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Dr Bil Mitchell

Government’s NFT and stablecoin plans met with scepticism from tech experts – BCS

Former chancellor Rishi Sunak’s ambition to make the UK a ‘global cryptoasset hub’ has not won the confidence of tech experts, according to a new survey conducted by Swindon-based BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.

A majority (58 per cent) of IT specialists felt the profession should not support the Treasury’s plan to make Britain a global centre for cryptoasset technology and investment, including stablecoins and NFTs.

And just 29 per cent said working technologists should get behind the crypto project, according to the poll. The remaining 13 per cent were neutral.

Only 14 per cent of tech experts surveyed said the former chancellor was right to ask the Royal Mint to launch an NFT this summer.

The large majority (77 per cent) were not confident that another key part of the plan – recognising and regulating stablecoins – would ‘ensure financial stability and provide wider consumer payment choice’.

Stablecoins are a form of cryptocurrency usually pegged to another asset or currency such as Sterling.

Most information technologists (69 per cent) told BCS that the public could not have the same level of confidence in stablecoins as in commercial bank money.

A similar proportion (63 per cent) said the Bank of England should not guarantee stablecoin to cover possible risks.

Some 68 per cent of tech specialists said it was wrong for the Royal Mint to launch its own NFT this summer, as asked by the former Chancellor.

And just 10 per cent of tech experts were optimistic about the potential of NFTs to do good for society, the BCS poll found.

In contrast, 41 per cent said they were positive about the potential of blockchain technology to benefit people, securing transactions in areas from health to contracts.

Energy consumption and impact on climate change ranked as the biggest concern IT experts had about the wider adoption of crypto. Twenty-three per cent selected this as top priority for government to consider before wider rollout of the technology.

This was closely followed by the prevalence of money laundering and ensuring the safety of crypto wallets and exchanges (both 15 per cent), then regulation and educating the public (both 14 per cent).

In comments supporting the poll, tech experts commonly said that encouraging speculation in cryptocurrency and NFTs was reminiscent of pyramid or Ponzi schemes, which should be avoided by the public and policy makers.

Dr Bill Mitchell OBE, director of policy at BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT said: “Technology professionals we polled were deeply sceptical as to whether the UK can and should become the sort of country that attracts investment in crypto products – even stablecoins pegged to a currency.

“They were especially wary of encouraging people to start using cryptocurrency without the education and regulatory framework to create trust and confidence.

“In particular, the coming launch of the Royal Mint’s NFT needs to avoid striking a bum note at a time of spiralling cost of living and industrial action.

“IT specialists are more optimistic about the potential of blockchain to be applied for social good, for example in areas where it might assure trust and transparency like healthcare records and ‘smart contracts’ that can give all parties confidence.

“In general, technologists would sooner work with government on areas like AI, cyber security and levelling up access to basic digital skills, which really do have the potential to transform lives, rather than crypto.”

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