Mobile Accessibility is Essential for Mainstream Adoption of Blockchain Technology

By Rene Reinsberg, Co-founder of Celo and President of the Celo Foundation

According to the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU), 3 out of 4 people in the world own mobile phones, which serve as the most common access point to the Internet, allowing folks to leapfrog expensive desktop devices. The World Bank also notes that two-thirds of adults worldwide make or receive digital payments due to a surge in digital payments brought on by the pandemic, with mobile money driving financial inclusion in regions like Sub-Saharan Africa.

What does this mean for the blockchain technology? The intersection of blockchain and mobile technology represents a significant opportunity for mobile-first platforms to put the digital economy at people’s fingertips, such as providing access to new financial primitives, especially for un- and under-banked communities. 

What is the current state of mobile accessibility in the blockchain industry?

Ethereum founder Vitalk Buterin shared at EthCC last summer that the Ethereum community is working toward mobile optimization in the later stages of its roadmap. Blockchain companies have even begun to develop their own smartphones. While the latter may interest crypto natives, encouraging widespread adoption of blockchain requires reaching individuals who have yet to enter the Web3 world––users who are far less inclined, and perhaps unable, to buy a new phone solely to transact with crypto.

Leading telecom companies are also getting involved, partnering with projects to act as validators, verifying and authenticating blockchain transactions to strengthen the network while providing greater reliability and security.

Since telecommunications data centers have incredibly high connectivity, this lends itself well to blockchains when operating validator nodes using already existing and robust computational systems. Deutsche Telekom’s Open Telekom Cloud is one of the services leading these efforts––both supporting public blockchains with an added layer of security and exemplifying the work that telecom companies can do on a decentralized blockchain. 

Why is this important? If projections for crypto adoption become true, demand for blockspace is going to explode, and security is integral in offering is resilient, decentralized infrastructure not reliant on a single person or entity, and can last for a long time, even outlasting corporations. 

“Security as a service” is also a compelling value proposition, and I anticipate more businesses and enterprises to follow suit, especially as protocols start enabling users to restake and extend crypto-economic security to additional applications on the network.

How will mobile optimization impact the future?

Increased users will allow for more specific use cases tailored to the interests and needs of different groups of individuals. The larger the audience is, the more segmented and targeted developers can be. This allows projects to build solutions for existing problems and the freedom to create unique results-oriented innovation with the confidence that they will be adopted.

Lightweight nodes and accessibility of operations beyond simple transactions will further allow a robust network of developers to create and run applications. By making blockchain development more accessible to individuals with a wider variety of devices and tooling, more participants can enter the space. This will result in further increases to the 18,416 developers currently in web3

Dapps with real-world benefits, such as regenerative finance (ReFi) applications or payments use cases, will also be able to scale, helping to accelerate financial inclusion and impact for a wider audience, whether for planet-positive or community-driven solutions.

Most Gen Zers own a smartphone, viewing mobile as their “prime time.” Mobile-first blockchains are primed to directly reach the first digitally-native generation, who will increasingly enter the blockchain space as blockchain technology becomes abstracted and relevant, and everyday dapps become commonplace. 

Conclusion: What is the path forward?

More projects should shift focus to increasing accessibility, and mobile optimization is a great start. Consensus protocols and light clients that use cutting-edge cryptography techniques (zk-SNARKS) help users sync with the peer-to-peer network with only a few kilobytes of data, securely mapping phone numbers to wallet addresses (so users can send crypto assets to friends and family in their contact lists), or accessing dapps––these were core considerations when developing the Celo network (disclaimer: I am the co-founder of Celo).

Each makes transacting on the blockchain easier for real-world users of all experience levels and allows builders to shape the mobile experience around how people interact with blockchain and digital assets in their daily lives. Providing the functionality to make blockchain work well on a constrained interface is also necessary to reduce friction points and design more seamless user experiences. 

Innovation and development of mobile-first blockchain solutions can also be encouraged through education, mentorship programs, accelerators, and hackathons. Programs like T-Challenge not only platform the development of these solutions but provide teams with the resources and guidance from industry experts to prepare their technology for go-to-market. T-Challenge partner Node Finance is offering a react native SDK for building web3 mobile apps.

Exploring partnerships with telecoms can also further adoption, with myriad use cases around diversifying network security through validating transactions, IoT integrations, interoperability, and more. 

About the author:

Rene Reinsberg is a co-founder of Celo and currently President of the Celo Foundation. Celo's layer-1 blockchain is at the center of an ecosystem of technologies, organizations, and individuals that all share a mission of building a regenerative financial system that creates the conditions for prosperity for everyone.

Previously, he co-founded Locu (acquired by GoDaddy). Rene started his career in global capital markets at Morgan Stanley, and also worked at McKinsey, the World Bank, TechnoServe, and General Catalyst. He holds graduate degrees from Germany's WHU and MIT.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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