Blockchain and International Development

Lynx Fellow Samuel Deline

A blockchain is a “distributed ledger” that electronically records transactions between parties without third-party mediators, such as a bank; a blockchain does this by keeping track of who owns what at any point in a deal and keeps the information public for different “nodes” to access and update with each given transaction creating a chain of information. This chain is constructed of blocks containing information about the new status of the involved parties (hence the name blockchain) and is added to the database by whichever node solves a complex cryptographic math problem. What all these components create is a secure continually updating ledger that can keep track of most anything (Parkins 2015).

With it’s decentralized self-regulating nature the potential uses of a blockchain for international development are in many ways unrealized. Blockchain technology has the potential to address property rights, bureaucratic lag, and corruption in the developing world as well as fundamentally change how transactions take place.

For example, development workers in Kenya have tracked livestock numbers, disease and market prices to improve efficiency and profitability for smallholder cattle owners.

Writing in the Harvard Business Review Iansiti & Lakhani state “Blockchain is a foundational technology: It has the potential to create new foundations for our economic and social systems”. The truth of this statement cannot be understated in that as a record of activity that updates in real time blockchain provides a service that will allow detailed record keeping that is harder to corrupt. For example, officials in Andhra Pradesh, India are exploring the use of a blockchain system to address corruption and transparency issues in its land ownership system. While on the macro level the UN in its goal to give everyone a legal identity is exploring blockchain as a potential option.

Overall, David Parkins best sums up these potentials with the statement “any asset can be transferred using the blockchain… It can thus be a registry of anything worth tracking closely”. The potential of blockchain to accurately track not just activity but changes in a system posit great possibility for change and countries and companies are taking notice.

Lynx Global Intelligence advises partners on technology best-practices, and refers clients to trusted technology resellers than understand an international context. 

 

 

 

 

 

References

 

Althauser, J. (2017, October 11). Indian State Uses Blockchain Technology to Stop Land Ownership Fraud. Retrieved March 27, 2018, from https://cointelegraph.com/news/indian-state-uses-blockchain-technology-to-stop-land-ownership-fraud

 

Iansiti, M., & Lakhani, K. R. (2017, January 1). The Truth About Blockchain. Retrieved March 27, 2018, from https://hbr.org/2017/01/the-truth-about-blockchain

 

 

Parkins, D. (2015, October 31). The great chain of being sure about things. Retrieved March 27, 2018, from https://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21677228-technology-behind-bitcoin-lets-people-who-do-not-know-or-trust-each-other-build-dependable

 

Prisco, G. (2016, June 3). Microsoft Building Open Blockchain-Based Identity System With Blockstack, ConsenSys. Retrieved March 27, 2018, from https://bitcoinmagazine.com/articles/microsoft-building-open-blockchain-based-identity-system-with-blockstack-consensys-1464968713/