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‘Tackling Real World Issues’: Hackers at ETH New York Build Apps Geared Towards Social Change

If building decentralized financial applications was the motto topic of Ethereal, the ethereum hackathon ETH New York was all about discussing the social impact of such applications.

Speaking to a group of high school students at ETH New York, Mariano Conti – head of smart contracts at the MakerDAO Foundation – asked foundational questions surrounding decentralized financial applications like, “How do you protect your money?” and “What if banks decided you do not own your money?”

“This whole movement is called decentralized finance,” said Conti. “We’re going to see a lot of projects being created around that. It’ll hopefully be what my kids are going to use.”

Specifically targeted towards a younger generation, Conti and the MakerDAO teamed up with children’s non-profit UNICEF and ethereum startup Bounties Network to create the Surge track at ETH New York.

The Surge track features talks and bounties geared towards educating high-school students about the basic of blockchain. The program runs through topics like “What is a smart contract?” and “How to set up a [crypto] wallet.”

What’s more the bounties associated with these sessions were not primarily of a technical nature but rather a creative one. The Surge session hosted by MakerDAO awarded students 5 DAI or about $5 for creating a MakerDAO or DAI internet meme, writing a “short rap verse about using DAI,” or making a fun hashtag about the application.

MakerDAO presentation at ETH New York. Image taken by Christine Kim. 

The teams and sponsors

Creating conversations about decentralized finance and blockchain more generally was not only the focus of programming at ETH New York but also the primary focus of several hacking teams this year.

Will Shahda – a self-employed consultant in dapps and smart contracts – along with four other developers hacked together a decentralized application (dapp) to support life insurance on the ethereum blockchain.

Their application, while leveraging blockchain technology, was really about highlighting what Shahda called the present “dystopian level of capitalism where there’s an insane invasion of privacy.”

“The best use case for blockchain is privacy. What we’re building calls attention to the permanent immutability of a blockchain and the storage of sensitive and private data on it,” said Shahda. “It’s about creating a conversation.”

Freelance developer Tal Zisckind put together an ethereum wallet application for the visually impaired in order to spark conversation around application accessibility.

“My dad, he can’t use a wallet. He’s cut off from those services,” said Zisckind. “He’s not a stupid person. It’s about building applications to be inclusive for everyone.”

Hacking teams at ETH New York. Image by Christine Kim. 

ETH New York sponsors awarded those teams that had a strong focus on social impact and the greater good.

“I hope to see applications tackling real world issues,” said Oskar Paolini at blockchain startup TORUS. TORUS sponsored a total of seven different bounties at ETH New York collectively totaling $8,000.

Paolini told CoinDesk:

“I’m sick of your bots, kitties, zombies, your ‘gotcha’ games…There’s a lot of games but now it’s about industrial application. That’s where market demand is right now.”

To Paolini’s point, UNICEF France posted a 10 ETH bounty equivalent to roughly $2,300 for hacking teams that built an application to support the accountability and transparency of a real world project called Project Connect.

“We’re testing the rails of how this would work in the real world and understanding conceptually what way we should approach [blockchain for it,]” said Christina Lomazzo, blockchain lead at UNICEF Innovations. “This is the first bounties hackathon for Project Connect. It’s the first time we’re putting the project out to the broader blockchain world.”

Lomazzo said:

“We’re very much in the mentality that the more ideas, the better, especially in the beginning. There’s so many different ways to construct [Project Connect]…I think we’re really excited to hear from people and get their contributions.”

UNICEF image by Christine Kim 

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Binance to Hold Inaugural Blockchain Week in Singapore

While the bears continue to pound the markets into the ground the builders and innovators of crypto and blockchain soldier on. Binance is one of those industry leaders and it has recently announced a week long blockchain conference in Singapore to showcase the technology.

A Week Of Blockchain and Crypto Goodness

The first Binance Blockchain Week will run from 19th to 22nd of January 2019 at the Sands Expo & Convention Centre in Marina Bay Sands. According to the company announcement 2,000 attendees are expected from around the globe. The week will consist of two large-scale events over the four days, a two-day hackathon known as the Binance SAFU Hackathon, followed by the Binance Conference. According to the press release the event is expected to “Bring together industry-leading regulators, investors, academics, entrepreneurs, and technologists to discuss today’s blockchain ecosystem and encourage sustainable growth in the industry. The event will prime the international stage for a global exchange of the latest blockchain knowledge and expertise among high-profile figures in the space.”

Over 70 speakers including industry leaders, high-level executives, academics, and heads of state, are slated to appear at the Binance Conference. Eric van Miltenburg, Senior Vice President of Global Operations at Ripple, Justin Sun, Founder of TRON, Da Hongfei, Founder of NEO, Patrick Dai, Founder of Qtum, and of course Changpeng Zhao (CZ), Founder and CEO of Binance are among those taking to the stage.

“We are thrilled to host the first-ever Binance Blockchain Week in Singapore, the finance and technology hub of Asia. Gathering the most notable players and thought leaders in blockchain, this will be a defining event. We look forward to many thought-provoking discussions and debates on how we can further work together to move the industry forward,” CZ added.

The first Binance SAFU (Secured Assets For Users) Hackathon will also be held from the 19th to 20th of January with the aim of exploring innovative solutions to secure crypto assets. Panels of judges and mentors will be in attendance from a number of organizations including the Ethereum Foundation, Binance Labs, PwC, Tribe Accelerator, and Primitive Ventures. Teams are invited to register via Binance from December 10 and a grand prize of $100,000 in BNB has been put on the table by the crypto exchange.

Singapore has been the venue of choice for a number of blockchain and crypto related conferences and seminars this year as its crypto ambitions are forever expanding.

Image from Shutterstock