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How blockchain tech is being used to drive positive social change

By Analía Ramos, Computer Engineer at ConsenSys and founding member of Positive Blockchain

Today, we live in a world where more than 1.9 billion people, or 26.2% of the world’s population, live on less than £2.52 per day (La Banque Mondiale); One out of seven people do not have a legal identity (The World Bank); 25 million people are victims of human trafficking (Human Rights First); 65 million people are displaced, including 20 million refugees. Some of them spend more than 20 years in a refugee camp (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees).

The transparency and immutability inherent to blockchain technology present a solution to entrenched socio-economic issues such as these. So, how can blockchain be employed to tackle some of today’s most pressing social matters?

Blockchain technology is capable of incrementally improving existing solutions by bringing efficiency to previously obscure systems. For example, startups like AliceAidCoin and Helperbit allow for the reliable tracking of donations and accurate impact assessment, introducing much-needed transparency to the charitable sector.

However, blockchain also has the potential to make a radical change in situations where, for example, collaborating with traditional systems is not possible. Sometimes, these traditional systems can be the very source of the problem.

Below are some examples of the ways the technology is being used to drive radical social change:

Identity for the most vulnerable populations

Every citizen has a human right to identity and yet, according to the World Bank, 1.1 billion people worldwide don’t have a way to claim ownership over their identity.

Burdensome identification paperwork processes, lack of nationality, lack of access, and forced displacement are the roadblocks that keep the vulnerable outside of traditional identification systems. Without possessing physical identities, one cannot enroll in school, apply for jobs, get a passport, or contribute to the global economy.

How blockchain can help with identity

It is being leveraged to create alternative identity systems. Due to its tamper-proof nature, blockchain can be used as proof of identity in cases where fake documents are used for human rights abuses, or even to allow the collection of certifications to be used in parallel economies created for these populations.

Projects leveraging blockchain tech to tackle identity issues include:

Blockchain 4 Humanity
The United Nations presents a blockchain-based identification system for children in the Republic of Moldova to combat child trafficking.

Building Blocks
This World Food Program project gives each refugee a digital and biometric identity, which allows for peer-to-peer fund transfers to refugees in Jordan. These funds can be used for life-saving medicines or supermarket purchases.

Enable is a decentralised lending platform that provides stablecoin loans for borderless peer-to-peer credit based on a decentralised identity. The platform creates a borderless credit marketplace using a decentralised identity based on peer reviews and credit scoring system to allow users access to global capital. Users can request crowdfunded stablecoinloans with variable terms, while potential lenders obtain the candidate’s information, and choose to participate or not.

Financial inclusion

According to the World Bank, globally, 1.7 billion adults remain unbanked, yet two-thirds of them own a mobile phone that could help them access financial services.

How blockchain can help with financial inclusion

Rural banks can use blockchain technology to connect to eachother, as well as to international commercial banks, and operate autonomously outside of existing payment infrastructures and intermediaries. This connection enables remote banks to integrate with the domestic financial system while also improving banking access for local citizens.

Projects leveraging blockchain tech to tackle financial inclusion

Project i2i

Project i2i is an Enterprise Ethereum payment network driving financial inclusion in the Philippines through cheaper and more efficient domestic transactions.

As 70% of Filipinos remain unbanked, Unionbank of the Philippines partnered with seven rural banks located in communities with limited access to financial services. Together they built a decentralised, cost-efficient inter-rural bank payment platform that brings the rural banks into the domestic financial system while increasing inclusion access to the communities in which they operate.

Supply chain

Supply chain and logistics is another sector that stands to benefit enormously from the transparency provided by blockchain technology. Supply chains are often plagued by contemporary slavery, provenance problems, and economic abuse, particularly in agriculture, fashion, and fishing. Oceana.org reports that seafood is mislabeled up to 87% of the time.

How blockchain can help with supply chain management

Blockchain entries are immutable and easy to scale by number of participants, which is essential for tracing provenance in supply chain management. By virtue of consensus mechanisms, there are no disputes in the chain regarding transactions, meaning every stakeholder can see the chain of asset ownership.

Here are a couple of examples of projects using blockchain to cleanse the supply chain

Bait to Plate
Bait to Plate is a pilot project from World Wildlife Fund for Nature in conjunction with Treum, a blockchain-based trust platform building the supply chains of the future. The result was an immutable, verifiable proof chain that works to preventillegally caught seafood from entering into the food chain.

Project UWIN (Unleash Wealth in Nations)
Project UWIN is a commodity market infrastructure aiming to create and grow wealth through open and inclusive access to commodity markets for farmers and producers.

Human rights activists

Often, human rights activists need to secure evidence and sensitive information and access their funds outside of traditional banking systems to avoid censorship. Blockchain can be employed to cater to both of these needs, by providing an everlasting register of data evidence, and a secure, censorship proof financial system.

The Sentry Project, for example, is an air strike alert system for areas in Syria that are subject to indiscriminate violence. The system uses the Ethereum blockchain to prove that the information is not corrupted. In the last three years, this project has reduced the mortality rate of strikes by 27%.

Environmental impact

97% of actively publishing climate scientists agree that we are facing the most significant environmental challenge in our lifetimes, yet few organisations have taken steps to combat climate change.

Some companies, such as Cryptocoralsare using blockchain to incentivise positive individual behaviour. Cryptocorals is a positive impact blockchain game with a goal of scaling-up coral reef restoration. Similar to Cryptokitties, users adopt a crypto-collectable, Cryptocoral, which sponsors the plantation of a coral in real life.

As corals shelter 25% of marine biodiversity, each player that purchases a coral has a positive impact on the planet. Almost 200 corals have been funded so far, and are currently restoring aquatic life in three high-risk plantation sites in Curaçao, Bahamas and Mexico.

Blockchain can be used to address countless urgent issues facing modern society. Many projects are already employing the technology to drive positive social change, and this number will only increase as it reaches maturity and the full scope of its use cases becomes clear.

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