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ICC launches blockchain, digital interoperability project

ICC international chamber of commerce

Today, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) formally launched the Digital Standards Initiative (DSI) for interoperability between digital trade and trade finance initiatives. The ICC said DSI would develop open standards and enable communication between different blockchain and other technology platforms in the trade space. 

The ICC is the largest representative business organization in the world, with over 45 million members. The DSI was formed after the ICC took over the Universal Trade Network (UTN), an interoperability project initiated by blockchain trade finance network Marco Polo, R3 and TradeIX. Major enterprise blockchain technology players, banks, and others joined the initiative, after which ICC took over the project owing to its standards setting role and neutrality. 

The ICC’s involvement was initially announced at SIBOS last September. 

“As a leading and neutral voice in the industry, it made sense to bring this project under the umbrella of ICC. This will allow the ICC DSI to lead and coordinate efforts in developing standards and protocols to digitize trade,” said ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO.

ICC said it would be employing a full-time management team and set up a steering committee for DSI. At the moment, it has opened the recruitment process to hire a managing director. The DSI will be run as an independent entity out of the Singapore-based Centre of Future Trade (CoFT), that ICC set up last year. 

The ICC DSI is being backed by the Asian Development Bank and the Government of Singapore. The ICC is involved in another project by the Singapore government, called the TradeTrust blockchain interoperability framework. It aims to eliminate paper-based processes and expedite trade transactions while making a meticulous record. 

“The ICC DSI seeks to coordinate all parties in the standardization of data formats and processes, rather than duplicate existing efforts,” said Steven Beck, Head of Trade Finance at the Asian Development Bank. 

Interoperability is one of the biggest concerns for companies adopting blockchain. Two years ago, R3 CTO Richard Brown had expressed apprehension about creating a series of blockchains that can’t communicate with each other. More recently, last year, Gartner said blockchain in financial services was at least three years away due to a lack of interoperability. 

However, the development of blockchain is moving very fast, and companies are increasingly exploring interoperability. A few months ago, the Global Shipping Business Network (GSBN) consortium completed a proof of concept for interoperability with the Hong Kong Monetary Authority’s (HKMA) trade finance blockchain, eTradeConnect.

Accenture has open-sourced it’s Blockchain Integration Framework (BIF) via Hyperledger. The solution supports Hyperledger Fabric, Quorum and R3’s Corda.