Since its relatively recent explosion in popularity, we have been told of a million ways that blockchain can save humanity. From tracking counterfeit wine to solving world hunger, is there anything that blockchain supposedly cannot do?
Here we have taken a look at some of the most practical applications of blockchain technology and smart contracts, in particular ones that can work well in developing countries.
Litter and Waste
Many developing countries experience problems with litter, waste disposal, and a lack of proper recycling facilities. In the Western Balkans for example, Roma communities collect and pick litter to sell to raise money for their families. In Albania, there are no recycling facilities in the entire country, meaning all waste ends up in landfill or the incinerator.
One suggestion to help alleviate the crisis is to facilitate the exchange of waste plastic for blockchain secured digital tokens. This would allow communities to empower recycling ecosystems as well as reducing the amount of recyclable waste that ends up in landfill or the ocean. One such project is ‘The Plastic Bank’ who offer an above-market-rate for plastic, therefore providing an incentive for people to collect it. Those that collect it are then able to trade it for services, items, or even money. Local people are also able to set up ‘convenience stores’ where plastic waste is the currency, in exchange for groceries. All of the plastic that is collected is then recycled and sold at a premium rate to a global network of byers.
The system works entirely on the blockchain which means that the system is safe from abuse or tampering. It also means that those who collect the plastic, are adequately and fairly paid for their work.
A lot of developing countries rely on donations, grants, and funds from foreign benefactors. Whether it is the EU or a private entity such as a charity, this financial aid is integral to communities across the world. The problem is that despite best intentions, not all of the funds always end up going where they should. According to reports, up to 70% of aid can be at risk of being lost to corruption.
This could all change via the use of blockchain technology. If all financial contributions are logged on the blockchain, it becomes possible to keep track of where every, single, cent goes. There is no way of changing, hiding, or deleting any of the entries and it is not possible to syphon funds or send them anywhere other than their intended destination. Through the use of smart contracts, money would only be released after satisfaction of certain criteria or after certain tasks have been performed or verified. Smart contracts offer an invaluable way of being sure that funds are only released to certain people, under certain conditions- if a certain specification is not met, or for example, an invoice is not provided, no funds would be released.
Free and Fair Elections
Countries such as Sierra Leone, Thailand, Japan, Sweden, and the US have all dipped their toes into the world of blockchain-based voting. The issue of free and fair elections in developing countries is a serious one and allegations often arise due to apparent discrepancies in vote counting. By moving electoral counting and polling systems to the blockchain, the majority of these issues can be eliminated.
Voters could verify their identity digitally by registering it on the blockchain and receiving a ‘voting token’. This could then be used to cast an anonymous and encrypted vote with the decision being registered in a totally immutable way on the blockchain. Once this has been inputted to the system, there is no way of tampering with it and any risk of human interference is eliminated. This results in greater transparency as well as increasing voter engagement due to renewed faith in the system. This could also allow for remote voting via apps or digital terminals, again increasing participation by eliminating geographical or logistical boundaries.
Another issue that presents itself in a number of developing countries is the way in which qualifications can be bought and manipulated in educational institutions. By using blockchain technology, a student attending a class or course can “check in” via the blockchain and also record their completion of tasks. By using smart contracts, qualifications can be issued only after criteria including time, grades, and assignments are met. The degree or academic certificate can then be digitally allocated and then accessed by employers, other educational institutions, or anyone else who is given the permission to do so.