Finance & Technology – Disrupting the Status Quo. The FinTech track, newly implemented at re:publica 2016, explored one of the fastest developing and most realms of technology today: the advent of financial technology, commonly abbreviated to FinTech. Focusing on reimagining and redesigning processes that have been essential to human society for centuries, few trends in digitalisation have as much potential to disrupt long-standing power structures as FinTech innovators do.
At re:publica TEN, explorations of this area included a look the latest developments in the Bitcoin and its accompanying Blockchain technology. Bitcoin is a form of digital currency that has gained immense popularity and subsequently mainstream acceptance in recent years, paving the way for other alternative currencies to gain prominence. Blockchain, commonly thought of as simply the underlying technology for Bitcoin, has the potential to be applied to a multitude of digital circumstances beyond simply recording currency transactions. Blockchain provides a way of publicly recording and verifying digital actions, with possible applications including identity verification, smart contracts, and tracking and recording digital assets, among many others. re:publica TEN's FinTech sessions gave attendees both the chance to gain a basic understanding of these technologies and to dive deeper into how they have the potential to reshape not just economies within the coming years, but governance and society as a whole as well.
But despite what's dominating the headlines right now, FinTech is more than Bitcoin and Blockchain. Crowdfunding is also a major part of this area, and it provides a prime example of FinTech's ability to disrupt the status quo is the rapid rise of the concept of crowdfunding from novel idea to de facto funding source for independent inventors and innovators. Thanks to sites like Kickstarter, the determining factor for whether or not a product or initiative comes to fruition is no longer whether a few key decision makers can be persuaded. Instead, the internet public is empowered to express their interests, wants, and demands, turning the public into the gatekeepers for what products "make it."
Not explicitly falling under the FinTech banner but fitting with its focus on empowering individuals in financial matters, this track also featured a session on how to access and understand public budget data. We saw this as particularly important, since so much information on public budgets is freely accessible on the internet and can be instrumental in identifying government corruption, yet most people never bother to access such data.
Ultimately, FinTech is a field with immense potential to reshape the way we handle and view money, as well as to reshape power structures through empowering individuals. FinTech is disrupting the status quo, one Bitcoin at a time.