How The Blockchain will Change Doing Good Forever (to the better)

  1. A valuable currency & payment platform. I think this is the most obvious application and one that has been written about extensively. There are plenty of exciting startups in this space — bringing bitcoin and other crypto currencies into low-income markets where millions of unbanked people could enjoy the benefit of a virtual currency that they can save, spend and trade. It would be a powerful way to “bank” the unbanked, without the need of an expensive operational expansion of a traditional banking infrastructure. Additionally, it would offer millions of people a way to hedge against bad fiscal / financial policies if they have the misfortune to be living in a place where such policies are rolled out. There’s more, of course: people fleeing conflict or persecution could store whatever values they have in a crypto currency and access it en route as needed and/ or once they are in a safe place. Today, many refugees leave their belongings behind and/ or get robbed or ripped off by criminals and corrupt officials they encounter during their perilous journey.
  2. My absolute favourite application in this space: Remittances. Un-banked, hard-working migrants currently pay astronomical fees to the likes of Western Union when they send money home. No more of that — a crypto currency allows instant, no-fee transactions. This can be set up right now, without the need for any single extra line of code. The only thing needed is an extensive operational presence, which many non-profits have and which a nimble social entreprise could set up quickly using a franchise model, for example
  3. A global, secure, distributed registry for identity. Like a global passport that you can never lose and never expires. All important events — birth, marriage, death, driving license, voting card — can be recorded on a blockchain, forever accessible and indestructible. No-one could have access to this data, unless permitted by the owner who is always in control. There are further opportunities here: Medical records. Credit history. Insurance status. This could help refugee processes in recipient countries speeding up processes and removing doubts about nefarious elements infiltrated among legitimate refugees.
  4. (Micro)Contracts. (Micro)Credits. One of the more exciting developments in the world of blockchain is the integration within blockchain protocols of secure contracts (“smart contracts”). That means that contract deliverables get scripted into the blockchain and payment happens automatically once deliverables are verified. This has a lot of potential in managing small-amount/ high-volume contracts such as micro-credits or other predictable, simple contracts. It removes a critical barrier and allows small-value contracts to go to scale without the need of a margin-eating middle-man to facilitate trust.

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