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Interview: Blockchain is overhauling humanitarian aid (Includes interview and first-hand account)

Humanitarian aid groups have begun using Blockchain to give displaced persons their identities back. In addition, the Finnish government has distributed Blockchain-backed debit cards to asylum-seekers and the World Food Program is scanning people’s irises to let them buy groceries at a refugee camp in Jordan.

These applications are included in G2 Crowd’s 2018’s Digital Trends report, which highlights Blockchain’s growing significance. To discover more about aid applications and the scope for blockchain across industry, Digital Journal spoke with Michael Fauscette, CRO of G2 Crowd.

Digital Journal: Why is there so much interest in blockchain?

Michael Fauscette: Blockchain is the first method/platform to combine several important features, yet do it in a way that is transparent, very secure and applicable across a rapidly growing number of use cases. The blockchain platform provides a publicly viewable and verifiable ledger of transactions that exists in multiple locations, removes the need for any “middle layer guarantor”, can be completely anonymous, and is a permanent record of the transaction.

DJ: Why can’t the public seem to untangle Blockchain from Bitcoin?

Fauscette: I think there are several reasons that blockchain and Bitcoin seem to be nearly synonymous to the general public. The simple answer is that the best known and first use cases were with cryptocurrencies. Those currencies drew the most attention as well, so as people learned about one, the other was linked in their minds.

As blockchain as a platform becomes more widely used it will, at least for some segment of the public, become more distinct from its origins. In truth though, as with many platforms, knowing it’s there is one level, but understanding it in detail is probably not necessary. People use cloud based applications all the time, but do they know, or need to know, which vendor provides the PaaS or IaaS, or even what either of them do.

DJ: What significance does blockchain have for displaced peoples?

Fauscette: In a civilized world the government of wherever you happen to live provides proof of your identity in several forms. That however is not the case in many countries though, where the ability to have and carry absolute proof of identity is difficult to impossible. But enter your credentials into a blockchain and with a hash at the border (or anywhere) you can retrieve your proof. This works with financial transactions of course, like Bitcoin, but it can work for resumes – education, certifications, employment history, skills etc. – or medical records, or real estate transactions…the list is huge.

DJ: How else is blockchain helping humanitarian aid projects?

Fauscette: From a humanitarian perspective this is a very tangible and important way to help refugees or others that live in difficult and unstable political environments.

DJ: Which industries are similarly affected and disrupted?

Fauscette: As far as other applications the list is growing all the time. Such as, financial systems: any financial transaction ledger can exist in a blockchain. With intellectual property, which is used to establish “ownership” of a physical item, digital entity or an idea. For unregistered copyrightable works or patentable ideas the blockchain provides the creator to record the work or idea in the public ledger with a timestamp as proof for later registration or protection. Once the IP is registered in the blockchain the creator could track all subsequent licenses, sub-licenses and assignments via smart contracts in the ledger. The entire history of the IP could be available in the ledger.

Other uses are proof of ownership; smart contracts; resumes; payroll compliance; and supply chain. And that’s really only scratching the surface. In all the above use cases there are already products either in production or funded and soon to be available. Five years should see a large expansion of the use of the platforms across a diverse set of functions and industries.

DJ: How did you compile your 2018 Digital Trends report?

Fauscette: The Digital Trends report is based on multiple data sources including the approximate 370,000 product reviews (surveys) on G2 Crowd, site metrics like growth of categories, buyer inquiries, new products review growth, etc. and other surveys of the G2 Crowd community conducted throughout 2017.

DJ: Are there any cybersecurity risks with blockchain?

Fauscette: I suppose there is some theoretical risk to any technology that is connected to the Internet. That said though, one of the most useful aspects of the blockchain design is that it is inherently extremely secure.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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