Podcast May 24, 2022

Web 3.0 & Cross-Border Payments with Nikesh Lalchandani

As the web evolves, so do the possibilities.

For human communications, for art, and for the fundamental way we transact business.

In this episode, our special guest is Nikesh Lalchandani, the Head of Policy at Emerging Payments Association Asia, and a best-selling author who’s currently working on his Ph.D. in Finance at Sydney’s prestigious University of Technology.

Join us as we delve into:

  • The evolution of the internet and how that shaped the birth of fintech
  • Solving customer problems and making things cheaper with technology
  • How Web 3.0 is opening up accessibility for the world marketplace
  • Working globally to achieve goals together

Let’s explore the rapidly evolving worldwide payment environment, from buzzwords to blockchain.

“Online is this huge realm of human existence that we’re only touching the surface of, and I think 3.0 is the next big iteration of what’s happening next.” — Nikesh Lalchandani

A brief history

Nikesh is a doctoral candidate in Finance at the prestigious University of Technology in Sydney, and also holds a Master’s degree in Information Technology Leadership.

He’s also the best-selling author of Payments and Banking in Australia: From Coins to Cryptocurrency – How It Started, How It Works, and How It May Be Disrupted, an in-depth and captivating look at reimagining commerce in Australia’s unique market.

With his background in engineering and innovation, Nikesh is driven to leverage technological advancements to improve the lives of global citizens.

E-commerce evolution

When consumers first got to know the internet in the 90s, it was a place where tech-savvy brands could promote product information, marketing images, and special deals. The dot com bubble began its ill-fated expansion.

That iteration, now known as Web 1.0, was mostly a delivery method for static content. Shoppers didn’t yet feel safe putting their credit card numbers into some unknown system. Security protocols such as SSL certificates weren’t in place yet.

With the birth of PayPal at the end of the millennium, e-commerce enjoyed a flush of furious growth.

Along with this came user-generated content and social media, moving the world into Web 2.0, which Nikesh considers an evolutionary milestone in human communication: “it was a revolution that spawned all sorts of things.”

We can effortlessly crowdsource traffic info thanks to satellites, GPS, and Google Maps. We’ve dramatically changed the way we document our lives through photos with digital cameras at our fingertips and the ability to share them instantly with a global audience.

“The famous chasm of innovation, which is essentially a bell curve, starts off with very few people using it. The innovators pick it up, then the early adopters, the majority adopters coming in, the late adopters, and then the laggards.” — Nikesh Lalchandani

A global marketplace

Now, the internet is a vast and ubiquitous realm of our very existence. We can’t function without it. And the worldwide pandemic accelerated this process exponentially.

As people live more of their lives online, the demand for instant gratification and convenience skyrockets. They want the full array of financial services available on their phone and instant transactions twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Hence the rise of fintech, digital-first companies, and blockchain technology.

“The founders of the web had this view that it would enable communication for the masses,” Nikesh states. “The idea with Web 3.0 is the restoration of the original vision that everyone should have a say.”

Accessibility and trust

Traditionally, merchants have wanted cold, hard cash as payment on delivery — “we trusted the goods and later a coin, more than we trusted an individual,” as Nikesh points out.

But there are a lot of scammers and threat actors out there. Customers are rightfully wary of sharing their identities online. New tech will make the verification process simpler yet more secure, enabling speedy transactions without any unnecessary exposure.

It will also hopefully allow small merchants to reach a bigger audience and help level the drastic income inequality faced by so many.

“Where we’re seeing a lot of excitement, like in Blockchain, you always see that trough of disillusionment that follows shortly after.” — Nikesh Lalchandani

Imagining the future

The dream of decentralization lives on with the rise of blockchain and cryptocurrency. Nikesh looks forward to the time when these technologies can make it possible “for a rice farmer in Vietnam to sell rice directly to your kitchen — that is the thinking behind Web 3.0.”

A decentralized and shared online ledger will give everyone the ability to pay, he believes, creating a global marketplace by being able to share data in ways that are anonymous and safe.

Nikesh is critical of some of the nascent real-time payment systems that claim cutting-edge security, yet “they’ve got a privacy model that’s about 10 years old.”

The World Wide Web Consortium and their Verifiable Credentials Working Group are developing tamper-evident online IDs that are cryptographically verified. This tech could be used to digitize passports and payment methods while protecting your personal data.

“Web 3.0 is giving that accessibility to people that normally wouldn’t have had it,” Nikesh states, “it’s us evolving to work better with each other, whether that means making payments or policy.”

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Until next time!

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