Can blockchain curb poverty? It’s a bold, yet legitimate question some have tried to answer. I’m next in line.
Guaranteeing property ownership
Blockchain technology can be suitable to register property ownership, whether such exists in digital and non-digital format. It’s an aspect that resonates in countries where political stability is imperfect. Inhabitants lose their homes more often than not due to wars, regime change as well as corruption.
It could protect the rights of the owner in the case of theft, and enable dispute resolution. Furthermore, such a framework could correct transfer of ownership after sale, and prevent fraud due to the irreversible nature of ‘blocks’.
Registering property ownership such as land titles on the blockchain has several advantages, such as reducing manual errors while improving security processes for transferring documents, mortgages or contracts.
Empowering the unbanked
Cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin have the capability to expand on existing payment services, hence connecting users with the global economy. Many impoverished countries just don’t have the abundance of bank branches you might find in London. This lack of financial infrastructure is a major obstacle to sustainable economic growth.
Transactions are often conducted under the table, leaving behind no track record. This can be a problem in developing countries where it’s difficult to prove financial asset ownership.
Blockchain’s cryptography is about digital transfer of ownerships in a way that’s transparent and public. Public ledgers of ownership and transfers potentially wouldn’t be denied in the court of public law, regardless of how corrupt the government may be. Smartphones would be a logical way to propagate cryptocurrencies, as their adoption has skyrocketed in recent years. Worldwide smartphone ownership is currently estimated at 30%, and is expected to reach 37% by 2020.
Fighting migrant abuse and human trafficking
There are estimates of 232 million undocumented migrants internationally, and the number continues to rise. Many of these people don’t have a formal identification documents at their new place of residence, hence are often victimised and hold a disadvantageous position in the financial system and beyond.
According to a 2013 report from Unicef, more than 200 million children under the age of five worldwide lack any kind of registration at birth, which exposes them to economic hardship and exploitation. Based on estimates, 21 million men, women and children are bought and sold across international borders every year and are exploited into forced labour.
A digital identify framework backed by a blockchain could alleviate the sufferance of such populations by guaranteeing identity verification in a trusted and accurate manner. It’s early in the game for blockchain, yet there’s hope it can be used for good.