Think about Mongolia and the image that’s likely to spring to mind is of sweeping grasslands, mountains, freezing winters and nomads. An unlikely place you might think for ground-breaking technology, but in fact it’s a great country to do blockchain pilots. The capital, Ulaanbaatar, has almost tripled in size since 1990 and now accounts for half of the country’s three million population. That growth has created problems, including what the World Health Organization has identified as some of the worst air pollution in the world.
In the winter, temperatures can drop to −40C and most people live in gers – round wood and canvas structures heated by fires. So, they turn to burning raw coal – and in some cases anything they can get their hands on, from dung to car tires – to stay warm.
I’ve just got back from Ulaanbaatar, where we’ve been working out the potential for an internet-of-things project to assess air quality. The idea is to put sensors in place and gather the measurements using IOHK’s Atala enterprise blockchain. Once in place, such a network could generate fraud-free, time-stamped data so the authorities know where the pollution is being generated and can focus on cleaning up the worst areas. Putting thousands of sensors in place is expensive but people could be encouraged to do so, and keep them working, by being paid using Cardano as the aggregated data comes through.
The focus in our discussions with ministers in Ulaanbaatar was on solving these sorts of problems, which occur in all fast-growing countries. Another example is that 40% of medicines in rural areas are counterfeited or adulterated or expired; the figure is 18% even in urban areas. So, we want to put a traceability project together for that using Atala. Bringing accountability and transparency to medical supply chains can help protect people from dangerous or counterfeit drugs – and save lives.
Then, there is the fact that almost everyone has access to a mobile phone network – and 30% of the population receive government disbursements of some kind at an enormous cost. Linking those two together using our blockchain technology could save the government a lot of money and make things easier for the recipients, even villagers living on the peaks of Mongolia.
Other potential areas for Atala and Cardano include two very different sectors: the cashmere industry and university accreditation. They actually make about half of the world’s cashmere in Mongolia. The wool is very expensive in the boutiques of Tokyo and Paris, but goat herders here sell to China at a very bad price, there’s a potential to improve things there with better logistics and proof of sourcing. As for the universities, there are 65 of them in Mongolia, most of which are in Ulaanbaatar. We're really interested to see if we can put graduates’ diplomas up on a blockchain so people can prove they are qualified.
When it comes to attracting investment, the Asian Development Bank has put hundreds of millions of dollars in for various projects, but the audit trail is not so good here. We can tackle that.
These are real, complicated situations, and the blockchain comes in as part of these solutions. Atala can be used for processing and aggregating the data, which can then be fed through to Cardano to handle ada payments – so keeping huge volumes of data off the Cardano blockchain.
While we were in Mongolia, we attended the Frontier Fintech summit. It was there that we announced we had taken the first step of signing a memorandum of understanding with the Mongolian Blockchain Technology and Cryptocurrency Association, and the Mongolian Fintech Association to advise on potential blockchain projects and develop blockchain education, but it’s early days. Building relationships, identifying the right partners and developing the technology and infrastructure takes time, so we need to be patient – projects like these are likely to take between three and seven years. That’s why education is such a central part of our mission, training people on the ground to build solid foundations, as we’ve already done with our recent Haskell course in Ethiopia.
But providing solutions to these pressing problems is just the beginning. If we can get just one solution in place, we provide a gateway into the cryptocurrency ecosystem for hundreds of thousands of users. That expands the Cardano world, because these people will want insurance, bank transfers, and the other financial tools that we tend to take for granted in the developed world. And that creates business for the whole blockchain world.
Cardano is in an exciting transition stage. The project has long combined thoughtful product vision with research-driven specification and evidence-based development processes. Still committed to that rigor, we’re now making the jump to a new stage of development where first-ever-in-the-world new capabilities are delivered. The rubber is starting to hit the road. As we are making this transition we recognize that we need a better way to communicate how Cardano’s 2020 vision is being delivered, and that we should do a better job keeping the community informed about our status against those goals.
Here is what we are doing to accomplish those things.
We are working on a redesign of the Cardano roadmap website that will do a better job describing our upcoming release phases, with themes and detailed functional components for each. You can expect to see it live in 2-4 weeks, with more content added over time. Aligned with the keynote speech from CEO Charles Hoskinson at the recent IOHK Summit, the new roadmap site will provide a clear definition of delivery phases, how they fit together, and what we’ll deliver when.
Regarding delivery status, Cardano has had an ethos of openness and transparency since the beginning. We want to take that further. Here’s how.
We’ve recently improved our organisational processes to support this phase of development where long-promised functionality becomes reality. One aspect has been a focus on how we share progress against milestones inside the Cardano team, with weekly project updates, live progress demos, and soon a new Shelley testnet.
As a result we have greater visibility and accountability in our work. So as we enter the next stage of development, we need status reporting that properly reflects real progress, setting accurate expectations by showing exactly what we’re working on and highlighting real delivery.
Past versions of our roadmap had feature-level percentage complete indicators. We put a lot of effort into those, but even with all that work they fell victim to the same thing Tom Cargill at Bell Labs described in his famous-and-funny-but-a-bit-painful-if-you-build-software quote:
“The first 90 percent of the code accounts for the first 90 percent of the development time. The remaining 10 percent of the code accounts for the other 90 percent of the development time.”
Sigh. But we don’t want to back off on communicating status. The best way to fulfill our ethos of transparency is to push it further and open up the process to you. We are going to record those internal development status demos, where our dev teams show their latest finished working components, and deliver them to the community. So you’ll have a real understanding of our development progress, because that last 10% that sometimes becomes another 90% has to be done, really done, in order to demonstrate working functionality.
At the same time we deliver the recorded progress demos, we will also deliver a status report summarizing the work completed, and I’ll do an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session where I’ll describe the latest results and answer questions from the community. This will happen every month or two based on progress milestones.
Often the news will be awesome with lots of progress, but sometimes you’ll see that there’s a problem we are working through. Because that’s the reality when implementing first-ever new functionality. Solving hard problems is hard. But now you’ll be able to see where we are and how it’s going.
You’ll still be able to access the information sources you had before. Our Githubs are open. We’ll keep sharing weekly technical reports on Cardano.org. Emurgo delivers monthly Cardano reports describing what we’ve been up to. The unstoppable Charles will keep doing his own AMAs. But we want to make it easy for the community to see what we’re delivering, so this is a major redesign of our roadmap and reporting process, starting from our internal processes and extending out to our partners and the community.
The first demos, status update and AMA will come later this month. I’ll be joining the guys from the Cardano Effect within the next few weeks to talk more about our new roadmap and reporting process, so keep an ear out for that. We’ve got lots of exciting stuff in the pipeline, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you.
Artwork, Mike Beeple