Renewable energy, secure voting systems, identity verification, and even a way to promote ethically sourced foods are some of the ways in which cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology are being used for the greater good.
Blockchain is an incredibly secure system for transferring packages, or ‘blocks’ of data online. It’s becoming increasingly critical in a world that relies on secure payment systems, and the reliability of data stored online.
While blockchain has been used as the currency of choice for cyberattacks, such as the large-scale WannaCry ransom attack in 2017, the possibilities of blockchain to create positive social change are vast.
Jane Thomason, CEO at Blockchain Quantum Impact, says “blockchain can be a tool for substantial social impact, if taken to scale.”
“It’s now estimated that 67% of the world’s population own a mobile phone. This means that applications can be developed and tested using mobile technology to reach the poor,” she says.
Thomason is currently an advisor to a project called IDBox: a “simple, low cost solution” to authenticate identity that can be used with both smartphones and analog phones.
She envisages creating a service ATM for remote and marginalised populations to connect to the economy and services, and which can reach almost 70% of the world population.
PowerLedger is an Australian company that aims to use blockchain technology to create a peer-to-peer platform where individuals can trade, buy, and sell renewable energy.
Jemma Green, PowerLedger’s cofounder and chair, says the company was formed out of the realisation that “apartments in Australia don’t have easy access to renewable energy.”
“I tried to solve this problem by opening up the energy market, so people in apartment buildings could trade energy between themselves, without the need for a third party. The answer to this problem was blockchain technology and it was from this idea that PowerLedger was born.”
Their platform can be implemented in both rural and urban areas, and the company now have a partnership with Indian company Tech Mahindra, offering “microgrid” services that provide localised energy supplies to small communities, where the traditional electricity grid system isn’t available.
By bringing solar energy to rural communities, Tech Mahindra and PowerLedger are providing communities with the opportunity to ditch traditional sources of energy that are unsustainable and harmful to both human health and the environment.
Vote for Change
Another Australian company, Horizon State, has developed a way to use the blockchain to record a vote.
Salim Mehajer, the former deputy mayor of Auburn, NSW, was recently convicted of electoral fraud in the council elections of 2012. The tampering was brought to light after the Australian Electoral Commission noticed that a number of online electoral applications were submitted close to the deadline.
Horizon State’s tech alleviates concerns about electoral fraud, government corruption, and low voter turnout due to the secure nature of blockchain and instantaneous results.
“For every paper ballot box no longer needed, and for every postal vote that doesn’t need to be sent, we’re improving efficiencies, reducing costs, and increasing the legitimacy of the result by having more opinions submitted in an infinitely more secure fashion than traditional methods,” says company Chief Financial Officer, Jamie Skella.
Ethically Sourced Tuna
Bubba Cook is the manager of a WWF project, Blockchain Supply Chain Traceability Project, that aims to curb illegal fishing and human rights abuses in the tuna industry.
Cook says that the growing demand for sustainably and ethically sourced tuna influences companies to “engage in blockchain traceability, which offers the transparency, traceability, and, ultimately, trust.”
“It will inevitably drive demand toward the ‘good guys’ and away from the ‘bad guys’, thereby restricting the access of the illegal fishermen to the market and, with any luck, driving them out of business or at least making them easier to identify,” he says.
The blockchain creates a traceable, digital map that consumers and companies can use to see whether or not their tuna has been sourced ethically and sustainably.
In order for the technology to work everyone involved in the supply chain, from the fishing vessel to the retailer, needs to actively record information.
“All parties must be capturing the right information at the right points that can be verified and validated in such a way that it inherently creates the trust and transparency, and the single version of the truth, that blockchain promises.”
-Blaine Woolfson Jarvis