Web3 around the world: how different countries have been adopting the blockchain
Web3 may be global, but there are lots of particular local attitudes towards this new tech. As part of our Globalization Deep Dive, we look at how five different countries have been embracing and deploying web3.
Blockchain technology is rapidly spreading on a global scale / Adobe Stock
The blockchain is arguably one of the most consequential technological innovations in modern history, on par with artificial intelligence and social media. Web3 – the shorthand term for what’s commonly thought of as the third evolutionary phase of the internet, a blockchain-based world wide web – is going to have global repercussions. Economies will be reshaped, power dynamics will shift and basic modes of human interaction will become increasingly virtual.
But every country has its own agenda and there are many geographic variations of web3. It’s important for brands with international audiences to understand and respect these variations: some regional markets will be very web3-savvy, others a bit less so, and still others could be flat-out hostile towards the core principles of decentralization and transparency upon which the blockchain is based.
With all of that in mind, here’s a brief outline of how five different parts of the world have been embracing and deploying web3:
China has big plans for the metaverse – the burgeoning, blockchain-based virtual world that’s envisioned by some as eventually becoming a major hub for both work and play.
In July, the government of Shanghai released a development plan that reportedly stated that the city would be setting aside $1.5bn in assets for metaverse-related projects. That plan followed a broader five-year plan from Shanghai’s government, released in December 2021, which highlighted development in the metaverse as a priority for the city. Chinese tech giants including Tencent and Alibaba have also been making big investments in the metaverse.
China’s one-party national government, however, is in a deep sense at odds with the decentralized model of the blockchain, which makes it impossible for any single person or entity to control. This is, broadly speaking, why the country banned cryptocurrency mining and trading in 2021. While the country moves to strengthen its position as a technological pioneer, the Chinese vision for the metaverse – molded by government censorship and and tight regulation – will likely end up looking strikingly different from that which is being formed in non-authoritian parts of the world.
United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates also seems intent on positioning itself as a global leader in the metaverse. Dubai, the country’s most populous city, has been particularly outspoken on metaverse plans. In July, the city’s Crown Prince tweeted that his government had set a “metaverse strategy” into motion, with the goal of developing Dubai into one of the world’s top 10 metaverse economies and adding $4bn to its GDP over a period of five years.
The UAE’s Ministry of Economy also announced during the Dubai Metaverse Conference last month that it has opened a “third address” in the metaverse.
The US might be home to some of the wealthiest tech brands in the world, but its government has recently adopted a fairly chilly attitude towards cryptocurrency – virtual currencies such as Bitcoin and Ether that, rather than going through a traditional intermediary like a bank, record all transactions on a blockchain.
Earlier this week, for example, the Treasury Department’s Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) released a report calling on Congress to pass new laws for the regulation of crypto. That report follows a recent executive order from President Biden, which was titled Ensuring Responsible Development of Digital Assets and outlined a broad-scale governmental approach to addressing concerns over the crypto industry.
Other branches of the US government have also recently begun to crack down on the crypto market. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), for example, recently launched an investigation into crypto trading platform Coinbase for allegedly allowing users to trade unregistered securities. Earlier this week, Kim Kardashian was fined $1.26m by the SEC for failing to disclose the fact that she was being paid by a crypto company that she had promoted on her Instagram account.
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The tiny, remote North Atlantic island of Bermuda – a self-governing British territory – has become a haven for crypto investors in recent years. The island does not tax crypto payments (nor does it levy any capital gains or income taxes) and its government is reportedly one of the few in the world that has enacted a comprehensive framework for the regulation of crypto.
The government of Bermuda was largely unfazed by the calamitous onset of the ’crypto winter’ in May of this year – in fact, it seemed to have welcomed it for its potential to push greater numbers of crypto investors and entrepreneurs to the island.
“We are aware of the recent devaluation in the price of cryptocurrencies and remain confident that it does not threaten the island’s ability to become a crypto hub,” Bermuda’s minister of economy and labor Jason Hayward told The Wall Street Journal in June. “This industry downturn is likely to advance our goal and positively impact our long-term growth and role in this sector.”
In September 2021, El Salvador became the first country in the world to officially begin accepting Bitcoin as legal tender. The country developed a national crypto wallet called Chivo, incentivizing adoption with a one-time payment that users would receive after signing in. Many El Salvadorans seem to have used the wallet long enough to claim the reward, and then stopped.
Like the Bermudan government, El Salvador’s president Nayib Bukele seems to have been eager to lean into the sudden dip in the crypto market earlier this year. In May, he announced in a tweet that his government was “buying the dip” by purchasing 500 Bitcoins. The following day, he tweeted a digital mockup of ’Bitcoin City,’ a Bitcoin-shaped metropolis that would be built alongside the Chacongua volcano and serve as a magnet for crypto enthusiasts.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) pressed the government of El Salvador in January to stop accepting Bitcoin as legal tender, citing fears that it could bring financial instability to the country – which is already one of the poorest in Latin America.
One year after the reveal of the plans for Bitcoin City, according to Reuters, there’s no sign that construction on the giant crypto monument has begun.
For more on what marketers and their partners need to do to succeed on a global level, check out The Drum’s Globalization Deep Dive. And don’t forget to sign up for The Drum’s Inside the Metaverse weekly newsletter.