Blockchain’s ability to store information has applications and effects across industries.
Blockchain is proving to be quite the disruptive technology. At its core, blockchain offers a reliable way to immutably store information. This core functionality has countless applications across industries. Given the number of blockchain projects that have been announced over the past months, it’s tough to spot an area that blockchain hasn’t influenced yet.
In addition, blockchain inspires trust that other technologies have failed to foster. In the case of public blockchains, no one actually owns them and they rely on the cooperation of peers to function. This decentralization allows the technology to avoid being dependent on fallible central authorities. Given all the instances of data breaches, privacy concerns, and corporate greed in the tech industry, blockchain has become a welcome development for conscientious users.
Since the popular use cases of blockchain have been in cryptocurrencies, many of the current blockchain developments revolve around financial technology. However, blockchain’s key features can be used to create services that address not just commercial and business needs but address social problems as well. Here are four areas where blockchain is becoming instrumental to social change.
Citizens of democratic countries put faith in elections. However, the democratic process isn’t without its idiosyncrasies. Sometimes electorates choose poorly and some elections can be rigged. These put doubt to the system but many who believe in democracy’s principles wouldn’t have it other way. It is in this regard where blockchain can help fix the system.
Horizon State is a new blockchain-meets-democracy project that offers a decentralized engagement and decision platform. The platform serves as a digital ballot box that protects votes and voter information using blockchain. On top of this, Horizon State allows leaders to present their agenda to their constituents and even seek funding and gain insights from analytics. Through these mechanisms, voters could then choose their level of engagement and securely and confidently cast their votes on issues.
In a talk, Horizon State co-founder Jamie Skella shares, “If [the founding fathers] could leverage blockchain, if they could leverage the internet and if they could leverage smartphones, how would they do things differently? I think it’s pretty safe to say that they would not be asking everybody in their constituency to gather in a centralized location such as a polling booth, do so once every four years, write on a piece of paper, throw that into a box, and then just sort of pray that their representatives are really representing them.”
Horizon State’s technology is already being used by Australian political movement MiVote which aims to have politicians act according to the collective decisions of voters. The platform is also being developed for use by publicly listed companies, unions, non-profits and other communities – basically any group that seeks to hold itself accountable to its members.
Large corporations continue exert their influence over markets. In tech, many of the popular services act as centralized authorities. Users have to agree with their terms and conditions no matter how fair or disadvantageous they could be. These companies even have the right to change these terms at any point. For example, independent artists who publish and monetize through platforms like Spotify have little choice but to accept the services’ royalty rate computations even if these mechanisms have been described as “unreliable.”
Blockchain challenges the dominance of these centralized authorities. Many of the blockchain efforts promote decentralization to create fairer markets for a variety of verticals. Blockchain-based marketplaces provide transparency to all participants so it’s easy to spot overpricing and attempts at manipulation. As such, sellers are compelled to price their goods and services equitably.
Several blockchain marketplaces are already promoting this approach. BitBoost aims to decentralize e-commerce through its The Block marketplace. It uses the Ethereum network to handle smart contracts to facilitate transactions and payments. Livepeer and Voise are also offering decentralization for video and audio streaming respectively where broadcasters and content creators are compelled to create high-value content to be able to charge a premium for their work.