Can blockchain help solve some of the most “wicked” problems that face the world: poverty, climate change, corruption and fraud, unfair trade, voting fraud, censorship, and fake news? If you ask Dr. Mark van Rijmenam, the answer is yes. He should know. He wrote the book on it, along with Dr. Philippa Ryan. In Blockchain: Transforming Business and Our World, Van Rijmenam and Ryan look at businesses and governments that are tackling some of the world’s thorniest problems through blockchain technology. Van Rijmenam spoke with me about how blockchain can help organizations do good and, at the same time, be good for business.
While researching blockchain for his doctoral degree, it quickly became apparent to Van Rijmenam that blockchain could have a much bigger impact than just in the financial world. He saw that it could be used for social good, and this became the impetus to write the book with Ryan.
“Helping and doing good doesn't mean that you can't make money,” says Van Rijmenam. “You make money in a different way which is more beneficial for everyone in society than just the shareholders. And I think that's something that you see more and more happening, where these kinds of organizations are trying to not only benefit themselves but also really benefit their customers and their environment.”
Notes Van Rijmenam, “Identity is the first thing that you need to solve if you want to solve all the other problems, such as poverty or corruption. And you need to look at it from a different perspective. You might not have a government-issued identity document, but you can still identify yourself, and once you're able to identify yourself, you can get access to financial services. Blockchain is making this possible.”
The United Nations is leading several humanitarian efforts based on blockchain technology to help provide a framework for digital identity.
Blockchain is not the answer to every problem. Van Rijmenam notes three areas where it has the potential to change the fundamental business model.
As a result of these changes, says Van Rijmenam, we'll see a shift toward more decentralized and/or autonomous organizations, where the most exotic type of organization design is a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO)—a company run completely by code and no longer by employees or management.
“Imagine, for example,” he says, “you have a taxi company in which taxis are being built automatically in the factory, and they drive autonomously. They have an app that automatically matches supply and demand of people who want to move from A to B. The taxi knows when it reaches the end of its life, and the system knows when to purchase a new taxi, which is automatically built according to the latest market trends, specifications, etc.”
Every business must re-imagine itself as a data organization, trying to solve a problem. In the above example, it’s moving people from point A to point B. In this way, blockchain is helping businesses focus more on problem-solving that benefits people or organizations.
The ubiquity of consumer electronic devices and electric vehicles globally has increased demand for minerals used in their manufacture, such as cobalt, tantalum, and tungsten. But many of these minerals come from Central Africa, where poor working conditions and child labor are not uncommon, and illegal and unethical practices plague the cobalt industry.
Responding to the demand for solutions that track the source of origin and improve the efficiency of global supply chains, Circulor Ltd., based in London, is putting the power of artificial intelligence and blockchain to work. The Circulor platform, built on Oracle Blockchain Platform, is used to tag, track, and trace conflict minerals from the local mine to the manufacturers, helping manufacturers and their suppliers circumvent unethical and illegal practices and confidently provide profitable solutions that help create a better society. Here are some of the results the company has achieved:
Oracle Blockchain Platform offers a comprehensive, pre-assembled managed cloud service, designed to help organizations easily set up and manage permissioned blockchain networks. And the solution makes it easy to integrate blockchain with established systems of record, such as ERP, CRM, and supply chain management systems. To learn how Oracle Blockchain Platform can be good for your business, visit the Oracle Blockchain website.
Dr. Mark van Rijmenam is founder of Datafloq. He is a highly sought-after international public speaker. His third book, The Organisation of Tomorrow, will be published in Q2 2019. He is named a global top 10 Big Data influencer and one of the most influential Blockchain people. He holds a Ph.D. in Management from the University of Technology, Sydney, and is a faculty member of the Blockchain Research Institute in Canada. He is a strategic advisor to several blockchain startups and publisher of the ‘f(x) = ex‘ newsletter, read by thousands of executives.