On 5 July 2018,
we kicked off our first panel-led event with experts, fellow activists, business professionals, partners, and volunteers on what blockchain means for human rights. The panel was led by Kevin Bluer (Kevin currently spends most of his time research the use and applicability of Blockchain), Michael Gold (Michael’s a senior editor at the Economist Intelligence Unit) and William (who researches China affairs at Amnesty International).
From Bitcoin to buying clothes, Blockchain is changing society as we know it. While
much of this potential is yet to be seen or is still in its early stages, we have already seen how Blockchain can, and is, revolutionising industries across the spectrum. One of our more favourite applications, rightly so (we might be a bit partial), is the use of Blockchain technology in providing services to refugees in Jordan
At We The People, we’re founded in the belief that technology offers the most promising road forward for human rights, especially democracy. In a time where democracy has witnessed its worst attack in decades, tech offers a low-cost, wide-reach means of empowering citizens across the world at a click of a button.
Given our ambitions to be the world’s most transparent charity, technology is a useful tool in measuring impact and demonstrating accountability efficiently. But, there’s a lot that needs to be done before we achieve this — from research to mitigating risks. we’ve adopted a proactive approach to building our platform and by working with some of the world’s leading experts across the tech, legal, data, and human rights spaces, we’re answering some of the pressing questions on what technology means for human rights, everywhere.
Through the course of the discussion, we managed to learn quite a lot and our audience was able to debunk what Blockchain is and what it can be for democracy.
In case you missed it, here’s a recap of key insights from the event.
Bitcoin is not blockchain.
Most people who have heard of blockchain probably associate it with the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. While it’s true that blockchain provides the underlying technology that helps cryptocurrency exchanges, the reality is that the potential uses for blockchain are far broader than digital currencies.
One of the biggest advantages (or perhaps the biggest) of Blockchain is decentralisation.
Not one single entity has control over all the processing or ownership of data. We’ve already seen some of the horrors of what happens when your data gets into the wrong hands. The promising potential for human rights is that advocates can avoid repercussions (read about China’s persecution of human rights activist) by doing the right thing.
“We need human rights entrepreneurs.” - William Nee
We couldn’t have said it better. If activists are going to keep up with today’s ever- changing world, we need to innovate at the same rate and we cannot afford to remain digitally illiterate. That said, we appreciate the challenges, especially the costs, associated with embracing and learning about new tech -- which is why we’ve begun to explore cost- effective means of capacity building within the human rights space (we’ll share more soon).
Countries are borrowing from oppressive regimes.
A worrying trend across the region, governments are adopting tactics employed by other nations that have proven to oppress citizens and clamp down on opposition. One rotten apple spoils the barrel.
Developing economies are adopting advanced technology at a faster rate.
Nations across Asia-Pacific are leapfrogging in tech across a wide range of social, cultural, and economic environments in highly-personalised ways. This also mean the potential reach via tech in the developing world is getting larger (and more promising for human rights!).
You don’t need a smart device to access Blockchain.
While what this exactly means is yet to be seen, Blockchain can be accessed via older devices, such as feature phones. We’ll be following this closely and promise to keep you updated.
Blockchain won’t simply help human rights, it'll likely be a game changer.
With the benefits of decentralisation, scalability, and its architecture alone, Blockchain is able to empower users to engage in a safe and secure manner like never before. And while there are risks associated with Blockchain (the heightened risk of the spread of false information due to anonymity, as an example), just like any technology, these risks can be moderated and mitigated to minimise harm. We plan to understand and address these risks every step of the way while embracing its potential in empowering citizens globally.
This is just the beginning.
There’s a lot more to come, Blockchain is a relatively newer technology and a lot of its potential (and risks) remain unknown. What we do know however is that there is a lot of R&D (as well as over $1.3 billion invested in Blockchain in 2018 alone) so we’re going to be seeing some pretty exciting stuff — from Bitcoin to human rights.
And to all those who did attend our event, we thank you for your time and contributions. A massive shout out to our hosts at Metta, for being a visionary hub for progressive ideas. This event is one of many that are yet to come, so we expect to see you soon! Let’s put the power back in people.