"We pray that God will keep our documents safe"

Blockchain technology has potential to be of big importance within international development and it is our task to bring this to a next level.

agenda May 4, 2017

Like magic, Blockchain is a topic difficult to grasp. Even though there are few concrete implementations of the Blockchain within international development yet, The Spindle wants to prepare and anticipate on future possibilities and therefore facilitated multiple Blockchain-workshops.

On April 24th, the third session ‘the Magic of Blockchain’ took place. People from NGOs, corporations, government officials joined. The attendees all agreed on one major aspect: This decentralized technology has potential to be of big importance within international development and it is our task to bring this to a next level. If you don’t or vaguely know what the Blockchain is, you could start by watching this video.

Diderik van Wingerden from Think Innovation and a member of our Inspiration Council, Architect Joost Barendregt, Tey El-Rjula (tykn.nl) and Robijn Niemijer (Robijn&zo) guided the afternoon. Besides providing general information on Blockchain-usages, they actively challenged the participants to come up with possible applications within the organizations of the participants. How to make use of this de-centralized network? Tey gave an insight to the importance of globally accessible documents on the Blockchain and Joost tried to enfold the complex issues of value transfers and Blockchain contracts. It puzzles the mind, but during the afternoon the magic of Blockchain slowly came to life.

Tey is actively working on providing identity-registration on the Blockchain and inspired us with his out-of-the-box solution to the global lack of birth-certificates.

When Tey was in Ghana, he saw the local building where official local information was stored. A wooden building with endless shelves filled with paper. When he asked how these documents were protected, the tenant answered ‘We pray to God’.

In situations where documents are vulnerable to off-the-record adjustments, or when there is a risk of losing them, recording those on the Blockchain might be a solution. Bureaucratic processes of applying, checking and validating documents could be arranged by Blockchain. Why would a brand-new father need to walk for hours for a birth-certificate when it is possible for the midwife to register the baby through 3G in a system that will never forget his or her existence? In addition, for many refugees, a secured identity on the Blockchain will positively influence their search for exile. On the flip side, history taught us that a detailed storage of identity can have negative counter-effects… It is important not to treat the Blockchain as the holy grail, but to remain critical!

During the afternoon, it was often questioned how to overcome the difficulties on human-digital transaction: at some point the analogue information should be transferred to the digital network. How to make sure that this transaction is trustworthy? One still needs to trust the midwife to fill in the correct weight of the baby. Who has the power to proof documents to be ‘correct’?

Even though Blockchain is a digital network, real people have to put the information on the Blockchain, and real people have to give the first approval. How to transfer human-activity into the Blockchain remains a difficult question. However, trusting human activity is something we now rely on too and is hard to replace completely.

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