Over the past few years, I have heard about the word blockchain everywhere I go. It has flooded the featured sections of most magazines, including Wired, MIT Technology Review and Forbes. Most of articles define blockchain as “the technology behind cryptocurrencies”and explain how it will be the end of corruption, security hacks and industries which have been stealing from people with high transaction fees, administrative fees, and the involvement of third parties. But, of course, the main focus of the general public is still quite intensely on the fluctuating price of cryptocurrencies. What if there’s more to blockchain than what meets the eye? The technology obviously has the capabilities to do big things, so why don’t we use it to tackle the world’s greatest issues and apply the technology for the greater good of humanity?
Now, I know that sounds like it might be easier said than done. But what if it’s not that far-fetched? For instance, when people think of the revolutionization of AI, the first thing that comes to mind is the invasion of robots and their mission to replace millions of factory workers. With further research, you would learn that AI’s potential is far greater. In fact, it already powers technologies around us and is addressing society’s unsolved challenges, just by applying AI to projects with positive societal impact such as forecasting floods, protecting whales and predicting famine. The exact same is true for blockchain technology: if it is applied to projects with positive societal impact, it can accomplish big things. In the wake of widespread public attention for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, a range of blockchain applications have been introduced or are in the process of development. However, despite the progress made in recent years, the use of blockchain in generating social change is an area still largely untapped today.
Before we go on further about blockchain companies that have tried to accomplish this feat, let me explain how blockchain can make a difference to the world. Blockchain or digital ledger technology (DLT) is best defined as “a digital database containing information (such as records of financial transactions) that can be simultaneously used and shared within a large decentralized, publicly accessible network”. This basically means that the users’ transactions are not controlled by a central authority like Facebook or Google. The elimination of third parties allows for greater visibility of transactions, administrative processes and production processes. Blockchain also holds users accountable for deceitful behaviours and rewards others for good ones, and this enables users to participate in democratic decision-making. Without the use of third parties, blockchain also contributes towards financial inclusion for all, regardless of their backgrounds, income, and other factors which have led to biased decisions.
All of the advantages of the blockchain technology laid out above can create profound change, especially within communities which have been neglected for years. Major organisations like United Nations and IBM are studying the potentials of frontier technologies in driving change. Other companies like Finterra are in the process of implementing social, environmental and economic change using its flagship product, WAQF Chain, which bridges the gap between donors interested in contributing, and NGOs publishing causes ranging from environmental conservation to refugee crisis projects, while also presenting investment opportunities which will unlock the liquidity of Waqf projects. The power of blockchain goes beyond cryptocurrencies and meaningless products; the blockchain technology introduces many opportunities for fostering sustainable development.