Blockchain

Blockchain can solve some of the world's most pressing challenges. Here's how

Blockchain has the potential to be a major driving force behind social progress. Image: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Astrid Zweynert
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Two thirds of companies and organisations using blockchain to drive social impact say the technology is an improvement over other methods used to solve some of the world's most pressing challenges, a report published on Thursday showed.

The report by Stanford University's Center for Social Innovation and non-profit foundation RippleWorks analysed 193 social impact organisations that are using blockchain, the technology behind digital currencies such as Bitcoin.

The use of blockchain is steadily growing. Image: Stanford Centre for Social Innovation

The use of blockchain has grown steadily since 2013, with the health sector being the most avid user, followed by financial inclusion initiatives, those working in philanthropy and aid, and democracy and governance, according to the report.

The report identified four potential benefits of blockchain for social impact: transparency, lower transaction costs, creating digital identities for those without formal documents, and difficulties tampering with data entered in a blockchain.

"It is still early days but what is emerging is that blockchain brings solutions that previously would not have been possible," said Doug Galen, co-founder and chief executive of RippleWorks, which pairs emerging market entrepreneurs with top technology experts as voluntary advisors.

Blockchains are ledgers of digital transactions maintained by a network of computers without a centralised authority.

At 25 percent, the health sector was the most avid user of blockchain technology, followed by financial inclusion, philanthropy and aid, and democracy and governance.

The technology was most frequently used for verifying records and facilitating payments, with around a quarter of those surveyed saying they used blockchain for those purposes.

Blockchain's most popular benefits were risk and fraud reduction, followed by increasing efficiency, the report said.

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In the foreign aid sector, where billions of dollars are lost every year due to corruption, blockchain can help improve transparency, said Galen.

"It enables a donation to be traced through every step, from donor to recipient, and record every action and intermediary along the way," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on the sidelines of the 2018 Skoll World Forum for social entrepreneurship.

For organisations dealing frequently with cross-border money transfers, especially where multiple intermediaries are involved, blockchain can significantly reduce inefficiencies and save costs, the report said.

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