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Blockchain Technology
With the development of bitcoin technology and other cryptocurrencies, the avenues for technological progress in the realm of poverty alleviation is improving. With more than 1.3 billion individuals living under the threat of global poverty, it is important to structurally bolster market economies.

Despite the great degree of skepticism regarding the volatility and often, the unpredictability regarding blockchain technology, it can still be a new and innovative solution to potentially remediate global poverty, especially among lesser economically developed countries.

Financial Inclusion

Financial inclusion is an imperative U.N. Sustainable Goal and blockchain technology can finally provide nearly 2.5 billion people with better opportunities and access to banking and financial services in the near future, especially as it allows for a more decentralized database. Blockchain technology will prove particularly effective in more remote, rural communities around the world, especially in the case of increasing social mobility.

Blockchain technology can act as a central banking system especially due to its decentralized nature. It can help cut down on remittance fees because traditional banking systems usually tend to charge high transaction costs. These fees account for nearly $4.32 billion among south Asian countries. In countries like India with a significant expat and migrant population living overseas, blockchain technology helps with transferring funds back home. Virtual currencies can eliminate a number of costs and improve the efficiencies of transactions. They may also be a lot more stable as compared to the financial system as it is vulnerable to national and global economic headwinds.

Moreover, it can be easier to secure property rights and undertake secure investments. Buyers and sellers are able to interact in a secure environment, and record transactions and fraud. With increased ownership of property, a number of countries like Brazil, India, Rwanda and Georgia have set up land magistrates. With more financial inclusion, consumers also have greater opportunities to engage in microtransactions and lending, as well as trading due to minimal interest rates on loans. The chances of setting up start-up businesses and enterprises may also be higher as a result.

Tackling Corruption and Enforcing Accountability

Owing to the reliability of blockchain technologies like Bitcoin, information and transactions are a lot more secure. On the macroeconomic scale, people can channel taxes, loans and funds a lot more efficiently. This can also help improve accountability and transparency of important government funds.

Globally, many countries have inculcated a number of blockchain projects in the health care and education sectors. As a result, governments can take the opportunity to allocate funds to different sectors of the economy and perhaps even extend it to providing development aid and funding to improve social welfare, infrastructure and other services. Likewise, due to transparency, it is also easier to provide people insurance in key realms. For instance, Copenhagen based SPACE10 is embarking on a project that seeks to combine blockchain technology and solar power as centralized sources and off-grid systems are often not economically and cost viable.

Additionally, making donations and conducting philanthropic initiatives may also become more secure and reliable with the further development of blockchain technology. Using this model, nonprofits and international organizations may be able to channel crucial aid, funds and other services through new avenues as well.

To conclude, if bitcoin technology is enforced, it is crucial to transcend the required education and awareness about it to avoid a lack of information and financial risks. With better financial avenues and services, a larger proportion of people will be able to participate in the global market. Further development of blockchain technology can help correct weaknesses and structural limitations in the long run.

– Shivani Ekkanath
Photo: Flickr


Blockchain technology has the potential to improve a plethora of industries including agriculture. Blockchain deals with cryptocurrency, like bitcoin, but instead of being limited to just digital cash it offers a large secure database as well. This database includes ledgers of transactions and accounts, which gives farmers secure records and eliminates the need for middlemen such as banks or brokers. This data can either be rejected or approved, but once approved it is available to all levels of the blockchain. This technology is extremely difficult to hack or alter and has a relatively low maintenance cost.

Blockchain and Farming

Although blockchain alone does not have the power to massively increase profits for farmers, it provides a digital infrastructure that includes tracking and automation. In the case of farming, blockchain not only records transaction ledgers but also lists data such as soil moisture, seed quality, demand and sale date and more. This clarity and immediate access to information allow farmers to market themselves and sell crops for their actual worth rather than a lower cost. By eliminating the need for a middleman, blockchain has the potential to connect farmers directly to consumers and retailers.

Ecuador

In Ecuador, the FairChain Foundation, a nonprofit to aid business in the developing world, has attempted to implement blockchain technology in cocoa farming. This company aims to drastically change the farming market and pay farmers the actual value of their crops. The ability to document crops allows Ecuadorian farmers to record cocoa bean volume and be able to see the status of their crops from harvest to delivery. FairChain is attempting to use blockchain technology to develop a chocolate bar using cocoa beans from sustainable Ecuadorian farmers that practice zero deforestation in the Amazon.

China

In Haosheng village, Wenchang city, the mayor has decided to develop its rural areas through aerospace technology. The village has also implemented blockchain agriculture along with space technology to streamline its farming production. The use of this technology has allowed the farmers of this region to unify making both payment and improvement easier. Blockchain agriculture has greatly improved the quality of life in this area and Haosheng even has a blockchain restaurant that uses the technology to track crops from harvest to table. The use of this blockchain restaurant ensures the quality of the produce and allows farmers to market their crops accordingly.

Blockchain technology has proven extremely valuable in the areas it has been implemented. In both Ecuador and China, it has had the ability to make agriculture productive and profitable. It not only has validity as a cryptocurrency but can be carried out in a number of other industries other than agriculture. With blockchain technology, farming could step out of being seen as a low-income profession and become something that can provide a livelihood for people in rural areas.

– Olivia Halliburton
Photo: Flickr

Primary Care in Developing Countries
The lives of 6 million children could be saved globally each year through more effective primary care. However, half of the world’s population cannot access essential health services. In fact, 800 million people spend at least 10 percent of their income on health expenses for themselves or a family member which can push them further into poverty.

Blockchain Technology and Primary Care Services

Despite these overwhelming statistics, blockchain technology is beginning to transform the health care sector in Europe and Africa through virtual health assistance. The European Commission has launched CareAi in June 2018, which is a digital computer system that uses a patient’s blood sample to quickly diagnose diseases without the presence of a physical doctor.

Harvard University Chemistry Professor George Whiteside created the machine to feature a small finger prick device. The patient experiences a quick poke from a sterilized needle, then places their fingerprint onto a chip that is inserted into the machine. The intelligent CareAi system has the ability to diagnose diseases like typhoid fever, malaria and tuberculosis in seconds and quickly prints results, which directs ill patients to nearby pharmacies for medicine. The machine’s intelligence is expected to evolve over time and could even surpass human proficiency in 2-3 years.

CareAi ensures that all patient information and results are kept anonymous so it will be able to help undocumented migrants and populations secluded from the health care system who fear deportation. However, if the government wishes to access data for policy purposes, it will pay participating healthcare NGOs and machine maintenance costs. CareAi machines will be placed in public places such as mosques, churches and markets so people who lack primary care in developing countries will be able to benefit.

CareAi Targets the Most Vulnerable Groups

Creators of this new invention are targeting refugee camps in Europe and are giving specific attention to India which only has one doctor for every 921 people as well as Africa. According to the World Health Organization, across the globe, 50 percent of the children under age five who die of pneumonia, diarrhea, measles, HIV, tuberculous and malaria each year, are from Africa. CareAi will allow easy access and accurate diagnoses to these people who are in quick and desperate need of health results.

Looking Forward

AI projects are taking place all over the world and opening up exciting possibilities in the not so distant future. In a piece titled, 10 Promising AI Applications in Health Care, Harvard Business Review highlights an AI-powered nurse avatar called “Molly” which is being used to “interact with patients, ask them questions about their health, assess their symptoms, and direct them to the most effective care setting”.

In addition, the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is using AI processes to predict which patients will be no-shows and to reduce readmission rates. Artificial intelligence will continue to change the way we practice medicine and will open up new diagnostic possibilities for primary care in developing countries.

– Grace Klein
Photo: Pixabay

Blockchain Technology and PovertySince its conception, blockchain technology has become widely synonymous with the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. However, the utility of blockchain comes not necessarily from its manifestation in online currency but the nature of its security and accessibility. These two features are what make blockchain technology and poverty so interlinked. It holds promise as a secure and equalizing tool for the world’s poorest and most rural.

The inner mechanisms and mathematical coding of blockchain are highly complex. The principle is simple. It is a public ledger, stored and spread across multiple networks in countries around the world, making an impermeable information network. The decentralized nature of the data stored on blockchain allows for its application across all sectors without risk of disruption.

Significant to alleviating poverty, blockchain technology’s secure nature allows for it to be used as a financial services platform. In both urban and rural areas of developing countries, banks can be hard to come by, expensive to set up an account in and somewhat unreliable.

Cryptocurrency services can be scaled up and down to be incorporated into everything from the most basic phones to the world’s most sophisticated smartphones. This cryptographic technology would allow its users to send money directly to other individuals without a middleman or “trusted third parties” which take a percentage as a fee for its services and can be largely inaccessible.

Estimates suggest that by 2020 over 70 percent of the world will have access to smartphones. With financial technologies such as blockchain services, there is a real chance for those in rural or economically unstable countries to secure themselves without huge risk. Blockchain technology and poverty could have a progressive and important relationship.

By using cryptocurrencies or internet-money, individuals in financially insecure nations can take steps to avoid financial vulnerabilities, such as fraud or hyperinflation. M-PESA, a mobile money-transfer and micro-loan financing company, operates all across Africa and in parts of central Asia. Numbers from early 2017 suggest that M-PESA’s user base allowed approximately 186,000 families, two percent of Kenyan households, move from poverty into sustainable working conditions.

Blockchain’s financial services allow for mass participation in the most remote parts of the world. A wide range of business owners can build financial credibility. Currently, Chinese pharmaceutical companies receive assistance from Yijan, a blockchain created by IBM and Hejia, a Chinese supply management company.

Significant and notable players on the international landscape are quickly getting involved in blockchain techniques. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Level One Project aims to use digital financial services to bring the impoverished into the formal economic ecosystem, providing them with the tools necessary for financial mobility.

In early 2017, the United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) incorporated blockchain technology and cash-based transfers into its humanitarian aid outreach in Pakistan. By using mobile-transfers, the WFP ensured that those in need were receiving financial aid without the risk of the disruption possible with cash-based aid. The technology-based transfers also allowed for the WFP to streamline its tracking system. Since the success in Pakistan, the WFP has chosen to expand blockchain to other humanitarian efforts.

These are a few of blockchain’s many applications. Its reach and potential as a tool for poverty alleviation are great, especially if utilized jointly by governments and NGOs. Although it may be no panacea, the incorporation of blockchain technology may be a significant macro approach in solving the systematic issue of poverty. Blockchain technology and poverty disruption may be one of the most exciting aspects of the new digital age.

Sydney Nam