Blockchain for Social Good

Blockchain's potential for business is taking off, but what can blockchain do for the public good?

Blockchain is booming, as entrepreneurs, enterprises and investors discover use cases that go way beyond its most famous role as the technology behind the Bitcoin network. And yet, blockchain may have even greater value than even those investing in its future may realize. It could prove to be a key technology to improving standards of living and safeguarding democracy.

The Blockchain Boom

An increasing number of tech thought leaders see blockchain as a flexible technology platform with a vast array of use cases. But persuading others of blockchain’s potential is still something of a struggle because of the technology’s roots in cryptocurrency. While investment in blockchain-related businesses is booming, the focus (at least in the public consciousness) is still very much on banking and finance.

Backers of blockchain are trying to get the technology out of this pigeon hole by showing the technology’s usefulness to all sorts of businesses. They point out that blockchain is not a financial services technology but rather a “white label” technology paradigm with no set purpose beyond ensuring security and transparency. Indications of blockchain’s diverse potential can be seen in some interesting cases of the technology being explored by the public sector, not-for-profit organizations and even in the arts.

Blockchain for the Better Good?

One area that blockchain technology has genuine potential is to help realize the tech world’s avowed goal of “making the world a better place”. A recent Forbes article outlines a few of the ways technologists are looking to use blockchain for the better good:

  • Electronic voting: A company called Horizon State is using blockchain to secure (and keep anonymous) electronic voting records of organizations looking to build a consensus. Horizon State hopes to expand this functionality to other social reform and citizen involvement efforts around the globe, particularly in developing countries.
  • Free speech: Sapien is building a social platform based on blockchain that provides an alternative to centralize social platforms with a goal of increased content sharing while reducing fake news.
  • Opening up the internet: Not all citizens of every country have open internet access as some governments put up restrictions to prohibit free speech. Substratum is looking bypass such restrictions by building an open-source network that utilizes blockchain to distribute and secure the infrastructure.

Blockchain Can’t Do It Alone

How does blockchain make all this possible? As previously mentioned, the core appeal of blockchain is that it ensures security and transparency. It does this by being widely distributed and cryptographically sealed. But, blockchain alone can’t solve the world’s problems. Organizations will need to combine it with other technologies to get the full value.

Therefore, making effective use of blockchain will rely on having access to the right networking and security infrastructure. The role of APIs as a secure enabler of distributed networking is especially important in this regard. APIs can help make it easier for enterprises to be faster to market with blockchain implementations.

Beyond the connectivity, automation technology can be used to trigger workflows when certain transactions occur in the blockchain or be used to place transactions on the blockchain based on business procedures. The blockchain provides the immutable record, while automation helps provide the scale.

One might say the possibilities are limitless.

By Samuel Macklin | May 22, 2018