How to Expand Blockchain Beyond Fintech and Into Factories

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Companies capacity to trace the flow of commodities has already increased thanks to blockchain. But what if we used it to monitor how individuals feel about their jobs? This might open up a whole new way of looking at global supply chain dynamics. Emerging decentralized technologies that assist improve procurement methods and enable organizations to boost transparency about where items were created, how they were delivered, and under what conditions are making it easier to foresee a more efficient future in logistics.

Allison Price works as a senior adviser for New America’s Digital Impact and Governance Initiative. This op-ed is part of CoinDesk’s “Policy Week,” a discussion of how authorities are dealing with cryptocurrency (and vice versa).

For firms, workers, and consumers, there are potential benefits. However, it’s also crucial to consider the difficulties and potential consequences. A healthy balance must be achieved between the creative dreamers who foresee a lovely decentralized future and the pragmatic questioners who are accountable for securely implementing it. The key to crafting a more fair future backed by technology firms, governments, and communities developing together is thoughtful, open discourse.

Over the past two years, a coalition led by New America, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Sustainability and Health Initiative for NetPositive Enterprise (SHINE), ConsenSys, and the Levi Strauss Foundation has collaborated to develop a new approach to factory worker well-being assessments.

Workers are enabled to securely share their working experiences by integrating the SHINE Well-Being Survey into a secure blockchain platform that can be administered in person or remotely. Survey Assure, a minimal viable product (MVP), gathered worker survey responses and stored them on the Ethereum blockchain, producing an immutable record. This secured aggregated data was utilized by the system to construct a visual presentation of survey results that reflects the opinions of a full industrial workers in near real time.

This wasn’t your average supply chain tracking experiment. The raw nature of anonymous manufacturing worker survey data in Poland and Mexico provided enormous opportunities for workers, businesses, and human rights. It assisted plant management in identifying areas where future investments may boost worker satisfaction. These initiatives, as well as management’s following measures, have the potential to reduce turnover and absenteeism while also boosting long-term productivity and sustainability.

This approach is especially pertinent as firms focus more on worker health and well-being in the aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak. And, while we were cautious in testing the notion in a safe and ethical manner, doing it at scale will be significantly more challenging.

This experimental pilot idea has a lot of potential. Although blockchain is becoming increasingly mainstream, it is still in its infancy when it comes to non-fintech applications. Costs, convenience of use, data digitalization and integration, engineering expertise, literacy, dependable internet connection, the shortage of survey gear, and an unprecedented worldwide epidemic that affected not just supply chains but also employees’ lives were among the hurdles we faced.

However, knowing what stifles innovation has actual, if frequently underappreciated, significance. It enables us to determine where extra research, structure, and investment are required. Our experiences taught us a few principles in civic tech development that are applicable beyond supply chain optimization.

Make a financial investment in digital infrastructure. The influence of blockchain technology will be considerably constrained if high-bandwidth internet and accurate digital records remain mostly limited to industrialized countries. Access to technology and data continues to be a problem. According to Statista, almost 40% of the world’s population is still offline.

Converting physical data to digital format is costly, time-consuming, and, most importantly, requires caution. Public and corporate sector investment in interoperable but secure data is a critical necessity in both developing and developed countries if blockchain is to reach its full potential as an open, democratic technology. Create identification solutions that are both secure and effective.

To identify users and ensure responsibility, blockchain-based applications require an integrated identity management solution. Many of the services provided by governments and organizations, such as assistance distribution, land titling, and financial services, might be made more accessible and controllable by giving a verified identification.

If building identification solutions was easy, everyone would have done it by now. The creation of a secure proof-of-identity system that connects with new technologies while protecting the end user might change the lives of the one billion individuals without a legal identification throughout the world.

Encourage the development of diverse technical abilities and the expansion of the playing field. Only a few programmers and tech businesses understand blockchain technology, similar to how only a few programmers and tech firms understood computer science a generation ago, and they focus on applications that are instantly profitable.

As the field grows, cross-sector blockchain projects, including those that are in the public interest, would benefit from public-private sector partnerships, fellowship programs, academia and open civic hackathons. Blockchain technology must attract new leaders who see that it has the potential to offer solutions to today’s toughest, most intractable challenges.

As the industry matures, public-private sector alliances, fellowship programs, academics, and open civic hackathons will assist cross-sector blockchain initiatives, including those in the public interest. Blockchain technology needs to attract new leaders who believe it has the capacity to solve today’s most difficult and intractable problems.

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