Week 4: Blockchain and Cryptocurrency in the Humanitarian Sector

"On 22nd May 2010, Laszlo Hanyecz paid a fellow Bitcoin user 10,000 BTC for two Papa John’s pizzas – money transfer that took place on the internet without the need for an institution (e.g. Visa, Paypal) to process the transaction. Six years later on 22nd May 2016, Provenance used the same p2p technology to track a tuna fish caught in Maluku, Indonesia from landing to factory and beyond - demonstrating how blockchain technology can enable supply chain transparency and traceability."  - From Shore to Plate, Provenance report

"On 22nd May 2010, Laszlo Hanyecz paid a fellow Bitcoin user 10,000 BTC for two Papa John’s pizzas – money transfer that took place on the internet without the need for an institution (e.g. Visa, Paypal) to process the transaction. Six years later on 22nd May 2016, Provenance used the same p2p technology to track a tuna fish caught in Maluku, Indonesia from landing to factory and beyond - demonstrating how blockchain technology can enable supply chain transparency and traceability."  - From Shore to Plate, Provenance report

Blockchain, def: An information system that is shared between many computers and in which new information cannot be removed or changed after it has been written. In real life, it allows any set of parties to agree on some information and be certain that it will still be in the system in the future. They don't need to trust one another, nor do they need to trust a third party. Blockchains do not belong to anyone, however they can be trusted.

Some thoughts: As cryptocurrencies can increase financial transactional transparency, how do we implement them in the humanitarian sector and do they reduce the role of philanthropic organizations to unnecessary middlemen?  My gut says that largely this is not the case.  Even if the text you sent to American Red Cross pledging $10 to the Haiti relief effort could have just as easily been a Bitcoin transfer to an individual in Haiti, you'll still often need organizations that have an understanding of a complex problem to direct the humanitarian effort.  

In the case of Provenance and the tracking of illegal over fishing, the important work they do to increase transparency of consumer products/foods also raises some interesting peripheral questions.  As Chris has mentioned in this class, many children in the developing world lack personal identification.  If children were chipped, the way that tuna can be in Indonesia, could we combat and discourage the problem of human trafficking?  Is this example as grotesque as it is well-intentioned?