From the Practical to the Possible: Zilliqa on Charting the Trajectory of Singapore’s Innovation Journey

Over the past year, fueled in part by the Covid-19 pandemic,
digitalisation of services has boomed. With everyone forced to stay
home, online offerings have been more important than ever, with
businesses failing to keep up being left behind.

Singapore has seen a particular bout of innovation, and someone
who knows all about this is Amrit Kumar, the
President, Chief Scientific Officer and Co-Founder of
Zilliqa, A homegrown high-performance,
high-security blockchain platform. Focusing predominantly on areas
of security, privacy and applied cryptography, Amrit’s research
has been widely published at conferences such as IEEE/IFIP and IFIP
TC-11 SEC.

Here Amrit discusses Singapore’s innovation journey. 

Amrit Kumar, President and
Chief Scientific Officer of Zilliqa

Throughout the past year, the concept of digitalisation has
thrummed across conversations among policymakers and entrepreneurs
alike. No longer a nice-to-have but a must, businesses as much as
the societies they serve have been forced to adapt as we transition
to an increasingly digitised state of affairs. Arguably prompted by
the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, methods and means that
favour the virtual, the remote, and the automated have been

In no other part of the world has this been more pronounced than
Singapore. In recent months, digital transformation has played a
pivotal role in informing the government’s pandemic mitigation
and recovery strategies. From practical applications to investments
in emerging technologies, the Lion City has placed the trust in
tech to not only weather the pandemic but to prepare its population
for an increasingly digital future. 

Scan and Tap

From east to west, contact tracing regimes were gradually
implemented across various stages of the pandemic as it spread
across the globe. In going beyond phone calls and manual efforts at
identifying close contacts, Singapore was at the forefront of
successfully implementing a robust tech-enabled
contact tracing programme
. Both through a mobile app or a
wearable token to accommodate seniors without smartphones, these
efforts have been essential to uncovering potential clusters of
infection with greater accuracy. Though not without its controversy
among privacy advocates, Singapore’s model has highlighted the
potential of leveraging technologies to bridge the gap where human
efforts can fall short. 

As borders gradually re-open, the country’s national carrier
— Singapore Airlines — has rolled out a
digital verification tool to allow airport staff to confirm and
validate the negative test results of passengers as well as future
vaccination status. Meanwhile, healthcare networks are actively
partnering with entities such as Accredify to
enable verifiably, tamper-proof digital Covid-19 swab results
powered by blockchain. 

On a more practical level, the government equally pointed to the
need for greater adoption of digital infrastructures to ensure
business continuity. In hard-hit sectors such as F&B and
retail, businesses received US$5.2 million as part of the Digital
Resilience Bonus by November 2 020 alone, kickstarting their
digital journeys be it in terms of e-commerce onboarding or digital
payments tools. Similarly, the Monetary Authority of
a transition to ePayment solutions
such as QR code mobile
payment systems and PayNow, a peer-to-peer funds transfer service
accepted by the country’s 9 major banks, to boost social
distancing and contactless payments.

The Building Blocks to Success

To onlookers, Singapore’s emphasis on tech adoption should
come as no surprise. Driven by a dedicated Smart Nation agenda, the
city-state has long pioneered a progressive attitude towards
emerging technologies, implementing them across multiple levels of
government and society at large. Towards the end of 2020, the
government announced that it would be investing US$8.9 million into
the Singapore Blockchain Innovation Programme in order to encourage
further development, adoption, and commercialisation of the
technology and its resulting applications, especially in trade
finance, supply chain, logistics, as well as digital identity.
Driven by the need for far more
“trusted and reliable business systems in a new digital
, Singapore is clearly looking to blockchain to
accelerate its journey as a smart nation.

In spite of the challenges of the past year, MAS’ Project
Ubin, a blockchain-based, multi-currency payments network
successfully completed its fifth and final phase, pointing to its
commercial potential. With applications across digital currencies,
digital identities, and asset tokenisation, Project Ubin is
reflective of the government and its associated bodies’ appetite
for experimentation. Ultimately grounded in cross-sector and
cross-border collaboration, the network is poised to propel the
country to new heights as a leader in blockchain adoption. 

The vision is seemingly achievable with the country now trailing
far ahead of traditional tech hubs such as the United Kingdom and
Japan according to the recently released Singapore
Blockchain Ecosystem Report 2020
. Today, the country sees a
plethora of projects across 26 different categories and in 8
different industries including peer-to-peer payments and variants
of fintech. Backed by academic support, the country is home to
researchers from top-ranking universities who have contributed
valuable findings surrounding privacy, scalability, and smart
contract security. In fact, Zilliqa was born out of the research
laboratories of the National University of Singapore, joining
homegrown projects who have established themselves global players
within the broader blockchain ecosystem. 

Alongside institutional interest, businesses are fast
recognising the potential — as part of the Singapore Blockchain
Ecosystem Report 2020, PwC Singapore found that
80%t of surveyed Singaporean companies expressed optimism of the
technology, naming it as one of their top three tech priorities for
the year. Similarly, greater emphasis has been placed not only on
encouraging the next generation of talent but also upskilling
today’s professionals, managers, executives, and technicians
(PMETs) to equip them with necessary skills to excel in the digital
economy. The Report makes mention of programmes such as Zilliqa’s
ZILHive Education and the ConsenSys Academy Developer Program that
have played a significant role in imparting a broad range of skills
across coding, business development, and organisational

Sustaining the Digital Journey Ahead

The coronavirus pandemic has revealed the vast digital
inequalities across both developed and developing economies alike.
Singapore has stood firm as an example that the promise and premise
of innovation must be approached with equitability in mind. With
access not limited to well-versed developers or the financial
elite, the country’s commitment to research, education, and
boosting digital literacy has ensured that the fruits of this
digital revolution can be enjoyed by many, rather than a select
few. Whether in terms of enabling greater business efficiencies or
democratising access to wealth, Singapore’s pragmatic approach to
both regulating and applying emerging technologies such as
blockchain has done exactly that. 

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From the Practical to the Possible: Zilliqa on Charting the
Trajectory of Singapore’s Innovation Journey
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