Hanse Digital - blockchain based, trustworthy platform

How leading Hamburg business representatives are bringing "Hanse 4.0" to life
29 November 2019
Container schip in Port of Hamburg

Leading business representatives in Hamburg have come together to create a technical basis for the Hanse Digital idea resulting in a prototype for a trustworthy platform for trade. But the idea goes far beyond that and hopes are now high that the platform can answer the challenges of digitalization. The drivers of the platform commit to common, traditional Hanseatic values in a bid to achieve more democracy and free, fair trade in Europe and the world. This grassroots movement for a sustainable economy could start in Hamburg, according to the initiators. 

Digitization is the driver of the basic blockchain technology behind Hanse Digital. The initiators Dr. Sebastian Saxe, Chief Digital Officer (CDO) of the Department of Economics, Transport and Innovation (BWVI) and CDO of the Hamburg Port Authority (HPA), and Dr. Uve Samuels, Managing Director of the HSBA Hamburg School of Business Administration and the Square Innovation Hub, explain the vision behind Hanse 4.0 and plans for its implementation.

Hanse Digital
© © HSBA
Uwe Samuels (HSBA) and Sebastian Saxe (HPA)

Hamburg News: What exactly is Hanse Digital? 

Sebastian Saxe: We are creating a digital framework that preserves and strengthens the European economic area and its values and takes up the Hanseatic League’s old tradition of fair trade.

Uve Samuels: We are developing a platform on which companies can present their values, markets and social concepts transparently and highlight their contribution to them.

Hamburg News: What does this mean in relation to the platform? 

Samuels: In reference to the Hanseatic League, traders agreed on rules for communication and this led to prosperity in all the participating cities. Today, it is still a question of reliable framework conditions for trading goods and services in Europe. This feeds into our values and morals such as the welfare state, environmental standards so that we can maintain them in Europe. 

Saxe: At the same time, the traditional values of the “honourable businessman” are reflected in digitalization and the “megatrend sustainability”. We promote social cohesion, security and reliability by committing ourselves to these values.

Hamburg News: Why should Hanse Digital emerge now? 

Saxe: Digitalisation is causing disruptions, for example, in shipping. Platforms such as Google and Amazon are also causing considerable unrest in the supply chain. The same is occurring in the retail sector. We want to set values against it and find an answer to this challenge. The Digital Hanseatic League’s answer is strong because it is based on traditions and brings knowledge of the past into the future along the lines of origin is future

Samuels: If we want to create an economic area that is also scalable, we must think beyond Germany’s borders. We must put the energy behind this idea towards Europe’s benefit

Saxe: We think in terms of the former Hanseatic League region, which consisted of up to 200 cities. The present youth movement around Fridays for Future shows that we have to grapple with the world and change. You can create a similar movement. 

Hamburg News: Who is behind the project so far?

Saxe: We plan to start small in a bid to tackle the bigger goals. We are holding workshops with supporters and advocates to implement the idea. We are encouraging politicians and business to do so and are meeting with support. We are talking to the senate, politicians, political parties and business representatives, honourable businessman and associations, the Otto Group, Visible (Wer liefert was GmbH) and others. We address all those who have an interest in combining their tradition with the modern technology behind digitisation. It is a journey into an undetermined future. This is quite normal in Silicon Valley and we will also have to get used to it. 

Samuels: The circle of supporters is growing. HSBA has around 250 members that can potentially participate immediately. Entrepreneurs are sending their best developers because the solution is largely technology-driven. We are working at full speed on a prototype for the platform.

Hamburg News: If you look at the U.S. and China, you might think it’s already a bit late.

Samuels: Yes, it’s already late. But we have to get started. That too is Hanseatic. We are experiencing a revolution on the internet and it is being reinvented. The blockchain is decentralizing the internet. We can shape the future now more than ever.

Hamburg News: Why should companies participate in the Digital Hanseatic League?

Samuels: The trustworthy platform verifies the information provided by suppliers e.g. are companies paying taxes, are they adhering to environmental standards and are they contributing to our social system? How are they handling people’s data, are they ensuring that data sovereignty remains with users? An intelligent algorithm based on blockchain technology is used for this purpose and eases evaluation and verification. Companies will receive a digital  certification of value. This will give providers a USP In physical terms and a clear competitive edge.

Saxe: However, we encourage not only companies to take part. Citizens can also purchase goods there i.e. goods linked to values. The honourable merchant is honourable similar to the Hanseatic League. Nowadays, you can fake valuations on platforms. But blockchain will put an end to that. We are trying to reflect trust technically – that is the idea behind the digital handshake. Intelligent algorithms will refelct our values.

Hamburg News: Why should or can the digital Hanseatic League start from Hamburg?

Samuels: Hamburg is a region with economic clout and can also send a signal. Our openness as a gateway to the world allows us to enter into talks with others.

Saxe: The city of Hamburg has always been prepared for radical change. It’s about designing forward-looking technologies in a beneficial way. This requires courage and the willingness to change. That’s not too far-fetched for Hanseatics and the people Hamburg.

Samuels: We also have a strong blockchain scene and digital platforms like Otto and Visible that are highly competitive and with which we can meet these challenges well.

Hamburg News: Thank you for the interview!

__ Interview by: Karolin Köcher__

Leading business representatives are lending their support to Hanse Digital. See also the interview with Dr. Michael Müller-Wünsch, Divisional Director Technology at Otto on Data Minimalism