Jamie Smith: Champion of Tech that Keeps Crypto Functioning was Once in the Doubters’ Camp Herself

Jamie Smith: CEO of the Global Blockchain Business Council

Jamie Smith: CEO of the Global Blockchain Business Council. Photo: Boris Baldinger

Jamie Smith has great enthusiasm for blockchain, the secure distributed database technology that underlies cryptocurrency major players such as Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ethereum.

The former White House deputy press secretary has held senior communications positions in organisations such as the BitFury Group, the Linux Foundation and, more recently, WestExec Advisors. BitFury Group, a blockchain transaction processor, said on appointing Smith as global chief of communications that it looked forward “to telling the BitFury blockchain story to the world”.

At the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos, Smith played a major role in promoting blockchain. She leads global initiatives designed to fundamentally change the way the global community does business, transfers value, and opens up new doors to prosperity. But Smith herself once had a poor understanding of blockchain.

After leaving the White House, and on maternity leave from a job in communications, she was approached by a former colleague who pitched the blockchain opportunity to her.

“I think I said something along the lines of, ‘Are you crazy? That’s criminal money, I don’t want anything to do with this’,” she told the BBC.

Smith’s initial concept of blockchain was that it was synonymous with Bitcoin, and in those early days Bitcoin was, for many, synonymous with crime. Further investigation brought home to her the true potential of the technology as an enabler of secure financial transactions – not just between major financial institutions, but between individuals.

“The original internet was created to move information, and it did. The information we send to each other, has to be actually stored somewhere, so it’s stored in databases,” she said. At that time, security wasn’t the primary objective, and data began to accumulate in massive, silo-style databases.

“The problem is hackers are getting really good at getting into those silos, and once they are in, it’s party time.” If hackers gained access to one system, they had access to all. With blockchain, silos are broken up into a decentralised system. The technology results in a decentralised, immutable public record. The data (block) is stored in an indelible, append-only public database (chain).

“Instead of breaking into a house, now you have to break into a town or city full of houses,” she explained. And those hackers would have to break into every block in the entire chain — at exactly the same time.

Smith compares the evolution of blockchain to the evolution of the internet. Early adopters moved fast, as they tend to, and the general public has begun to understand the technology better — and to recognise its potential outside of the world of cryptocurrencies.

“Blockchain technology has the potential to make the world a more efficient, frictionless place. The amount of people around the world living in either broken systems or entirely corrupt systems is staggering. If done right, blockchain could positively reform entire systems.”

The technology has already been incorporated across applications and industries: music streaming services and licensing agreements, global supply chains, transactive energy platforms, health data management, product traceability, environmental footprint tracking, charity accountability, real estate record-keeping, pharmaceutical security, fraud-proof ticketing, smart contracts, secure document exchanges and peer-to-peer payments. And other markets are ripe for disruption.

Smith has two decades of communications experience and her previous posts include policy aide to Congresswoman Nita M Lowey and communications director for former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. She was traveling press director for Hillary Clinton.

As a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council, she has helped to shape the narrative around blockchain technology and create a roadmap for its use.

“There is so much opportunity to enhance global expansion, make businesses more profitable and ensure that every individual around the world can profit as well,” she says. “There is a huge trickle-up and -down impact. If we get it right.”

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