Doing Good: Blockchain Making Progress Towards Ending a Global Human Tragedy

There are many ways that blockchain is being used, but precious few of them revolve around solving non-commercial, societal issues. A major exception is how several developers are using the technology to tackle a problem that has lingered for far too long — the global blood diamond trade.

Andrej Kovačević
May 8, 2019 · 5 min read
Photo: monsitj / Adobe Stock

Over the past few years, the rapid adoption of blockchain technology has promised to solve long-standing problems for business and consumers alike. If you look around, it’s turning up everywhere, from the Walmart produce supply chain to private home sales in California. As the quantity and variety of uses for the blockchain have grown, so too have hopes for what the technology ultimately might be able to accomplish on a broader scale, particularly when applied to longstanding societal needs and problems.

Some people envision it as a solution to major imperatives such as securing election systems within democratic nations, and others hope to see it put to use to help establish property rights within developing nations. The list of ways that technologists hope to see blockchain provide societal benefits is vast, but so far, examples of such uses have been few and far between. There is, however, one remarkable example of blockchain technology being brought to bear on a major problem that has defied every other attempt at a solution for almost 30 years, and it’s connected to something you might not expect — diamonds.

Photo: Victor Moussa / Adobe Stock

The Tragedy of Blood Diamonds

In an attempt to combat the problem, a coalition of representatives of 81 countries came together to create a pact known as the Kimberley Process, which was so named after the city where the group convened. It required all signatories to commit to specific control processes and certification requirements that would govern all diamond commodity transactions. It was hoped that the self-regulation would be enough to end the blood diamond scourge, but Human Rights Watch and others have concluded that the voluntary system is ineffective, partially because it remains so difficult to identify violations of the pact. That’s exactly where the blockchain comes in.

Photo: pickup / Adobe Stock

A Global Immutable Registry

Photo: science photo / Adobe Stock

An Idea Gaining Traction

The good news is that the major stakeholders that control the much of the rest of the world’s diamond supplies are now starting to follow suit. This February, the Russian state news agency TASS reported that the diamond supplies originating there would now be traceable on a new blockchain platform, known as Bitcarat. Although the specific details of the system are not yet known, the system would sound a death knell for blood diamonds, since Russia controls diamond reserves greater than all other diamond producing nations combined. That means the combination of a controlled Russian diamond supply, the De Beers effort, and Everledger stand a real chance of finally bringing the illicit diamond trade to an end.

The Bottom Line

how hackers start their afternoons.

Andrej Kovačević

Written by

A dedicated writer and digital evangelist. A contributor to a wide range of technology-focused publications, discussing everything from neural networks to IoT.

how hackers start their afternoons.

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