Understanding of technological innovation is vital for its adoption. There are people that try to help others understand technology, bridging the technological society with the general population. Jolanda Ter Maten, who is international blockchain strategic innovation adviser has been dedicated to educating about technological innovations to the general population and helping them integrate these innovations. Jolanda will offer us insight into her journey and her thoughts on the value and direction of technological innovation.
Jolanda is the type of person that perfectly combines a technical background with the field of education. She started working as a coder in the 80’s when computer software was still a new thing for many people. However, she has been looking into other things, trying to explore where she could apply her knowledge better. That is when she found her passion in education, teaching others what technological innovation was all about.
“This was the end of the 80s, beginning of 90s, so it was still very new. I was pioneering, exploring new things and what I like the most about it, is helping other people understand what this innovation meant and how it could impact their work and their lives.”
Later in the ’90s when the internet started emerging, Jolanda switched from ICT [Information and Communication Technology] to the educational sector, which indeed is a vital factor for adoption. Jolanda introduced the internet to the school she was working at in 1994 and has helped integrating computer-aided learning in the same school.
“I focused on education and I like to help people learn new things not only by standing in the classroom but especially by learning from experiences, learning from each other and broadening their vision, not only focusing on their own area of expertise, but especially learning from other things, and how things are connected, because I strongly believe in connections.”
After her time as a teacher, she decided to focus on the business side of things and how business models worked, which led her to work for the government in the ICT sector again. Her priority was bridging the gap between technical and non-technical people, she was connecting them with each other, which is vital to create mutual understanding..
“My Focus has always been connecting technical people with non-technical people and seeing the technology not as a final goal but as a means to reach a goal and that is what I always tried to make clear for both parties.
As she recalls, blockchain for her was a perfect tool to bring all of her areas of expertise together: education, technology, and business. Jolanda envisions blockchain disrupting current business models using its trustless transactions.
The idea of the trustless transaction, where the third parties are not necessary, allowing one to transact with anyone anywhere in the world in a transparent and secure manner, can create great value for people and change the ways of doing business as we know it.
Another interesting benefit that Jolanda has mentioned to me was the human factor. She believes that combining blockchain with other technological innovations could provide automation of administrative processes and that will allow us to pay more attention to the human side of things.
“As humans, we will have more time to do really custom-made work for our customers to really touch on the human side of it, instead of always being busy with administrative processes that can easily be overtaken by the technology. So I believe that the human work will get more value because we can really help each other where it matters, instead of trying to help each other getting through the bureaucracy of administrative processes the way they are now.”
Despite Jolanda’s optimistic vision, she admits that there are a lot of obstacles we need to overcome in terms of understanding the nature of technological innovation and what kind of benefits it will bring for people, before diving into the specifics like blockchain and AI. If there is anything we have learned from history, people have a natural resistance from new things.
“During my training and workshops, I always start with the part about innovations and I don't immediately dive into blockchain technology because I think that first people need to have the mindset about the innovations and to see the place of blockchain in this innovations”
Jolanda also gladly shared a couple of quotes regarding this point which she usually includes in her presentations:
“Americans have a need for telephone, but we don’t, we have plenty of messenger boys” by Sir William Preece” British post office 1976.
“Television won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the six months. People will soon get tired of watching plywood box every night” Darryll Zannuck, head of Twentieth Century Fox, 1945.
“Cellular phones will absolutely not replace local wire systems” Martin Cooper, developer of the first handheld cellphone, 1981.
Those are some very interesting quotes that directly depict people’s approach to the new technology that Jolanda has mentioned. The people she has quoted were experts in their respective fields at the time, but even they couldn’t see the opportunity of the innovation and the same is happening to the blockchain.
When people show their distrust in this technology, Jolanda always reminds them that it is still a new concept and under development. Of course, there is still much to improve and the future is still unknown, but she strongly believes in the concept of blockchain and thinks it’s here to stay.
“Maybe the blockchain will not exist in the near future, but I strongly believe that the concept of blockchain is absolutely here to stay. We need this trust, we need this other way of transacting with each other, we need this other way of having trust at least in the transactions because as humankind, we can never have trust in each other all over the world, that's impossible. Hence, it's a good way to use the technology as a way to have trust at least in the transactions that we do with each other. “