Listen to this story
Why Blockchain Will Be An Engine For Inclusion
We are witnessing a shift from the Internet of information to the Internet of value — blockchain. Blockchain will positively impact the disenfranchised by being a catalyst for financial, racial and gender inclusion.
Since Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web in 1989, the Internet has enabled businesses and people to share information in almost-unimaginable ways. However, in today’s Internet of information, you can’t store or transact value without a powerful intermediary. Intermediaries, like banks or governments, are slow, threaten privacy and exclude large groups of people they can’t profit from. Trust, transparency and anonymity has never been needed more than now. Blockchain’s peer-to-peer platform will work for people in ways the internet never could.
“This is it. This is the thing we’ve been waiting for. The distributed trust network the internet always needed and never had.” — Marc Andreessen, Cofounder and General Partner of Andreessen Horowitz
Blockchain, a distributed ledger, is immutable, secure and decentralized across computers all over the world. The blockchain represents a network consensus of transactions and records anything of value such as titles of ownership, certificates and money. The technology is faster than traditional methods, has lower costs and removes friction between parties. Additionally, by circumventing middlemen, people can own their own privacy, create and exchange their own value and be compensated for their work.
Blockchain is opening possibilities that we’ve never seen before, especially for those who have been financially excluded. Globally, an estimated 2 billion working-age adults have no access to the types of formal financial services delivered by regulated financial institutions. In Sub-Saharan Africa, only 24% of adults have a bank account even though Africa’s formal financial sector has grown in recent years. For the funds that do flow into the developing world, high fees are incurred with every transaction, which hurts would-be entrepreneurs trying to launch businesses of their own.
It’s quite evident that the Internet has centralized power to a small group of players and has done little to liberate entrepreneurial upstarts. Blockchain can supercharge entrepreneurship and provide greater access to capital. Don and Alex Tapscott, co-authors of Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin Is Changing Money, Business, and the World state:
“We believe that the economy works best when it works for everyone, and this new platform is an engine for inclusion. It drastically lowers the cost of transmitting such funds as remittances. It significantly lowers the barrier to having a bank account, obtaining credit, and investing. And it supports entrepreneurship and participation in global trade. It catalyzes distrubuted capitalism, not just a redistributed capitalism.” — Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin Is Changing Money, Business, and the World
The adoption and increasing acceptance of blockchain in financial services presents an opportunity of equal importance to include diverse perspectives into the decision making at firms and startups. Blockchain requires visionary leaders. Eighty-three percent of tech executives are white and there are half as many African Americans and Hispanics in tech as in the rest of the private sector. The people driving the technology from the edges should represent the underserved communities and global population that blockchain will eventually touch, avoiding missteps from the first generation of the Internet.
There are a few groups already committed to advancing inclusion, education and professional opportunities for people in blockchain such as Diversity in Blockchain (DiB). DiB is a non-profit supporting the inclusion of diverse individuals and communities to connect to the blockchain and emerging technologies ecosystems. Women are by-and-large leading the way for inclusive initiatives, which is quite the contrast to what we saw in the first eras of Internet leadership. It’s also a good sign that 46% of Coinbase’s new hires this year were either women or ethnically diverse. But there are still sizable diversity challenges as ethnicities, different sexual orientations and men of color aren’t visible yet.
It’s still early days for blockchain, but we can start adding to the pipeline and raising intersectional awareness across all demographics. As Blockchain Revolution states, “The foundation for prosperity is inclusion, and blockchains can help.” Inclusion is innately built into the Internet of value and is imperative to ending discrimination and lowering barriers to access for entrepreneurs globally. Possibly, the most socially beneficial thing we can do right now is make technology more human. Blockchain might be the answer.