Blockchain: Can it Reduce Poverty?

  • Phil Siarri, Principal Advisor at

  • 05.04.2017 10:00 am
  • Blockchain

Can blockchain curb poverty? It’s a bold, yet legitimate question some have tried to answer. I’m next in line.

Guaranteeing property ownership

Blockchain technology can be suitable to register property ownership, whether such exists in digital and non-digital format. It’s an aspect that resonates in countries where political stability is imperfect. Inhabitants lose their homes more often than not due to wars, regime change as well as corruption.

It could protect the rights of the owner in the case of theft, and enable dispute resolution. Furthermore such framework could correct transfer of ownership after sale and prevent fraud due to the irreversible nature of “blocks”.

Registering property ownership, such as land titles, on the blockchain has several advantages such as reducing manual errors, while improving security processes for transferring documents, mortgage or contracts.

Empowering the unbanked

Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin have the capabilities to expand on existing payment services hence connecting users with the global economy. Many impoverished countries just do not have the abundance of bank branches you might find in London. This lack of financial infrastructure is a major obstacle to sustainable economic growth. 

Transactions are often conducted under the table, leaving behind no track record. This can be a problem in developing countries where it is difficult to prove financial asset ownership. 

Blockchain’s cryptography is much about digital transfer of ownerships in a way that is transparent and public. Public ledgers of ownership and transfers potentially would not be denied in the court of public law, regardless of how corrupt the government may be. 

Smartphones would be a logical way to propagate cryptocurrencies, as their adoption has skyrocketed in recent years. Worldwide smartphone ownership is currently estimated at 30 %, it is expected to reach 37% by 2020.

Fighting migrant abuse and human trafficking

There are estimates of 232 million undocumented migrants internationally and the number continues to rise. Many of these people do not have a formal identification documents at their new place of residence, hence they are often victimized and hold a disadvantageous position in the financial system and beyond.

According to a 2013 report from UNICEF, more than 200 million children under the age of five worldwide lack any kind of registration at birth, which exposes them to economic hardship and exploitation. Based on estimates 21 million men, women, and children are bought and sold across international borders every year and are exploited into forced labor.

A digital identify framework backed by a blockchain could alleviate the sufferance of such populations by guaranteeing identity verification in a trusted and accurate manner.

It’s early in the game for blockchain, however there is hope it can be used for good.

Thoughts and opinions are my own.

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