08 Feb 2019

Blockchain beyond cryptocurrencies

Lenyaro Sello

Digital content specialist, Investec

Blockchain, the technology underpinning cryptocurrencies, has the potential to revolutionise the global economy.

Receive Focus insights straight to your inbox

Sending...

Please complete all required fields before sending.

Thank you

We look forward to sharing out of the ordinary insights with you

Sorry there seems to be a technical issue

Blockchain is the technology behind the cryptocurrency known as Bitcoin. It is a shared public ledger on which the entire Bitcoin network relies.

 

Although cryptocurrency is battling, following a disastrous year described by Bloomberg as "the great crypto crash of 2018", blockchain is growing in importance, disrupting sectors such as food, supply chain, logistics and mining.

 

In 2016, the World Economic Forum described it as technology that "allows consumers and suppliers to connect directly, removing the need for a third party. Using cryptography to keep exchanges secure, blockchain provides a decentralised database, or 'digital ledger', of transactions that everyone on the network can see. This network is essentially a chain of computers that must all approve an exchange before it can be verified and recorded."

 

It’s this decentralised power of blockchain technology that has its advocates feeling optimistic. In an interview with Focus, Nathana Sharma – Singularity University's programme director for faculty affairs in blockchain, policy, law and ethics – laid out the evolution of blockchain technology from cryptocurrency to broad use cases.

WATCH VIDEO: Blockchain beyond crypto

"I'm seeing some pretty incredible applications in supply chain, tracking precious metals and minerals; I’m seeing applications around tracking pharmaceuticals. Having more secure databases, where we can quickly track and understand a particular object's space in time, for a supply chain, is a very powerful use case," said Sharma. 

 

LISTEN TO PODCAST: The crypto conundrum

How other industries are leveraging blockchain

The technology has caught the eye of large corporates as well as human rights institutions, where it is changing the status quo beyond financial services. Here are a few examples:

 

Tracking cobalt mining

Recently, companies such as IMB, Ford, LG Chem, Huayou Cobalt and RCS Global announced the use of this technology in mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The project will "trace and validate ethically sourced cobalt from mine to end-user on the blockchain".

 

i-bond

In 2018, the World Bank raised A$110m in two year-bonds using i-bond, which was "created, allocated, transferred and managed through its life cycle" using blockchain.

 

Supporting UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2017, the UN established the Blockchain Commission for Sustainable Development to discover and implement applications of blockchain technology for social impact. To this end, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) is also working with the commission to explore the use of blockchain to accelerate its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which serve as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and a decent standard of living.

 

In a paper titled The future is decentralised, the UNDP views blockchain as a transformative power that "should not be seen as a threat to existing systems of governance; rather, it should be seen as an opportunity for national and international institutions to defend the rights of those they represent".

 

The promise of blockchain looks set to revolutionise the way industries and humans operate, from voting to manufacturing and supply chain management. 

 

WATCH VIDEO: Blockchain – the invisible engine of trust

About the author

Lenyaro Sello

Lenyaro Sello

Digital content specialist

Lenyaro is a key member of Investec's Global Content team, based in Johannesburg, who focusses on relevant and topical issues for internal and external audiences including clients. She is a well-travelled multi-skilled multimedia journalist who previously held roles within eNews Channel Africa (eNCA) and Eyewitness News (EWN).

Receive Focus insights straight to your inbox

Sending...

Please complete all required fields before sending.

Thank you

We look forward to sharing out of the ordinary insights with you

Sorry there seems to be a technical issue