An Overview of Blockchain Technology and Digital Identity

Like previous digital technologies, such as the Internet, for example, blockchain technology (BCT) has been driven by a high degree of techno-optimism not yet backed by on the ground impact or reliable evidence. Undoubtedly, the technology, which is still in its infancy, has enormous potential in many sectors and could promote human development if harnessed strategically.

One of the many BCT innovative traits is the use of sophisticated cryptographic tools to generate unique identities for individuals interacting within its distributed network. In general, such identities are pseudo-anonymous, immutable, secure and directly created and managed by the individual. This in principle makes BCT an ideal candidate to propel further innovation in the digital identity sector. The critical question

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Overall Perspectives on Technology

Disruptive, transformative and revolutionary are some of the adjectives commonly used to describe the potential impact of new and emerging technologies on society. Joblessness, human decay, and the Singularity sit on the opposite side constantly reminding us of the darker side of technologies.

Indeed, there are two traditional approaches to the social impact of technology which, despite their very divergent predictions, share a common trait.

The first and most commonly accepted approach is the instrumental approach. Here, technology is a tool: A hammer is a hammer; the Internet is the Internet, ready to be used by people – but lacking any intrinsic social value. In this perspective, technology is neutral meaning 1. Technology can be used in any social environment and can thus be easily

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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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25 Years of the Sustainable Development Networking Programme, SDNP

The Sustainable Development Networking Programme (SDNP) was a UNDP global program that ran between 1992 and 2004.  SDNP’s core goal was to enhance access to sustainable development information on a multi-stakeholder basis using new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). Its scope of work was driven by Agenda 21, the sustainable development agenda endorsed by UN member countries at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

Agenda 21 was composed of forty chapters, organized under four separate headings. The very last chapter of the agenda called for increased access to information for decision-making as one of the means of implementation of the agenda. Adding to its approach the targets of chapters 27 (strengthening non-government organizations) and 37 (capacity building in developing

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Blockchain Mining: Competition and (de)Centralization

“One-CPU-one-vote”.1 CPU stands for Central Processing Unit, nowadays also known as microprocessor. From a governance perspective, this is perhaps one of the most interesting phrases included in the original Bitcoin paper penned by a still anonymous author. Could we then say the goal is to build a democracy of devices, a CPU-democracy where each node has the same “power”, so to speak?

The phrase is part of the paper’s discussion of the so-called proof-of-work (PoW) algorithm.2 Needless to say, PoW is not the only algorithm used to add records to a blockchain. Others such as proof-of-stake and proof-of-value for example have been developed. As a decentralized peer-to-peer network, blockchain allows any CPU to run PoW. In principle, any network node could be a blockchain miner. Attaching

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Endnotes   [ + ]

1. CPU stands for Central Processing Unit, nowadays also known as microprocessor.
2. Needless to say, PoW is not the only algorithm used to add records to a blockchain. Others such as proof-of-stake and proof-of-value for example have been developed.

Blockchain and the Future of Society

Alongside artificial intelligence and robotics, Blockchain technology is enjoying widespread popularity around the globe. The surrounding hype seems to increase by the minute. Pundits and supporters see a plethora of applications for the technology not limited just to the financial sector. But to the average person, Blockchain technology is mystifying, given its technical complexity. If you do not know what a nonce is, then you are not as cool as those who do.

blockchain2There are now plenty of books, papers and newspaper articles dealing with Blockchain. One of them, by Don Tapscott and his son, caught my attention. This book is a sound attempt to make a case for Blockchain as a disruptive technology that will impact most aspects of our lives – and not just financial services as first Read More

App-based Car Services in Guadalajara

The last time I visited Guadalajara, Mexico, was in 2011. Jalisco’s Electoral Institute (IEPC in Spanish) invited me to take part in a seminar on technology and citizen participation. Gathering proceedings were published later on and are still available here. Back then, regular taxis were one of the main options for moving around the city. Cabs in Guadalajara had meters so there was no need to negotiate ride fees with drivers before hoping into a car.

I went back a few days ago, on a short-term consultancy. While the hotel booked by the company that hired me was centrally located, the work envisaged meeting a wide diversity guatrenelectricoof local actors dispersed all around an already large city that continues to grow. Unlike five years ago, our options for going from one place to another were not limited

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A “social” history of Bitcoin?

A recent article by one of its lead developers argues that Bitcoin, defined as an experiment, has utterly failed. While the initial concept was to develop a form of digital money that was completely decentralized and autonomous from any bank or institution, today Bitcoin is controlled by a few people. In addition, Bitcoin technology has now reached serious limitations that will prevent it from expanding in the near future. Is this really the case?

bitcoin1Created in late 2008 right after the bank bailouts by a still anonymous geek that used a Japanese-like name as an alias, Bitcoin has quickly gone from geekdom to stardom. The number of books published on the subject has grown exponentially since 2014. At the same time, banks and other financial institutions are now seriously thinking about adopting

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