Five Ways Blockchain Is Influencing World Affairs
Blockchain is all the rage these days and, for good reason. What was once a technology limited to the realm of finance is branching out with seemingly limitless potential.
Here are a few “out of the box” examples highlighting blockchain’s explosive growth and diversification:
- An energy company in Germany has launched hundreds of blockchain charging stations for electric cars.
- The Ukrainian government has begun using a blockchain-powered platform to auction government assets and crack down on corruption.
- A Polish startup is applying blockchain to fight fake news by ranking news that has digital tokens attached to it over news that doesn’t.
As we see more blockchain applications emerge, one area to pay attention to is world affairs. This circle of nation to nation behavior, global institutions, political risk, and more, will see blockchain influencing it in many ways.
Here are five ways this is already happening.
Distributing Global Aid
The World Food Programme (WFP), part of the United Nations, has developed a system called “Building Blocks”. It uses blockchain to transfer money to those living in poverty. In January, 2017, it successfully completed a trial in Pakistan, providing assistance to 100 people. On May 1, this same system began operating in Jordan, providing money to 10,000 people. By 2018, the UN wants to expand this system to include 500,000 people worldwide.
A system that automatically distributes money to hundreds of thousands of people around the world, bypasses local governments. Depositing money into the bank accounts to some of the poorest people in the world, in nations with tight control over the political, economic and social system, could create fear in governments as to how this new disposable income will affect citizen behavior.
From Pakistan to the Indonesia, Jordan to Mozambique, will blockchain-fueled assistance be viewed as a new threat?
New, Transparent Elections
ITS Rio, a think tank located in Brazil, is developing a new platform for the government powered by blockchain. Once completed, it will enable a new kind of transparency in future Brazilian elections. Votes will be counted through “digital signatures” of people, signatures which will be linked to the unique number each Brazilian citizen has (part of their national ID card).
The ability to hold elections in a highly transparent (and accountable) manner will transform many countries where division, skepticism and doubt exists towards the political process. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can use blockchain to make sure elections are held without tampering, while governments that choose to ignore results of elections will have a tough time arguing against a blockchain ledger.
In the face of increasing political divide at both ends of the spectrum, blockchain could be the variable that reinforces democracy, not erodes it.
By 2020, Dubai’s government wants to be paperless. They plan to achieve this by moving every single government transaction to a blockchain. What does this mean? Processes like renewing a passport or drivers license will all be done electronically, recorded and processed by blockchain.
Dubai’s plan doesn’t stop there. Alongside going paperless, the government wants to identify 1,000 new “work examples” to take advantage of blockchain and grow the economy. It doesn’t stop there either. Finally, Dubai wants to grow the city’s influence and become a global leader by innovating in the area of blockchain.
E-government, the movement of government into the digital sphere, is a local change but it has global consequences. Chief among them is that by becoming “digital” governments have more influence beyond their physical borders. Using blockchain to become digital and increase global standing could be a new economic model for Dubai, and if it succeeds, it will give the United Arab Emirates a new kind of soft power — through blockchain.
Future Battlefield Communication
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), part of the US Pentagon, is looking into how it can deploy blockchain to become the future means upon which “sensitive military information” is communicated. This is part of a three-prong plan to bring blockchain to the military and enable secure communication between people, satellites, even weapons. Alongside DARPA, the North-Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a 28-member defense bloc, has put out a “request” for military uses of blockchain.
Little explanation is required here. The fact that blockchain, a technology traditionally applied to finance, could be used in future warfare settings for the communication of sensitive information reflects just how vital a role this new technology will play. Whether in existing geopolitical hotspots, like Syria, Ukraine, Yemen or Iraq, or in future ones, blockchain may become a defining factor of how successful a military campaign is
Going one step further, blockchain integrated with artificial intelligence could become an autonomous “commander” for militaries, automatically monitoring an army, changes in its resources and changing battlefield conditions, then informing humans or proposing changes on its own.
Growing The Economy
The People’s Bank of China (PBOC), which is the central bank of China, finished a trial testing a “blockchain based digital currency” in February, 2017. Months earlier, in South Korea, the chairman of South Korea’s Financial Services Commission (FSC), which controls all financial services in the country, said the government was going to lay the “groundwork” for a digital currency. One of the few public details about the project is that blockchain will be used. Other countries exploring the use of blockchain in digital currencies include Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and Russia.
While using blockchain as the foundation of a digital currency isn’t a new idea, blockchain itself could be the catalyst governments have been waiting for to launch digital currencies. And if it is, it has a huge impact for world affairs.
Take China for example. Having a digital Renminbi isn’t just a more efficient way to manage the domestic money supply. Having a digital currency allows China to expand its currency from being a domestic to global by allowing people around the world to access the currency through an app or online platform. This method is far easier than trying to compete with the United States for global currency dominance by attempting to have countries store Chinese Renmibi alongside, or in place of, $US. It might be decades before China’s currency is recognized as equal to America’s as a reserve or universal currency, but it might only take years before tens or hundreds of millions of people are individually using a digital version of the Renminbi to sell/buy goods.
Blockchain is no longer an innovation for the financial world. It’s applications are expanding daily and the geopolitical world should begin understanding what this new technology means for them. Blockchain isn’t alone in disrupting geopolitics. Dozens of new technologies, from robotics to artificial intelligence to space mining and biotechnology are converging and will change world affairs in ways governments never imagined.
Governments looking to understand how blockchain might affect them, domestically and globally, should begin by asking a simple question. Is the ability to store information in a secure, transparent and accountable manner a threat or opportunity?