In the 17th century, the English Colony of Barbados was also known as Sugar Island and sat at the centre of the lucrative sugar trade. With the exceedingly remunerative sugar cane, and its spirited by-product rum, the island’s main export served not only as a luxury commodity but as currency to pay for the expansion of the British Empire. Rum originated in Barbados and so did, to a large extent, currency innovation.
Barbados was at one time the Head Quarters for the regional monetary system for the English speaking Caribbean. Its monetary systems and structures were so attractive that George Washington once attempted to invade Barbados, supported by a naval fleet from France, with the ultimate goal of re-assigning the entire country to the United States from the British. Interestingly, Barbados was the only country Washington ever visited outside the US, when aged 19, and had served to save his life.
Today, the island’s rapidly developing tech community continues exporting some of the world’s leading innovations, including Blockchain development, central bank digital currencies, artificial intelligence and smart technologies. Such is the case with the formidable team working hand in hand with the brilliant thinker and visionary Matthew Spoke, Founder of Aion and the Open Applications Network.
Barbadians Patrick Tannis and Roland Haggins are two of the key leaders making waves in the growing financial technology space.
Former Head of Premier and Personal Banking or Wealth for one of the big 10 global banks, Patrick Tannis sees a New Commonwealth developing with Barbados at the centre of trade once again. Tannis has over 30 years’ experience in banking and finance, from multicurrency loans to the Tannis maneuver, which saw offshore mortgages in one territory being legally booked in another jurisdiction. Rev. Tannis is a John Maxwell Executive Director and sits as a Board Director within the Aion group. Prior to this, he sat as an Executive Director for Global Games Inc., which developed an early form of Blockchain technology used in gaming.
Roland Haggins has a strong background in finance and technology, having being raised in a technology household. His father produced the world’s first commercial C++ compiler. Haggins’ first job was working for a Fortune 500 technology company with offices at the Harbour Industrial Estate in Bridgetown. He later worked in London, England, for some of the largest banking and investment institutions in the world. His passion for technology, with an academic background in economics and finance, encouraged him to develop and lecture online courses in banking and finance for the University of the West Indies (U.W.I). Today he manages the CARICOM operations for Open Application Network and sits as the Executive in Residence at the U.W.I. Sagicor Cave Hill School of Business and Management.
Together, Patrick Tannis and Roland Haggins developed the framework for the world’s first blockchain based central bank digital currency (CBDC) and a regulatory sandbox model that could be used to foster innovation. Haggins presented this framework and model to the Governors of the Central Banks of the Commonwealth at the Annual Spring International Monetary Fund meetings in 2017.
The team worked with Matthew Spoke, the Founder of Aion, to launch the first blockchain network from Barbados on 25 April, 2018. The Aion Foundation was recently renamed the Open Application Network (OAN). The focus of the OAN platform is on the limitations and frictions of the old business model to:
- Foster user engagement
- Gather as much user data as possible
- Use that data to enhance advertising
This model has become incredibly profitable for some platforms but has had unintended consequences such as data breaches, loss of consumer trust and stakeholder misalignment, all of which need to be addressed by next-generation solutions. The Open Applications Network team believes there is a new way for platforms and stakeholders to build open applications that create healthy, competitive and sustainable ecosystems. An Open Applications Network can serve as the public utility with open standards for participation that is owned by everyone. Open applications provide compounding innovation and are fundamentally accessible, privacy-focused and have mathematically verifiable guarantees.
Globally, the Open Applications Network employs over 50 people, with offices and affiliates in Toronto, Israel, Shanghai, Kenya, Ethiopia and Romania. Matthew Spoke, Patrick Tannis and Roland Haggins are recognised as three of the leading voices in this transformative industry, regularly speaking at conferences globally and contributing to international publications.
The team continues to lead the industry, not only in building the technology but importantly in demonstrating the much-needed accountability and transparency. They are laying out a vision to make Barbados the new innovation hub ‘Silicon Island’, building on the country’s excellent:
- information communication technology infrastructure
- skilled workforce and educational programmes
- corporate and tax structures
- right regulatory environment for innovation
With Brexit looming and the Commonwealth playing a greater role in the future global economy, Tannis and Haggins have an additional vision they believe will put Barbados at the centre of international trade by utilizing the advantages of the country’s wide treaty network. The strategy would invigorate the local international business sector, bringing new opportunities to the local legal, accounting and technology expertise.
Open Application Network
The OAN is a public infrastructure that creates a new design space for Open Applications. Open Apps are programs that put users back in control and are universally accessible across online platforms. Later this year, The OAN will be launching its flagship Open App, Moves – a mobile app designed to support the ongoing progress and social mobility of gig workers.