WEF’s Sheila Warren: mass adoption depends on bridging the digital divide


The head of data policy and blockchain at the World Economic Forum, Sheila Warren, says that people who have moved away from – or been excluded from – traditional financial systems are most likely to drive mass adoption.

Warren spoke at the Unitize conference on July 8 on the path to mass adoption with moderator Shira Frank. She said bridging the digital divide is the key to making blockchain technology part of the mainstream.

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Screen capture from Unitize

Unitize screenshot

According to Warren, many powerful financial institutions are not benefiting society, but are serving a „small section“ of it. He said someone from the blockchain industry told him that they believe that 20% of the population will never be able to access digital currencies. But the WEF official said that addressing this percentage as well as the other 80% was the key to mass adoption:

„We have to look at what is actually the lowest fruit hanging there. Well, interestingly enough, it’s the people who have been excluded from traditional systems for whatever reason. They’re the hardest to build in many ways, but they’re the people who are most willing to accommodate or try something new […] if you’re not connecting those people, you’re not aware of what’s needed.

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Regarding the path to popular adoption of blockchain, Warren said he believes it is unlikely there will be a „killer application of silver bullets“ on the way to mass adoption, but hopes there will be enough coalition building within ecosystems to create incremental changes.

„Change takes a long time,“ he said, comparing the path to mass adoption to the social justice movement in the United States. „It’s one step forward, and two steps back most of the time.“