we should allow them a neutral platform, like a nonprofit, where they can do independent academic research to solve some of these critical issues. It's clear that the community itself has not been able to organize itself to address these issues, so why don't we try something new?
"I think bringing the academic community into this conversation makes a lot of sense. In addition, a lot of the open source developers work as volunteers to some of the biggest platforms that are utilized today. It's really not reasonable to expect volunteers to be able to manage multibillion or trillion-dollar platforms. They need to have some type of compensation so they can focus on their work, and again, having a neutral third party platform to build and support that type of innovation is really important."
Research is crucial because, without it, the capacity for blockchain technology to meet the demand of society may not manifest. One barrier to the manifestation of an ecosystem founded in blockchain systems are restrictions on cryptocurrencies themselves. Boring said the current licensing regulations are seriously flawed.
PB: "I've long said the state-by-state money licensing regime that the digital currency industry has been subject to is completely broken and we know this because because very few companies have been successful in getting licensed. It has been very frustrating to see. At the chamber, we're advocating for a federal option. In a digital economy, it does not make sense for companies to have to obtain licenses in every state they have customers in. We would like to see a federal licensing option so companies could have 1 regulator, as opposed to 50 plus. While this is not something that can be politically achieved overnight, we have made some pretty big strides here, and there are efforts under way."
Another issue that stands before everyday citizens is uncertainty about taxation. Boring advocates specific legislative efforts that address cryptocurrency taxes which, in their current incarnation, she thinks are completely unreasonable. "Typically, the Chamber does not lobby for new legislation or regulation. However, there is one area were a narrowly defined bill would be beneficial, and that would be around taxes.
"Digital currency valuations are subject to capital gains tax, which is it's a massive barrier to adoption. If you want to buy a cup of coffee with your crypto, the accounting for figuring out how you would pay for your taxes for these types of purchases are incredibly difficult to calculate. It also makes no sense for the IRS to go after people who didn't pay taxes on a 2 dollar cup of coffee. It's a lose-lose situation for everybody, which is why the Chamber advocates for digital currency to be exempted from the capital gains and investment income tax."
While it continues to expand its tri-pronged approach to promoting blockchain awareness, the foundation also offers a tax deduction channel for those who support open source initiatives aimed at providing compensation to researchers. Boring said the foundation will not only produce resources for technologists but will also provide value to the general public as blockchain technology begins to take center stage in society.