Blockchain for Social Good, and For All!

April 10, 2017 — Blockchain for Social Good, a new pilot by ConsenSys that is dedicated to leveraging the Ethereum blockchain to solve the world’s most pressing social and environmental problems, launched its inaugural meetup event on Monday, April 10th, at Rise New York with a full house of enthusiastic participants.

Participants were able to share and brainstorm ideas on how to utilize the ability of Ethereum to leapfrog and change the corrupt and inefficient power structures that currently impede progress toward achieving sustainable goals. These include the promotion of greater transparency and traceability in supply chains, increasing financial inclusion, combating human rights abuses and modern slavery, fighting climate change, and championing the transition to renewable energy sources. Through a series of meetups this group aspires to establish a community dedicated to helping civil societies, businesses and individuals leverage blockchain technology to achieve their values and goals.

The theme of Monday’s inaugural event focused on identity issues and supply chain. Speakers included Michael Sena, Product Lead of Uport, and Yorke Rhodes, Global Business Strategist of Blockchain at Microsoft. Michael has brought his diverse background in product management, technology consulting, capital markets, and political economics to ConsenSys. He designed and deployed consumer and enterprise technologies for some of the largest organizations in the world, and is using these foundational experiences to unlock value on a global scale by building applications for the emerging blockchain economy. Yorke is a passionate technologist with broad interests. He has worked in the industry for over 20 years, primarily in software across large enterprises such as Microsoft and IBM as well as startups in wireless, mobile, digital marketing and e-commerce. Apart from being a global strategist for blockchain at Microsoft, he also teaches at NYU about Digital Marketing, E-commerce and Entrepreneurship.

We envision a world of digital freedom. We believe technology will enable humanity to evolve into a more connected, equitable, secure, open, inclusive and collaborative species — beginning with identity.

The root cause of the current system of unscalable trust infrastructure starts with a centralized entity’s inability to provide identification services with enough accuracy, currency and consistency to build an individual’s credibility. Identity infrastructure provided by governments or corporations has consistently failed to meet the needs of the poor and the marginalized. 25% of global population are either undocumented or unbanked. More than two billion identities were hacked in 2016. In the meantime, banks have been relying on much criticized credit scores to approve loans. Google and Facebook succeeded in raising $106.8 billion in ad revenue in 2016, based on data they collect about your identity. The identity that you are provided may not only be untrue, but also out of your control.

By enabling a global consensus of encrypted information, blockchain eliminates these major flaws. The algorithms of blockchain connect each individual node with one another to form a peer-to-peer network that can share, update, and attest to information globally and automatically without appealing to a central authority. Moreover, information enters the system not only through the process of encryption but is also linkeds in a chronological order to make any alterations nearly impossible. Because of cryptography and consensus, identities on blockchain are completely user-owned — individuals are able to register and control their identities independent from any third party such as a government or a credit agency. They are secure, portable, unified, universal, and persistent through all circumstances backed by an immutable record of past transactions.

Identity is the genesis block for any solution to humanitarian crises and poverty. Displaced refugees who lack formal proof of identity have little ability earn a basic living. They cannot work, go to school or even find a place to live because their is no record of their existence. People without proper identity documentation have difficulty interacting with the global economy, and are stuck in a cycle of poverty. They work hard enough to just make ends meet, cannot save, and have no money to invest for their future advancement. Lives of refugees and the impoverished are severely limited by a lack of documentation pertaining to their existence, even though they may be just as good and trustworthy as everyone else.

The opportunity presented by blockchain to address identity issues is historic and unprecedented. Blockchain can systematically address identity problems that lie at the core of humanitarian crises and poverty. In fact, such a solution has already been tested multiple times. Back in 2015, the BitNation team created the first decentralized project to solve European refugee crisis, the Refugee Emergency Response (BRER), by registering undocumented individuals on the blockchain. In April 2016, an NGO collective Start Network and ConsenSys launched a pilot project to test blockchain technology in emergency and crises responses. ConsenSys’s own Uport, an Ethereum-based identity project, has won the biggest competition of its kind, Demo Day, during the International Blockchain Week in Shanghai last September.

These project now need a high degree of adaptation and need to scale. Therefore collaboration between the various stakeholders is key to advance viable solutions.

These were the issues discussed at the event on April 10th. Following the presentations, the group broke into smaller teams to brainstorm ideas around blockchain uses in energy trading, supply chain, education, financial inclusion and community building. People were given whiteboards and markers to jot down their inspirations. Participants also were able to reflect on what the purpose and goal of the group is: Driving action and impact. Teams then reconvened and each presented a summary of their findings. Blockchain for Social Good is committed to expanding its task force to build a conscious technology community that solves social and environmental problems. If you are one of us, join us!

If you have any further questions or would like to join our Blockchain for Social Good slack channel, please contact us:

Benjamin Siegel: ben.siegel@consensys.net

Vanessa Grellet: vanessa.grellet@consensys.net