Does Lugano really need a Plan B?
Switzerland's first edition of the Plan B Forum in Lugano is now well and truly in the archives. The two-day conference dedicated to cryptocurrencies was greeted on the banks of Lake Ceresio amidst ill-concealed skepticism and doubts, which were also fueled by several critiques: from the price of tickets, which reached close to 1,000 francs in some cases, to an advertising campaign deemed by some, including the Italian senator Carlo Cottarelli, to be too pushy. Not to mention tech popularizer Marco Camisani Calzolari, well-known for his appearances on "Striscia la Notizia," who even went so far as to claim that there would be "a large community of cryptocurrency traders in Lugano who have offices to fill and, having been orphaned by banking secrecy, may now become the new guardians of confidentiality of the crypto wallets' identities."
Words that to describe as reckless would be an understatement and out of tune with what could be seen during the Lugano event. Overall, the Plan B Forum was undeniably a success. The numbers say so, over 1,700 participants for a particularly sector-specific event, and the feedback from those who attended the fifty or so scheduled events. Some of them of immense depth, also for those who, like yours truly, have no understanding of finance: for instance, the meeting with Julian Assange's family, both at City Hall and at the Palazzo dei Congressi (as well as a touching film in Virtual Reality) and the meeting with young human rights activists from several war zones, all of whom explained ways in which new financial technologies can help sustain their struggles in their respective countries.
Guests who emphasized the purely international nature of a Forum that, while it had the capacity to attract people from all over the world, also failed to engage the population of Ticino. This is probably due to the suspicions mentioned above, but also to an objectively high affordability threshold: despite masterclasses and lectures aimed at explaining in the simplest way the principles of cryptocurrencies and blockchain, the topic remains rather complex and not very easy to digest. The vast majority of patrons were therefore already familiar with digital currencies and their use, while those who are not inside the "community," because it is indeed a real community, did not feel like risking confronting this world, even at some expense to attend. This is something the organizers should consider in preparation for the next edition.
And, indeed, the next edition: the City of Lugano has in fact decided that it wishes to focus strongly on crypto, as indeed demonstrated by its announcement of the commercial partnership with El Salvador, and it will continue with its work of popularization, which will also pass-through events of this magnitude. Whether this interest can translate into the actual "Plan B" of the Lugano executive, following the exit of many of the banks from the territory, only time can tell. The opportunities and pitfalls of cryptocurrencies have indeed yet to be fully brought into focus, and some doubts remain unresolved even for those who had the opportunity to talk with experts in the field during the Forum.
But charting the way and being present, perhaps in the front row, could bring enormous benefits in the long run. And, at the very least, this initiative and willingness to seek a vision for Lugano's future should be appreciated.