Blockchain and its social impact

Money Man Podcast EP1

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Graham Sifflet - CEO of Most Money LTD

For our very first podcast, we’re delighted to be joined by Rene Landers, Fintech alumni at The University of Oxford. I was very impressed when I first met Rene. She has a background in accounting and finance and has worked predominantly for airlines. Rene recently realised that her knowledge of the latest IT developments might be used to help resolve one or two specific social and humanitarian issues.

Rene Landers - Founder of BlueMecha
Blockchain technology - the 4th industrial revolution?

Recently inspired by attending the 6th OECD World Forum ‘The Future of Well-being’, I founded BlueMecha. Its aim is to understand whether frontier technology like blockchain and AI can enhance financial instruments and add value to society in general. In other words, can Blockchain help us measure what matters in the world today?

How can blockchain help us make a difference?

Along with AI, we should regard Blockchain as the fourth industrial revolution. The two technologies are used differently but each supports the other. Up to now, blockchain has been mainly used as the platform which brings cryptocurrency into play.

However, since the blockchain explosion, experts have realised that this new technology can serve other purposes – for example, its dramatic explosion into the healthcare sector.

My own interest lies in using the technology to enhance the 17 Sustainable Development Goals which have been developed by the United Nations and ratified by several countries.

This entails helping individuals in need – answering the question of whether social impact bonds, which are growing so dramatically, can be measured more accurately.

What are social impact bonds?

These are a financing mechanism whereby governments raise funds in order to support low socio-economic environments or to support particular projects or communities that need uplifting.

Do impact bonds add value in the supply chain?

There are three interested parties –

– the investor
– the creator of the social impact bond
– the communities who benefit from the investment.

We need to know if impact value bonds are actually adding value across that entire supply chain. This is where blockchain technology comes in. Its stand-out feature is its immutability – any transaction that is loaded on to a blockchain can’t be removed. A second important characteristic in this particular use case is the blockchains ability
to manage a smart contract.

Very simple example

Let’s say a foreign investor approaches the UK government. This investor wants to set up an operation here in the United Kingdom. The government engages them to invest in a social impact bond, designed to establish parks in a low socio-economic area. The aim is to keep kids occupied, off the street, relieving the parents of pressure.

It might take a year to build this park. The life of the bond would be two years – sufficient to both raise funds and to build the park. At the end of the agreement, the investor would be given a licence to operate the company here in the UK. Once the contract is signed, the agreement between all parties and all transactions would be managed on the blockchain and you start building your park.

At the conclusion of the project, the government who raised the social impact bond and the beneficiary, the community, confirm that the investor has effectively used their funds to provide a theme park to this community. They then assign a license or a key through the blockchain process to the investor to be able to set up the operation here.

A smart contract is set up on the blockchain. The users or the actors in the chain are
– the government who raise the social impact bond
– the investor who supplies the funds to the build of this park
– the community who benefits from the investment.

Early in its life, blockchain’s reputation was somewhat damaged by its association with the dark side of crypto-currencies. However, the positive side of blockchain is coming increasingly to the fore. The astonishing global benefits of this revolutionary technology are becoming increasingly clear.

Take the example of natural disasters, where individuals or whole communities can lose everything, even their identity. Imagine, in the aftermath of such an event, going to your local bank to extract money. How do you prove that you are who you are with no ID? Blockchain would have preserved everyone’s ID. Once you’re born and a number has been assigned to you as an individual. This could never, ever, be removed because of the characteristic of immutability. Your passport, National Insurance number etc would all spring from your single ID. If a natural disaster occurs, the blockchain is saved and your identity too.

BlueMecha

The aim of my new company is to have a pipeline of projects that support the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, ratified by the United Nations.

We’ve engaged a blockchain developer from Oxford University. We’ve started targeting organisations that influence public policy and we’re raring to go.

The future - 10 years on

I predict that, in 10 years, every accountant will have to know how to code. We’ll have to know I.T. processes along with accounting.

There will be a merging of ideas. Who would have thought that technologists would be creating the fourth industrial revolution? And it’s happening today. We cannot progress further in the world today without blockchain or AI. There will come a time when no sector will be able to grow without the use of either of the technologies.

Read more about Blockchain technology on Graham’s Insights.

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