Can blockchain technology help poor people around the world?

 at The Conversation: “…Most simply, a blockchain is an inexpensive and transparent way to record transactions….A blockchain system, though, inherently enforces rules about authentication and transaction security. That makes it safe and affordable for a person to store any amount of money securely and confidently. While that’s still in the future, blockchain-based systems are already helping people in the developing world in very real ways.

Sending money internationally

In 2016, emigrants working abroad sent an estimated US$442 billion to their families in their home countries. This global flow of cash is a significant factor in the financial well-being of families and societies in developing nations. But the process of sending money can be extremely expensive….Hong Kong’s blockchain-enabled Bitspark has transaction costs so low it charges a flat HK$15 for remittances of less than HK$1,200 (about $2 in U.S. currency for transactions less than $150) and 1 percent for larger amounts. Using the secure digital connections of a blockchain system lets the company bypass existing banking networks and traditional remittance systems.

Similar services helping people send money to the Philippines, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Sierra Leone and Rwanda also charge a fraction of the current banking rates.


Most people in the developing world lack health and life insurance, primarily because it’s so expensive compared to income. Some of that is because of high administrative costs: For every dollar of insurance premium collected, administrative costs amounted to $0.28 in Brazil, $0.54 in Costa Rica, $0.47 in Mexico and $1.80 in the Philippines. And many people who live on less than a dollar a day have neither the ability to afford any insurance, nor any company offering them services….Consuelo is a blockchain-based microinsurance service backed by Mexican mobile payments company Customers can pay small amounts for health and life insurance, with claims verified electronically and paid quickly.

Helping small businesses

Blockchain systems can also help very small businesses, which are often short of cash and also find it expensive – if not impossible – to borrow money. For instance, after delivering medicine to hospitals, small drug retailers in China often wait up to 90 days to get paid. But to stay afloat, these companies need cash. They rely on intermediaries that pay immediately, but don’t pay in full. A $100 invoice to a hospital might be worth $90 right away – and the intermediary would collect the $100 when it was finally paid….

Humanitarian aid

Blockchain technology can also improve humanitarian assistance. Fraud, corruption, discrimination and mismanagement block some money intended to reduce poverty and improve education and health care from actually helping people.In early 2017 the U.N. World Food Program launched the first stage of what it calls “Building Block,” giving food and cash assistance to needy families in Pakistan’s Sindh province. An internet-connected smartphone authenticated and recorded payments from the U.N. agency to food vendors, ensuring the recipients got help, the merchants got paid and the agency didn’t lose track of its money.

…In the future, blockchain-based projects can help people and governments in other ways, too. As many as 1.5 billion people – 20 percent of the world’s population – don’t have any documents that can verify their identity. That limits their ability to use banks, but also can bar their way when trying to access basic human rights like voting, getting health care, going to school and traveling.

Several companies are launching blockchain-powered digital identity programs that can help create and validate individuals’ identities….(More)”