Identifying the Displaced

After remittances and land titles, refugees are perhaps one of the primary targets of blockchain technology (BCT) initiatives promoting development or social impact. Bitnation, Aid:Tech and the UN World Food Programme, among many others, are good examples. Last month, at a BCT meeting in New York, UN Women shared its plans to launch a blockchain lab in early 2017. And women refugees are a top priority in the lab’s agenda.

No doubt refugees have become a critical issue of global scope, especially after the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of Syrians in the last few years. Syrians escaping civil war had no choice but to leave their homes, belongings, and country seeking more peaceful and secure lands. What is different today is the scale of this forced migration which seems unprecedented

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Identifying the Unidentified

Identity access and management (IAM) is perhaps one of the areas where Blockchain Technology (BCT) could make a real difference. Research I am currently undertaken indicates that over one hundred BCT startups around the globe are focusing on this area. Add to this number the many other startups and organizations who have been engaged with digital identity for many years now but do not use BCT.1 See this report by OneWorld Identity for details and examples.

Also, factor in target 16.9 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that explicitly calls for universal legal identity provision, including birth registration for all children around the globe.2 Links to other SDG targets are listed here. The ID2020 global public-private partnership is now spearheading these efforts.

IAM

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Endnotes   [ + ]

1. See this report by OneWorld Identity for details and examples.
2. Links to other SDG targets are listed here.

Social Innovation Redux

Context

I was invited to the Social Innovation – Driving Force for Social Change (SI-DRIVE) final conference which took place earlier this week in Brussels. SI-DRIVE is a four-year project funded by the EU and launched in 2014. The project has undertaken comprehensive research on the topic. It has also managed to create a network of European social innovators as well as selected representatives from developing countries.

After a few years of closely following the topic, I must admit social innovation fell off my radar screen around 2015. Partly to blame are new technologies such as blockchains and the rebirth of older ones such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) – now propelled by machine learning. Both could be used to foster social innovation. But this is still in the works.

Social innovation

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Blockchain Technology and Human Development

The blockchain tsunami has reached the shores of all seven continents in the world.  It would be fair to say most Capitals have been flooded, slowly coming to terms with the potential impact of the new technology. Cryptography, hashing, Merkle trees, peer-to-peer networks, distributed trust and governance, proof of work and stake algorithms, and smart contracts are a few of the buzzwords that many if not most are still trying to fully grasp. They come with the territory.

I started to follow Bitcoin from a distance in 2011. At the time, the cryptocurrency was closely associated with the Dark Web and dubious financial transactions. Two years later, blockchain technology (BCT) started to gain ground as perhaps the most relevant and innovative technology supporting cryptocurrencies. The creation

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From MDGs to SDGs

An unexpected abundance of acronyms seems to be on of the traits of the UN. Having worked at the organization for (too) many years helped corroborate this fact. Certainly, the UN is not the only entity with such a trait, not by a long shot. However, the UN has formal global scope and thus acronyms rapidly spread around the world, some getting quick translations into local languages thus adding more to the growing list. The MDGs and their recent transition to SDGs are perhaps a good example.

Two years ago, UN country members agreed to replace the M in MDGs with an S (s as in sustainable). This was complemented by a two-fold “inflationary” process. First, and unlike the MDGs, the SGDs became universal, applicable to all countries, from the super-rich to the poorest. By 2030, most if not all

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Internet Access and Human Development

A recent news article nicely summarized efforts by Silicon Valley tech giants to close the so-called digital divide in developing countries. Not that this kind of initiatives is new – not at all. In fact, a plethora of projects and programs with a similar goal have been launched since the mid-1990s, with mixed results at best. Twenty plus years later, close to 60% of the world’s population is still not connected to the Internet.  And Internet access growth rates for most countries are now converging around 7% per annum, down from double digits in previous years.1 While mobiles have spread faster in the Global South, the latest GSMA report suggests that growth rates in the sector are also slowing down due to the socioeconomic barriers this group of countries face.

One common trait these

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Endnotes   [ + ]

1. While mobiles have spread faster in the Global South, the latest GSMA report suggests that growth rates in the sector are also slowing down due to the socioeconomic barriers this group of countries face.

Blockchain ICOs Revisited

A couple of weeks ago, Coindesk launched an ICO tracker which seems quite comprehensive and includes data starting in 2014. It has information on 164 ICOs1 I downloaded the data on 18 August but was unable to replicate some of the charts Coindesk has on its web site. The data I downloaded ends on 27 July of this year whereas the  Coindesk site includes data until 31 July. and the data is expected to be updated every week or so.

In a recent post,  I shared some insights on the nature of ICOs. In a nutshell, ICOs should not be equated with crowdfunding nor are they comparable to the more traditional IPOs. What has really changed since my initial posting is the fact that SEC is now planning to get involved in the process and will soon start to regulate how ICOs are run and managed. In the

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Endnotes   [ + ]

1. I downloaded the data on 18 August but was unable to replicate some of the charts Coindesk has on its web site. The data I downloaded ends on 27 July of this year whereas the  Coindesk site includes data until 31 July.

Evolution of Global Internet Access – 1990 – 2015

No doubt Internet access has come a long way in the last 25 years. The latest estimates for 2016 show that 3.45 billion people have access to the Internet. That is 47% of the world’s population. The flip side of this number is perhaps more revealing: more than half of the world is not connected to the network. Bear in mind these statistics measure Internet access from home thus excluding those who log in from public access sites such as libraries and CyberCafes, for example. It is possible that these numbers underestimate actual usage. But as long as such underestimation is consistent over time, we can safely use the data to do some analysis,

In this post, I will look at Internet access by country1 Note that 2016 data by country is not yet available. and by income levels as defined by

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Endnotes   [ + ]

1. Note that 2016 data by country is not yet available.

ICOs: Crowding-in Blockchains?

Nowadays, ICOs (or Initial Coin Offerings) are all the rage. Unlike traditional IPOs, ICOs allow startups to streamline the capital raising process while at the same time enhancing the number of potential investors.  While venture capital is still part of the equation, other non-traditional investors and stakeholders are more than welcome to join. How is this possible? Is venture capital being democratized?

By default, blockchain technology (BCT) has built-in financial incentives. In the now classic case of Bitcoin, such incentive is the generation of a cryptocurrency. Users mining the Bitcoin blockchain to process network transactions get rewarded a certain amount of Bitcoins for their efforts which are computationally expensive and power hungry. Without such incentive, Bitcoin network

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Cryptocurrencies and WannaCry

I have been doing extensive research on Blockchain Technology (BCT) focusing on its potential impact in developing and emerging economies. In particular, I am exploring BCT role in tackling the most vexing socio-economic gaps in these countries. One of my early findings suggests that BCT usability might prove to be a formidable challenge for the billions of people sitting at the bottom of the pyramid.
Both cryptocurrencies and BCT use cryptographic tools with public key cryptography being at the core. The advantages are clear: These technologies enhance privacy, security and transparency, among others. From the end user perspective, however, using such tools in effective fashion might not be that simple. Recall how Snowden had a difficult time getting journalists to use encrypted channels

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