The digital transformation underway represents an important change in the way the world is functioning. From the way we communicate to the way we work, digitalisation is more than just automating processes, it is a strategy that leverages technology to empower people.
This is an important distinction when talking about digitalisation and sustainability as it emphasizes the outcome rather than the technology, focusing on the transformation of how technology interacts with the world.
As we draw closer to the goals of the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the importance of understanding how digitalisation can benefit is high. The power of technology to influence the “5 Ps” (People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnerships) is vast and is already being realised in many areas.
Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLTs) such as blockchain have huge potential to improve current processes and systems. Indeed blockchain can act as a digital enabler across entire infrastructures, providing end to end encryption of data that cannot be tampered with.
This allows companies to operate more efficiently, both in terms of cost and environmental impacts. Perhaps more salient, however, is the opportunity that DLTs present to work towards the Sustainable Development Goals in a way that is transparent and trustworthy, creating a binary source of data that is inclusive and accessible to all.
”At its most basic level, blockchain speaks to a deep, human need, one of being able to trust other people, organizations and companies in a world where most of our interactions are mediated and stored digitally.” (United Nations, 2019)
We are already seeing many examples of how these digital technologies are adding transparency to value chains. The Farmer Connect App, for example, uses blockchain to help consumers track the entre footprint of their coffee and iPoint-systems GmbH uses it to trace the supply chain of conflict minerals.
Not only does blockchain technology help the consumer make good choices, it also helps businesses improve their sustainability credentials and makes reporting easier. As we see examples of trust being cemented between consumers, producers and regulators, it is not hard to see how this can translate into a myriad of use cases beneficial to wider society.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only highlighted this:
“One thing that’s clear is that we’re seeing the mass digitalisation of human relations with the crisis” said Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the UN, adding “The future will be much more digital than the past.”
Proof of identity is one of the main factors in fostering trust, and it is essential to access even the most basic services, thereby enabling social inclusion. In a humanitarian context, portable digital credentials present an opportunity to increase the inclusion of migrants in general, but in particular for displaced persons, by providing an alternative to paper-based proof.
Lack of credentials is the primary cause of exclusion for displaced persons and often contributes to discrimination. Without credentials, there are limited options for people to access the type of education and work opportunities that would enable social participation.
In a world where, according to the latest UNHCR data, there are around 26 million refugees, half of whom are children and teenagers in need of education, the benefits of digital credentials are evident across the system.
TiiQu addresses this with the Asylum Pass. It uses blockchain technology to provide a secure and privacy-compliant way of collecting an individual’s credentials and offers instant verification to prove a person’s claims about identity, work, skills, permits etc.
A unique algorithm assigns a value to sets of credentials’ trustworthiness which can be individually shared with the requesting authority or third party.
Using technology in this way allows people to demonstrate their experience and education and gain access to opportunities, offering greater chances of social inclusion and social mobility. Being gender, ethnicity and status agnostic, it also helps to fight prejudice and enables objective decision-making by matching work and education applications directly with verified credentials.
For humanitarian solutions, people-centred digitalisation is key. By keeping trust and transparency at the heart of its technology, blockchain-enabled solutions allow digitalisation to develop a more equal and more sustainable society.
The potential for blockchain to increase inclusivity, to reduce inequality and to ensure that no one is left behind is evident. It is an opportunity that requires collaboration, understanding and cooperation between all sectors, and there is no better time to harness it than now.