Blockchain as a Confidence Machine: The Problem of Trusts & Challenges of Governance


Paper by Primavera De Filippi, Morshed Mannan and Wessel Reijers: “Blockchain technology was created as a response to the trust crisis that swept the world in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Bitcoin and other blockchain-based systems were presented as a “trustless” alternative to existing financial institutions and even governments. Yet, while the trustless nature of blockchain technology has been heavily questioned, little research has been done as to what blockchain technologies actually bring to the table in place of trust. This article draws from the extensive academic discussion on the concepts of “trust” and “confidence” to argue that blockchain technology is not a ‘trustless technology’ but rather a ‘confidence machine’. First, the article provides a review of the multifaceted conceptualisations of trust and confidence, and the relationship between these two concepts. Second, the claim is made that blockchain technology relies on cryptographic rules, mathematics, and game-theoretical incentives in order to increase confidence in the operations of a computational system. Yet, such an increase in confidence ultimately relies on the proper operation and governance of the underlying blockchain-based network, which requires trusting a variety of actors. Third, the article turns to legal, constitutional and polycentric governance theory to explore the governance challenges of blockchain-based systems, in light of the tension between procedural confidence and trust….(More)”

Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Is Blockchain a True Savior in This Pandemic Crisis


Paper by Ajay Chawla and Sandra Ro: “The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted virtually all businesses, but the effect has not been stable yet. While the current disruption may present challenges to the blockchain industry in the short term, it will also unlock new opportunities in the mid and longer-term. By providing help in the COVID-19 crisis and recovery, blockchain can play a pivotal role in accelerating post-crisis digital transformation initiatives and solving those problems highlighted in the current system.

Of course, no one could have foreseen the unprecedented upheaval caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic which has almost disrupted and dislocated economies and ecosystems across the planet but COVID-19 has brought supply chains to their knees.

Nevertheless, there are some bright spots where blockchain is used to combat the effects of COVID-19 and aid in the recovery process. These innovative use cases can demonstrate the benefits of blockchain to a wider audience.

Organizations including the World Health Organisation (WHO), Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, among other tech companies, government agencies, and international bodies are all working together to develop the blockchain-based platforms and solutions.

Blockchain technology is anchored by its ability to enable decentralized sharing of verified, trusted, and secure information among individuals or organizations. Furthermore, it can be paired with critical security and cryptography to protect the privacy of the users and individuals contributing data while still providing provenance and trust in the shared data.

By providing help in the COVID-19 crisis and recovery, blockchain can play a pivotal role in accelerating post-crisis digital transformation initiatives and solving those problems highlighted in the current system.

However, at the present moment, blockchain is not the panacea of all the problems. While the promise and potential of blockchain are undoubtedly transformative, it is still in the nascence of its evolution.

Keeping a tab on this technology and our capacities is the right direction we can head towards….(More)”.

Blockchain for the public good


Blog by Camille Crittenden: “Over the last year, I have had the privilege to lead the California Blockchain Working Group, which delivered its report to the Legislature in early July. Established by AB 2658, the 20-member Working Group comprised experts with backgrounds in computer science, cybersecurity, information technology, law, and policy. We were charged with drafting a working definition of blockchain, providing advice to State offices and agencies considering implementation of blockchain platforms, and offering guidance to policymakers to foster an open and equitable regulatory environment for the technology in California.

What did we learn? Enough to make a few outright recommendations as well as identify areas where further research is warranted.

A few guiding principles: Refine the application of blockchain systems first on things, not people. This could mean implementations of blockchain for tracing food from farms to stores to reduce the economic and human harm of food-borne illnesses; reducing paperwork and increasing reliability of tracing vehicles and parts from manufacturing floor to consumer to future owners or dismantlers; improving workflows for digitizing, cataloging and storing the reams of documents held in the State Archives.

Similarly, blockchain solutions could be implemented for public vital records, such as birth, death and marriage certificates or real estate titles without risk of compromising private information. Greater caution should be taken in applications that affect public service delivery to populations in precarious circumstances, such as the homeless or unemployed. Overarching problems to address, especially for sensitive records, include the need for reliable, persistent digital identification and the evolving requirements for cybersecurity….

The Working Group’s final report, Blockchain in California: A Roadmap, avoids the magical thinking or technological solutionism that sometimes attends shiny new tech ideas. Blockchain won’t cure Covid-19, fix systemic racism, or reverse alarming unemployment trends. But if implemented conscientiously on a case-by-case basis, it could make a dent in improving health outcomes, increasing autonomy for property owners and consumers, and alleviating some bureaucratic practices that may be a drag on the economy. And those are contributions we can all welcome….(More)”.

Exploring Blockchain Technology for Government Transparency


Report by the World Economic Forum: “The costs to society of public-sector corruption and weak accountability are staggering. In many parts of the world, public-sector corruption is the single-largest challenge, stifling social, economic and environmental development. Often, corruption centres around a lack of transparency, inadequate record-keeping and low public accountability.

Blockchain and distributed ledger technologies, when applied thoughtfully to certain corruption-prone government processes, can potentially increase transparency and accountability in these systems, reducing the risk or prevalence of corrupt activity.

In partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Office of the Inspector General of Colombia (Procuraduría General de Colombia), the Forum has led a multistakeholder team to investigate, design and trial the use of blockchain technology for corruption-prone government processes, anchored in the use case of public procurement.

Using cryptography and distributed consensus mechanisms, blockchain provides the unique combination of permanent and tamper-evident record-keeping, transaction transparency and auditability, automated functions with “smart contracts”, and the reduction of centralized authority and information ownership within processes. These properties make blockchain a high potential emerging technology to address corruption. The project chose to focus on the public procurement process because it constitutes one of the largest sites of corruption globally, stands to benefit from these technology properties and plays a significant role in serving public interest…(More)”.

Digital Identity and the Blockchain: Universal Identity Management and the Concept of the “Self-Sovereign” Individual


Paper by Andrej J. Zwitter, Oskar J. Gstrein and Evan Yap: “While “classical” human identity has kept philosophers busy since millennia, “Digital Identity” seems primarily machine related. Telephone numbers, E-Mail inboxes, or Internet Protocol (IP)-addresses are irrelevant to define us as human beings at first glance. However, with the omnipresence of digital space the digital aspects of identity gain importance.

In this submission, we aim to put recent developments in context and provide a categorization to frame the landscape as developments proceed rapidly. First, we present selected philosophical perspectives on identity. Secondly, we explore how the legal landscape is approaching identity from a traditional dogmatic perspective both in national and international law. After blending the insights from those sections together in a third step, we will go on to describe and discuss current developments that are driven by the emergence of new tools such as “Distributed Ledger Technology” and “Zero Knowledge Proof.”

One of our main findings is that the management of digital identity is transforming from a purpose driven necessity toward a self-standing activity that becomes a resource for many digital applications. In other words, whereas traditionally identity is addressed in a predominantly sectoral fashion whenever necessary, new technologies transform digital identity management into a basic infrastructural service, sometimes even a commodity. This coincides with a trend to take the “control” over identity away from governmental institutions and corporate actors to “self-sovereign individuals,” who have now the opportunity to manage their digital self autonomously.

To make our conceptual statements more relevant, we present several already existing use cases in the public and private sector. Subsequently, we discuss potential risks that should be mitigated in order to create a desirable relationship between the individual, public institutions, and the private sector in a world where self-sovereign identity management has become the norm. We will illustrate these issues along the discussion around privacy, as well as the development of backup mechanisms for digital identities. Despite the undeniable potential for the management of identity, we suggest that particularly at this point in time there is a clear need to make detailed (non-technological) governance decisions impacting the general design and implementation of self-sovereign identity systems….(More)” – See also Field Report: On the Emergent Use of Distributed Ledger Technologies for Identity Management.

How Humanitarian Blockchain Can Deliver Fair Labor to Global Supply Chains


Paper by  Ashley Mehra and John G. Dale: “Blockchain technology in global supply chains has proven most useful as a tool for storing and keeping records of information or facilitating payments with increased efficiency. The use of blockchain to improve supply chains for humanitarian projects has mushroomed over the last five years; this increased popularity is in large part due to the potential for transparency and security that the design of the technology proposes to offer. Yet, we want to ask an important but largely unexplored question in the academic literature about the human rights of the workers who produce these “humanitarian blockchain” solutions: “How can blockchain help eliminate extensive labor exploitation issues embedded within our global supply chains?”

To begin to answer this question, we suggest that proposed humanitarian blockchain solutions must (1) re-purpose the technical affordances of blockchain to address relations of power that, sometimes unwittingly, exploit and prevent workers from collectively exercising their voice; (2) include legally or socially enforceable mechanisms that enable workers to meaningfully voice their knowledge of working conditions without fear of retaliation; and (3) re-frame our current understanding of human rights issues in the context of supply chains to include the labor exploitation within supply chains that produce and sustain the blockchain itself….(More)”.

Digital Transformation of Public Administration Through Blockchain Technology


Chapter by Artur Rot, Małgorzata Sobińska, Marcin Hernes, and Bogdan Franczyk: “Proper understanding of blockchain technology is one of key importance for decision-makers and staff in public administration sectors, as it helps them decide whether this approach can be of practical use in the realisation of their statutory mission. Blockchain technology is often perceived as a failsafe and unbreakable system with potential to transform many segments of the economy. Blockchain solutions have already been employed with success as basis for digital transactions in such areas as electricity market, trade, cryptocurrencies, stock trading, etc. Their application potential is also actively explored in other sectors of the economy, such as banking, insurance, and public administration.

Blockchain technology can be approached not only as an innovative solution, but also as a tool for effective creation of novel management practices and models of operation in various types of organizations and institutions. The contribution of the chapter is an evaluation of potential uses and conditions for the effective application of the blockchain technology in the public administration sector. The study is constructed on the fundament of literature studies, empirical observations, case study analyses and synthetic evaluations, with the aim of revealing the potential applications of the blockchain technology and highlighting the challenges and possible directions of blockchain research in the public sector….(More)”.

Blockchain Governance: What We Can Learn From the Economics of Corporate Governance


Paper by Darcy W E Allen and Chris Berg: ” Understanding the considerations and complexities of blockchain governance is urgent. The aim of this paper is to draw on institutional governance theory — including corporate governance — to provide insights into the core considerations in designing blockchain governance mechanisms.

We define blockchain governance are the processes by which stakeholders (those who are affected by and can affect the network) exercise bargaining power over the network. The main considerations include how we define stakeholders in blockchain governance, how the consensus mechanism itself distributes endogenous bargaining power between those stakeholders, the role of exogenous governance mechanisms and institutional frameworks, and the needs for bootstrapping. While we can learn from corporate and internet governance, blockchain governance should be understood as being an institutionally distinct organisational form with distinct governance systems….(More)”.

Taming the Beast: Harnessing Blockchains in Developing Country Governments


Paper by Raúl Zambrano: “Amid pressing demands to achieve critical sustainable development goals, governments in developing countries face the additional complex task of embracing new digital technologies such as blockchains. This paper develops a framework interlinking development, technology, and government institutions that policymakers and development practitioners could use to address such a conundrum. State capacity and democratic governance are introduced as drivers in the overall analysis. With this in hand, blockchain technology is revisited from the perspective of governments in the Global South, identifying in the process key traits and proposing a new typology. An overview of the status of blockchain deployments in the Global South follows, complemented by a closer look at country examples to distill trends, patterns and risks. The paper closes with a discussion of the findings, highlighting both challenges and opportunities for governments. It also provides basic guidance to development practitioners interested in enhancing current programming using blockchains as an enabler….(More)”

Data Protection in the Humanitarian Sector – A Blockchain Approach


Report by Andrej Verity and Irene Solaiman: “Data collection and storage are becoming increasingly digital. In the humanitarian sector, data motivates action, informing organizations who then determine priorities and resource allocation in crises.

“Humanitarians are dependent on technology and on the Internet. When life-saving aid isn’t delivered on time and to the right beneficiaries, people can die.” -Brookings

In the age of information and cyber warfare, humanitarian organizations must take measures to protect civilians, especially those in critical and vulnerable positions.

“Data privacy and ensuring protection from harm, including the provision of data security, are therefore fundamentally linked—and neither can be realized without the other.” -The Signal Code

Information in the wrong hands can risk lives or even force aid organizations to shut down. For example, in 2009, Sudan expelled over a dozen international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that were deemed key to maintaining a lifeline to 4.7 million people in western Darfur. The expulsion occurred after the Sudanese Government collected Internet-accessible information that made leadership fear international criminal charges. Responsible data protection is a crucial component of cybersecurity. As technology develops, so do threats and data vulnerabilities. Emerging technologies such as blockchain provide further security to sensitive information and overall data storage. Still, with new technologies come considerations for implementation…(More)”.