This article is a probe into women’s role in making Web 3.0, something that is still taking shape. We evaluate its fundamentals from as many aspects as possible.
Madonna entered the metaverse after being nudged by her manager Guy Oseary to invest in the Bored Ape Yacht Club. She purchased ape #4988 for 180 ETH or $4,66,000. However, she is still in the news pining about losing out on ape #3756 (a rainbow-toothed ape inspired by her) to a woman fan as it remains valued at around $1.3 million.
The 63-year-old pop star isn’t the only female celebrity investor to come forward in support of Web 3.0, Gwenyth Paltrow and Mila Kunis have also been encouraging women to invest in space, too.
Web 3.0 is a space where new exciting innovations are being predicted. Mark Zuckerberg has launched support for NFTs or non-fungible tokens, another important pillar of innovation in the Web 3.0 space. Soon platforms like Instagram, a part of Meta (formerly Facebook), will allow users to connect their digital wallets with their accounts to post an NFT minted on Ethereum, Polygon or Flow. Cafe brand Starbucks has come out in support by announcing its plans to launch a Web 3.0 rewards programme.
From talks of acquisition to a Twitter battle, a look at what is going on between WazirX and Binance ownership
What is Web 3.0
Let's rewind and understand what Web 3.0 is and why women should be aware of its many possibilities.
It is said that Web 1.0 was a read-only internet, which was soon succeeded by Web 2.0 — a social web with more user-generated content and interactive visuals. This would soon collapse to give way to Web 3.0, the web world of Zuckerberg’s Metaverse dream, and this read-write and execute web would be significantly different from Web 1.0 or 2.0.
Most of Web 3.0 hasn’t been configured yet — it's a space that is increasingly being predicted to be a virtual world without any central controlling node. Blockchain technology, distributed ledgers, DAO (Decentralised Autonomous Organisation), cryptocurrency, NFTs, and Metaverse are only some of the elements of Web 3.0. The platform is predicted to act as an intelligent autonomous, open internet powered by Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, like a global brain, as originally imagined by world wide web inventor Tim Berners Lee.
In the Web 3.0 space, crypto seems to be one of the hottest aspects of investor interest. I reached out to Ashish Singhal, co-founder and CEO of one of India’s largest crypto exchanges with more than 10 million users, CoinSwitch Kuber. Singhal’s journey into crypto is fascinating. After getting inspired by the Bitcoin White Paper 2014, he started trading in crypto with childhood friends. They soon realised that there was a space to simplify the process and founded the CoinSwitch platform.
Women in crypto
During my crypto research, I stumbled upon a recent survey by CNBC that suggested women made up only 31 percent of crypto investors. I asked Singhal how the data looks on the platform.
According to him, “CoinSwitch grew from a little over a million in January 2021 to 14 million registered users by December 2021. During this period, the platform witnessed a 500 percent rise in registrations from women, and 15 percent of CoinSwitch users were women on the app. We also observed Bitcoin was the most popular crypto asset among women investors, followed by DOGE, SHIB, and ETH.”
Wait, what? A 500 percent increase in female investors on the platform is a very optimistic number and far beyond my expectations. I wanted to understand what the investment sentiment is like for a female investor herself, especially when it comes to investing in crypto. So, I reached out to Sanchita S, a software engineer in Seattle who has been investing in crypto.
“Tech is just an industry where there are disproportionately fewer women. I wasn’t big into investing, but once I got into the tech industry and the stock was a huge portion of my compensation, I started investing and building a portfolio. With crypto specifically, I’d been learning about blockchain for a couple of years and believed in the technology, so I didn’t want to miss out on it. It’s fair to say there’s a bit of FOMO involved, too,” says Sanchita.
While the platforms and investors feel motivated toward cryptos, regulators have been looking at it with some scepticism. India has proposed a harsh 30 percent tax on crypto gains and a 1 percent transaction fee for all exchanges and it isn’t the only government to do so. Countries like France, Japan, and Austria, too, have imposed taxes as high as 40-50 percent on cryptos.
I reached out to Chief Global Regulatory Officer and General Counsel at the Crypto Council For Innovation, Linda Jeng, who has extensive experience in financial regulation and stability at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and other regulatory agencies, the Treasury Department, the Senate, and the Financial Stability Board in Switzerland.
Jeng was the Chief Policy and Regulatory Officer for the Centre Consortium, the stablecoin standards organisation, and the Global Head of Policy at Transparent Financial Systems startup.
“For the industry to scale, we need regulatory clarity. In the US, this is a hot topic. Government policymakers are starting to make moves because they know other countries worldwide will not wait for the US. What is crucial to keep in mind is interoperability. Crypto is a global technology that goes beyond a country's borders. Making sure that we don't have regulatory silos is important,” says Jeng. She gave examples of MiCA legislation in the EU and the stablecoin legislation in Japan, apart from Dubai and Canada, as having some kind of regulation.
One of the biggest criticisms of cryptocurrency is that it would push the economic ecosystem beyond regulation as the government would no longer be able to respond with counter-cyclical policy measures, and monetary policies would go out of the control of the sovereign. One of the biggest accusations made about crypto is that it will suck capital out of the real economy and into a speculative bubble.
I wanted to understand Jeng’s take on it.
“I don't have strong views on this subject. There's an assumption that Bitcoin and Ethereum are not regulated. They are, in fact, regulated under anti-money laundering laws. One thing to remember is that crypto was created partly to fix some of the problems with financial systems, to make them more inclusive and connected. There is a future where FIAT and crypto both exist,” says Linda.
The NFT boat
Cryptos aren't the only hot investment in the Web 3.0 world. NFTs are fast emerging as another independent space and attracting both creators and investors. Mark Zuckerberg’s sister Randy Zuckerberg actually beat him to enabling an NFT trading platform. She started a royalty-free platform called The Hug and Okcoin, wherein female NFT creators and investors could share and invest in NFTs.
These NFTs are now quite central to digital bidding wars and often traded via cryptos on digital wallets powered by blockchain technology.
Exciting online platforms like Sandmilk allow users to create their own NFTs and share and earn from them. I was quite surprised by the amount of innovation that is taking place, especially in the field of NFTs. Women especially have been participating very enthusiastically as architects of this new digital asset in the Web 3.0 world.
I reached out to one such creator, kimono culture expert Junko Sophie Kakizaki, who’s the ambassador of Japan’s unique hand-painted Kyoto Yuzen Saris, and how she has been converting this traditional craft into a digital asset as an NFT.
“In Japan, a movement has begun to attach NFTs not only to artworks but also to traditional crafts, temples, historical houses and the Japanese traditional culture itself. I think it is groundbreaking that NFTs can reveal what has not been protected so far,” says Kakizaki.
According to her, each Kyoto Yuzen sari is an artistic masterpiece that will continue to grow in historical value for years to come. “The saris they produce are undeniably artworks to be clothed in. Each hand-painted sari fabric took four to six months to be completed and underwent a minimum of 12 steps by Japan’s most skilled fashion artisans. To protect these special saris, which are unique in the world, from being copied, we are the first in the Kimono industry to sell products with NFT.”
How is India placed
As the world catches up with the latest new developments in Web 3.0, where is India on it? The government introduced taxations on crypto gains and transactions in the last Budget. It was in this speech only that the government also announced its foray into the CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currency), which is currently being engineered by the Reserve Bank of India’s Innovations Hub.
In her last Budget speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said: “Digital currency will lead to a more efficient and cheaper currency management system…It is, therefore, proposed to introduce digital rupee using blockchain and other technology to be issued by the Reserve Bank of India starting, 2022-2023."
Without fundamentally challenging the FIAT system of currency and ensuring that the new digital currency hosts implicit value while being transacted using blockchain technology and launching it via its innovation hub, it seems that the government has very strategically positioned itself as an active player rather than a passive observer of the Web 3.0 space.
These are still the early days as CBDC regulations are still awaited, yet one must applaud the foresightedness of our policymakers to ensure Brand India and the Rupee do not lose out on the gains of these innovations under the aegis of India’s first female finance minister.
Here’s hoping that women take inspiration to enthusiastically participate in constructing the Web 3.0 ecosystem and ensure that we build an equal new virtual world.
Disclaimer: A lot of information shared here talks about investment options that are still being evaluated and under the surveillance of the Indian government. This is, by no means, an attempt to influence investment positively or negatively, as I am not invested in this asset. It is just an exciting probe into something still taking shape and to evaluate its fundamentals from as many aspects as possible and women’s role in making Web 3.0.
Aishwarya Sawarna Nir is a 28-year-old young female entrepreneur who has founded and is actively involved in managing Global Beauty Secrets — a luxury beauty brand. She’s also a director at Aishwarya Healthcare — a pharmaceutical company. She tweets from @aishwarya_nir
First Published: IST