NEAR APAC Day One: Scaling Local Adoption, Regional Regulation, and AI in Web3

September 9, 2023

After many months in the making, the inaugural NEAR APAC conference kicked off today in Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam. Held in conjunction with the NEAR Vietnam community and NEAR Foundation, NEAR APAC is showcasing the vibrant crypto and Web3 community across the region as well as the potential of the B.O.S. and Open Web both locally and globally.

The day was charged with excitement, drawing over 8,000 attendees from various corners of the APAC region and beyond. With Web3 thought leaders, innovators, and enthusiasts converging in Vietnam, Day One of NEAR APAC kicked off with a slew of riveting discussions, industry insights, and speculations on the future of the Open Web with a focus on APAC.

From discussions around regional growth and investment potential to how AI and blockchain will transform the future of work, here’s everything that went down at an incredible start to NEAR APAC.

Setting the stage for NEAR APAC with Vietnam in focus

The event kicked off with a focus on southeast Asia, with NEAR’s Vietnam country director Riley Tran welcoming attendees and providing context as to Asia’s critical role in the overarching development and expansion of Web3. Tran was followed by two NEAR luminaries, CEO Marieke Flament and co-founder Illia Polosukhin.

“Asia’s young demographics and rapid digital growth, especially in Vietnam, position it as a leader in crypto and blockchain growth,” Riley explained. “With over 100 million new internet users in just three years, Asia’s momentum in Web3 is accelerating”

Marieke added that the overall NEAR ecosystem remains strong with over 29M active wallets and 650K daily active accounts. She added that a collaborative approach to building tomorrow’s Open Web is critical for tackling significant societal and digital challenges.

“Today’s Web 2.0 is closed and siloed, with the prevailing digital culture being a toxic dialectic,” Marieke expressed. “But the value loop of an Open Web holds immense promise. We’re already seeing how projects like KaiKai, SWEAT, and PlayEmber can move the needle in the right direction.”

Echoing Mariek’s sentiment, Illia emphasized that it’s not necessarily about championing a specific blockchain, but about creating a common layer and interface for the Open Web. This is precisely what the Blockchain Operating System (B.O.S.) is in the process of achieving.

“Looking forward, tech isn’t the only focus,” said Illia. “It’s about blending scalable solutions with user-centric experiences, with the B.O.S. becoming the essential entry point into Web3 for both users and developers.”

Asia’s role in mainstream adoption and regulatory hurdles

The push for mainstream blockchain adoption in APAC was also in focus on Day One, with NEAR Foundation CMO Jack Collier leading a panel discussion on current adoption challenges and how APAC can potentially lead the way in overcoming them.

“I’m extremely bullish on gaming as a key part of mass adoption,” opined Don Pham, Google Cloud’s regional Web3 specialist. “Vietnam is the birthplace of Axie Infinity, which is just the beginning of blockchain gaming’s potential. Use cases like loyalty, gaming, and music NFTs combined with better UX will likely be the path forward.”

The discussion dove deeper into the importance of user experience in the adoption of blockchain. Marieke reiterated that while technology forms the backbone, the real test will be simplifying the user journey, which can significantly hasten adoption across the APAC region as well as globally.

Regulation was also in focus with a panel about blockchain policies and APAC’s vision for governments and associations. Mary Beth Buchanan, a board member of the Cardano Foundation, drove home the need for regulatory clarity while discussing regional frameworks in countries like Hong Kong.

“The biggest challenge is not necessarily regulation, but lack of clarity,” observed Buchanan. “If regulations are unclear that will cause investors not to want to invest in the space. Builders become hesitant to build and users aren’t going to know what the rules are. Regulators need to recognize that clarity is what everyone wants.”

Spotlight on Artificial Intelligence during the afternoon sessions

Day One of NEAR APAC dedicated a significant chunk of its schedule to exploring the intricate interplay between AI and blockchain, particularly their role in APAC’s future technology and Web3 landscape. Illia took the stage just after the lunch break to discuss the Convergence of AI and Web3, diving deep into AI-empowered DAO and the future of AI-assisted work.

“While technologies like ChatGPT have found product market fit, much of AI is still siloed and doesn’t empower open source communities and projects,” Illia posited. “Web3 can operate in the middle, with AI models incorporating all participants and data sources. DAOs, for example, can be co-piloted by AI to achieve goals and KPIs faster and more efficiently.”

In the following panel discussion entitled “The Roles of Blockchains in an AI World,” Illia was joined by several AI and blockchain experts from the APAC region. One of the more distinguished panel members was Dr. Nguyen An Khuong, a lecturer and blockchain researcher from Ho Chi Minh University of Technology, who provided an academic perspective. 

“We have a lot of research endeavors in Vietnam around ensuring AI’s ethical applications using blockchain,” commented Dr. Nguyen. “We’re looking at how transparency and accountability in AI decisions can be drastically improved with blockchain technology. Combining a neutral AI with a blockchain’s public ledger could enhance the ecosystem and foster wider adoption.”

Illia drove home that the potential “Skynet” scenario of AI taking over the world is mostly a projection of what humans might do if they were given supercomputing powers. In reality, developments like the B.O.S. and NEAR Tasks will aid humans in success and productivity, with AI agents acting as middlemen for assistance, sourcing, and even creativity.

Day One of the first-ever NEAR APAC was a rousing success, with these highlights just being the tip of the iceberg. The crowd was treated to bánh mì’s and Manga cosplay during lunch, B.O.S. building and gaming workshops on the Builder Stage, and an awe-inspiring NFT gallery from APAC creators.

As the sun sets in Saigon, the NEAR Foundation couldn’t be more appreciative of the Vietnamese crypto community. The momentum rolls on tomorrow with Day Two, so stay tuned for more updates and insights around emerging APAC trends in Web3, how blockchain gaming is taking off in Asia-Pacific, and local DeFi developments. 

If Day One was any indication, the NEAR community’s growth, presence, and development in APAC will only continue accelerating through 2023 and beyond!

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