By Alex Lielacher
Blockchain technology is in the process of disrupting a wide range of industries across the globe. The technology that underlies the digital currency bitcoin is changing how data is recorded, how transactions are being processed and how bilateral agreements are being documented. But blockchain startups are not just reducing costs and improving efficiency for business and finance. They are also making a positive impact in other parts of the world, in ways that profoundly affect people’s lives.
Voter Registration and Secure Vote Counting
The blockchain is also being leveraged by startups that aim to improve the democratic process of regional and national elections. Election fraud is a common occurrence in developing countries, but as we have witnessed in the latest U.S. presidential elections, even the most developed countries can struggle to deliver a fair and democratic election process.
Voter registration and vote counting are two areas in which the distributed ledger technology can provide solutions. The blockchain can be used to digitally record all eligible voters and can be used to publicly record every single vote during elections. A startup that is tackling this area is Virginia-based Follow My Vote. Follow My Vote has developed an open-source digital voting platform for governments built on top of the distributed ledger technology with the aim to make elections more transparent and democratic.
Digital Identities for Refugees
Blockchain can also be very impactful as a way to record the digital identities of refugees. As the world has seen since the start of the Syrian conflict and the subsequent influx of refugees into Europe, people often arrive in foreign countries with little to no documentation. This causes a big challenge for governments and aid organizations when it comes to identifying and recording refugees and ensuring they receive the aid they need.
Fortunately, the Ireland-based blockchain startup AID:Tech is working on a solution for this problem. AID:Tech is developing a transparent digital identify recording system based on blockchain technology that ensures that aid reaches the right recipients by recording refugees identifies, health records and welfare payments. The blockchain is an ideal technology to securely store sensitive data and to alleviate the chance of misappropriation of funds.
Recording Land Ownership
Maintaining accurate records of land ownership is an important challenge in many developing countries. Disputes over rightful land ownership in rural areas of Africa, for example, can often escalate into violent conflicts among local populations. In other instances, poorly recorded land ownership can lead to land-grabbing by governments or corporations, as there is often little legal structure surrounding the process and paper documents are easily lost or destroyed.
This is another area in which blockchain startups are looking to make an impact. Ghana-based Bitland, for example, allows Ghanaians to record land ownership and title deeds on the blockchain to create an immutable legal record of ownership. Bitland also acts as a liaison to the government in case of disputes.
The blockchain is not only being used to record land ownership in developing countries. In Sweden, for example, the blockchain startup ChromaWay is working with the government to develop a system that registers and records land titles using smart contracts.
Tracking Financial Donations
Blockchain will have a truly positive impact on society in the philanthropic sector. California-based, non-profit startup the BitGive Foundation recently launched the beta version of its blockchain-based donation-tracking platform called GiveTrack. GiveTrack leverages blockchain technology to enable donors and members of the public to trace charitable donations in real time on a publicly viewable platform. This allows donors to track how their funds are being spent and ensures that they reach the intended recipient, while at the same time lowering the costs of international transfers.
BitGive’s platform has the potential make a massive positive impact on the (unfortunately) oft-corrupt charitable sector by providing much-needed transparency for charitable donations.
There is a lot of innovation coming from blockchain startups that will not only revolutionize systems and processes in commercial industries but will also make a positive impact on global society, as the above examples show.