Blockchain technology and its application are transforming environmental, philanthropy and NGO work. Here are 5 sectors of social impact where it is at implementation and/ or proof of concept stage:
Climate Change and Environment
Though Donald Trump wants to pull the US out of the Paris climate accord, cities, communities and companies around the world are forging ahead with projects and applications that aim to improve the environment and tackle climate change.
Carbon emission trading
Carbon trading has suffered from a lack of transparency, systemic corruption and low prices due to over allocation of credits. Blockchain could be used to improve the system of carbon asset transactions by recording carbon assets on a public blockchain.
Peer-to-peer energy trading
Energy production is becoming decentralized through microgrids as a result of the lower cost of solar energy systems and increased capacity of batteries. ‘Net metering’ is a billing arrangement that allows businesses and individuals generating their own electricity- from renewable energy sources-to feed unused energy back into their local power grid and receive a credit back for its retail price. Consumers will be able to buy, sell or exchange renewable energy with each other, using tokens or digital assets representing a certain quantity of energy production for trading.
One of the main drivers of civil wars, corruption, crime, disease, illiteracy, and the resulting poverty that has plagued the developing world, is bad governance. The use of blockchain to track, trace and verify transactions and the unchangeable nature of blockchains could be a game changer for aid organizations. Ballot boxes and current online voting systems are vulnerable to manipulation and disputes, a blockchain-based system could guarantee security, transparency and accurate election results.
Hunger and Food Poverty
The World Food Programme (WFP)has shown actual results in blockchain based projects. At camps in Jordan for instance, over 10,000 refugees are being fed by a World Food Program project that gives food vouchers to refugees via supermarkets located in the camps. The blockchain-based transacation logs can track food distributions in multiple locations, boost efficiency and prevent fraud. They have collaborated with Accenture Labs to use AI and blockchain on a pilot programme to ‘improve their audit capabilities, attendance recording, invoice processing and payment, order and data collection, and food preparation operations, allowing for expanded production capabilities and establishing a blueprint for operating other kitchens.’
Land and Property Rights
The Latin American economist, Hernando de Soto, says the No1 issue in the world in terms of economic mobility is proof of land ownership. If you don’t have a valid title to your land, you can’t borrow against it to set up a small business and you can’t plan for the future. In most countries around the world where poor people hold property, their ownership is usually based on informal rights rather than any official government record.
The World Bank launched a Blockchain Lab in 2017 as part of an effort to pilot projects that can improve governance and social outcomes in the developing world. Accenture Plc and Microsoft Corp have teamed up to build a digital ID network using blockchain technology, as part of a United Nations-supported project to provide legal identification to 1.1 billion people worldwide with no official documents. According to the CEO, Annti Pennanen, it will also lead to them entering the banking system quickly, and “ makes them feel part of the society.”
However, as can be seen from the examples given, the use of Blockchain to improve transparency and address the perennial problem of social mistrust has enormous potential. As Joseph Lubin- co-founder of Ethereum says “If you put all the economic social and political systems we have built on a more trustworthy, secure and equitable foundation — they will be much better.”