With blockchain dominating tech circles as the latest buzzword for almost a decade now, there are quite a few lofty ideals that it underscores, such as transparency, trust, and provenance; for people to place their cards on it to deliver social good. Where does this trust stem from?
First up, blockchain is inherently democratic because of its decentralized nature, notwithstanding some of its features such as timestamps, verification systems, audit trail mechanisms and protections against tampering.
Secondly, the blockchain extends far beyond its much-touted application, the Bitcoin. It is the tech and vision that drives dApps, inspires developers, piques the interest of young investors, and has been instrumental in pooling significant talent from other domains to organically develop into a quickly growing ecosystem. This ecosystem spans several industries such as finance, technology, media, logistics, and dozens of other areas presenting a convergence of how technology can improve our quality of life globally.
Blockchain’s humanitarian face
Over the last few years, the need to address socially relevant issues through the use of technology has become particularly relevant. What with climate change posing such a tremendous challenge for young and old alike, the promise of blockchain technology has caught the fancy of the social impact world, with several innovators experimenting to find use cases for this uniquely secure technology. This has resulted in hundreds of new organizations, governments, ventures, and initiatives focused on blockchain. Several tech corporations are placing their investments on blockchain technology to solve global social issues such as refugee assistance, distributed energy, and supply-chain tracing. So, how could the blockchain be applied to generate social impact? Let’s explore how, on this blog.
Financial inclusion is one of the most challenging tasks that stares ugly on governments all over the world, especially the Third World countries. Figuring out economic policies and sustainable ways to bridge the line of disparity between the rich and the poor is a rather uphill task. Financial inclusion is therefore key in this regard. Blockchain, through its crypto wallets and cryptocurrency mechanisms, combined with other emerging technologies can be that unique bridge that opens avenues to enable access to cheaper banking services.
According to global economist Dr. John Edmunds, blockchain tech could open up sections of the global economy that have never been active before since it makes way for microtransactions.
Streamlining civic records
Blockchain can empower users to have control of their own identity by preserving digital identities in real-time. A whopping 1.1 billion people worldwide don’t have a way to claim ownership over their identity. This leaves one-seventh of the world’s population in a vulnerable state – unable to vote in elections, own property, open a bank account, or find employment. The lack of a documented identity jeopardizes citizens without a sense of belonging and in turn limits their ability to pursue any kind of opportunities.
Here’s a case in point. BanQu is a U.S.-based company that leverages the power of blockchain to provide economic passports to those in need of a digital identity. They include unbanked populations, refugees, and micro-businesses operating in the world’s poorest regions. Built as a highly-secure and universally accessible blockchain-based platform, BanQu allows the unbanked and the poor to record their economic and financial transactions, purchase goods, and claim their dues by proving their existence in global supply chains.
Discovering novel ways for energy exchanges
In the immediate future, it is believed that renewable energy delivery will become increasingly distributed with localized peer-to-peer renewable energy exchanges. With an element of simplicity combined with sophistication, blockchain can change the game of renewable energy systems that have long been heavily reliant on centralized systems. The potential opportunities are endless, and by increasing efficiency blockchain could also allow for a substantial reduction of carbon emissions. Powerledger, a Perth based company, has recently funded its plans to build a blockchain-based solar power exchange that allows solar panel owners to trade surplus energy with their neighbors or apartment blocks. Entire energy economies could stem from this working as a solid step towards a strong foundation.
Driving charity and fundraising initiatives
As much as blockchain has been receiving a rather neutral response for its adoption across industries such as banking and insurance, one sector that stands to positively gain out of it is charity organizations. Crypto-philanthropy is picking up significant momentum as an independent movement wherein digital currencies present themselves with new platforms for charities to engage with a wide diversity of donors. Looking across borders, fundraising platforms which accept cryptocurrencies are the easiest first place to look for charities to starting out. Charities across the world over can accept payments from any part of the globe as blockchain presents the radical opportunity to waive off foreign exchange fees or deal with fluctuating currency exchange rates. For charities working in difficult parts of the world, the ability to trade in non-geographic currency can also be a massive benefit. A noteworthy case in point is the Blockchain Charity Foundation (BCF) functioning efficiently as a decentralized charity platform.
Tackling climate change
Blockchain can help drive energy initiatives through fundraising with increased transparency via blockchain-based payment systems. Tokens and exchange markets can be put to good use to incentivize consumers to reduce carbon emissions by driving initiatives related to the environment and climate change. In these marketplaces, users earn redeemable tokens that they can trade by making everyday choices that are energy-efficient. For example, decreasing energy usage or driving an electric vehicle would earn consumers tokens, incentivizing emissions-reducing behavior. Tokens can also streamline emissions trading between companies and emitters by providing a transparent carbon credit marketplace, thereby reducing the cost of the offsetting process.
In a nutshell
Several of these use cases show immense potential for social and large scale humanitarian impact, but most of them are still in their pilot stages. To scale up the technology and build a more sustainable ecosystem around the technology, social organizations must understand the strategic implications and overcome the implementation challenges. And if all of this sounds like a tall task, for those skeptics: here’s the deal. The Internet was mocked at too, at first, and now we can’t imagine life without it. Drone technology was considered expensive and unnecessary; now it’s solving real-world problems. It’s time to talk to us if you believe in social innovation and social impact through the blockchain.