026. Blockchain’s Potential for Social Impact with Dr. Jane Thomason

“A lot of people think of blockchain and all they think about is Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies and then they immediately, their minds go to the dark web, and money laundering and so forth, but what I wanted to do was put a message out to the world which is, yes, there’s Bitcoin. That’s an important application of blockchain. But, there are all these other ways that it could be used that will actually make the world a better place to live in, so why don’t we push hard, lean in, and try and shape this technology to see if we can’t get those future benefits that people talk about.”

I got a chance to speak with Dr. Jane Thomason remotely while she was judging the EOS hackathon in Sydney, Australia recently. Dr. Thomason is a blockchain advisor, hackathon judge, experienced CEO and a women’s advocate who was awarded the UN DecadeOfWomen Quantum Impact Champion Award this year. https://www.decadeofwomen.org/hackquantum/

With her global experience both in business and in international development and now the world of blockchain technology, Dr. Thomason sees the world from a birds-eye view, with an ability to zoom out and look at the far-reaching potential of blockchain tech from a wider perspective.

And what she’s seeing right now is that we have a lot of “disconnected ecosystems”, a bit like the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing, and that what she believes will help speed up the growth in the space would be for more collaboration, education, co-creation or to use a term she’s coined – hyper-co-collaboration.

We discuss some exciting blockchain use cases and where blockchain’s potential lies in the area of social impact.

Identity, financial transactions like remittances and voting are use cases that Dr. Thomason sees as having a huge impact on changing the status quo. In fact she gives an example of in Australia of the cost being over $200,000 per vote, whereas with blockchain tech, the cost would be around 50 cents per vote and mentions Horizon State’s token-based blockchain voting platform. https://horizonstate.com/ And speaking of voting reforms, Dr. Thomason shares that there is political party in Australia called The Flux Party, which is a Blockchain Political Party. https://voteflux.org/

Dr. Thomason would like to see more accelerator programs and more social impact funds. She talks about the incredible ideas that come out of the hackathon events, but that there’s a gap. There isn’t yet enough support or funding for these ideas to become full-fledged startups or for startups to be profitable ventures and commercialized applications out in the world once the hackathon is over.

One incredible use case she talks about it one that touches the areas of digital identity, medical records and supply chains all attached to one person’s activities.

She uses the example of a long-distance truck driver in Africa who may travel through six different countries. If he’s HIV positive, currently, he wouldn’t be able to get medication in just any country, and his antiretroviral medication helps to stop the spread of HIV. But with blockchain, his identification could be on a blockchain, as well as his medical records and the supply chain information so that wherever he goes, he has access all of these records. What if blockchain really could bring all of these areas together? Well, it can, but what will the world look like when it is put in place?

What does the future look like if all of the facets of our lives could be digital, transparent but private, and immutable?

She talks about education and empowerment and diving into blockchain to find out more and she shares her big a-ha moment with me when she recalls the time after the banda aceh tsunami hit Indonesia. Dr. Thomason was there on the ground during the reconstruction and she explained that at the time there were no records, so although 200 people lost their lives, there was no way to track who they were, what their medical records were, or whether the donor money that came in was going to the right people. She realized that if the blockchain tech were around then that everything around the rehabilitation and reconstruction would have been so much easier. And that’s what got her really thinking about what kind of impact blockchain tech could have on a global impact scale.

Dr. Jane Thomason
Digital Transformation Abt Associates