This interview is part of a series of interviews featuring Fintech influencers who are doing work that advances our efforts in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
LATTICE80, in collaboration with FinTech4Good, presents the complete list of Top 100 Fintech for SDG Influencers who are leveraging the power of fintech and blockchain technology to create a positive impact on the future. LATTICE80 is launching our accelerator programme based in Hong Kong to help SDG-focused startups build blockchain solutions. Are you a SDG-focused startup? Click here to indicate your interest.
Disclaimer: The interviews are published on a rolling basis and the order by which they are published by no means representative of any rankings.
1. Tell us more about what you do and how your role or project is making an impact. How do they support the SDGs?
I believe that we are all able to be agents of impact in the world.
Since realising the transformative potential of Fintech, Blockchain and Frontier Technologies for social impact in 2016, I have set about to use my experience, networks and influence to envision the world on the power of digital transformation, and to be part of the movement to make it happen at scale.
My focus has been on emerging economies and social impact and I have spoken at many conferences, to governments, international agencies, and post regularly on LinkedIn and twitter. I have also been a proponent of using hackathons to solve global challenges and have been a mentor and a judge at hackathons in London, Sydney, Cape Town, Lagos, Hong Kong on impact challenges including: environment, financial inclusion, gender equality and basic service delivery.
Currently, I am writing a book at present on Blockchain and Social Change with some colleagues which will be published this year. I have also been working at a global level to accelerate the benefits of technology for women’s and children’s health.
In addition, I also advise a number of Blockchain start-ups including Secure Health Chain; GovBlocks; Flying Carpet; Shyft Network and Eqwity. And last but not least, I am also a Section Chief Editor of Frontiers in Blockchain for social impact and a Co-Founder of the British Blockchain and Frontier Technology Association.
All of my work is focused on how digital technologies can create a social impact and be an enabler of achieving the SDGs.
2. Why do you see Fintech and/or Blockchain in particular as an important enabler in creating a social impact?
For the first time in human history we have the technological tools that will enable us to connect the bottom billion unbanked to the global economy to provide digital identity tostateless people and to direct benefits to the poor and vulnerable. Fintech and Blockchains offer us, for the first time, the technical capability to resolve complex structural problems affordably. Because blockchains increase efficiency, reduce costs, and promote transparency it has the potential to transform systems can enable solutions that have previously been thought to be impossible.
There are many social impact use cases being implemented globally including digital identity, remittances, trace-ability, management, transaction and storage of cash transfers, identity, provenance, voting, supply chain, health care, micro-grid distributed green energy, education and gender equality. Many of these are in emerging markets, where there is an opportunity to impact on the lives of the disadvantaged by improving economic opportunity and access to services. There are 70 million displaced people globally and humanitarian settings is an areas for tremendous social impact, including remittances, digital identity and digital workforce applications. Blockchain is already being used by governments to reduce inefficiency and improve services to their populations, including Bermuda, Liechtenstein, Gibraltar, Kenya, Iraq, the USA and UK, Moldova and Estonia. There are many health care applications including health records, clinical trials, data analytics, and payment systems. With mass urbanisation of the global population, blockchain can be used to increase the speed, transparency, efficiency and security of information and systems, on both personal and citizen levels.
Blockchain, deployed at scale, can help alleviate a number of challenges faced by the poor and marginalized. It opens the potential to imagine a world where the poor have their own identity on the Blockchain, which they can use to access essential services or finance, where the two billion unbanked poor can access the global financial system through a simple mobile phone and digital currencies, where people who live on customary land, have it titled on a Blockchain and can use that title to access finance. Blockchain could also ensure that foreign aid goes directly to targeted beneficiaries using a smart contract, without a middleman. It can improve the supply chain with certification of stakeholders, increase data share-ability, and democratize data so people can create their own enterprise data of services. It opens the potential to imagine a world where the poor have their own identity and can connect to government services and the global economy.
I am particularly interested in how Blockchain can develop to address problems of the global commons, through Distributed Autonomous Communities.
3. What are some challenges you face along the way?
People don’t understand it. Blockchain is an emerging technology, and there is little understanding in government, industry and the community in general, of the transformational impact it could have on the world if implemented at scale. Most obstacles are political. The main obstacle is the tendency to think within existing models. There is the need for vision and to think out of the box on a very large scale. There is a global need for accurate and simple information on relevant social impact use cases. There also remain technical challenges, including platform speed and scalability, inter-chain transactions and on ramps for fiat. However, these are works in progress and will be solved.
There is also a need for conversations of moral and ethical philosophy for emerging technologies. Developing a framework for drawing out, considering and engaging in a robust conversation regarding the ethical and moral dimensions associated with emerging technologies is needed.
Because it is emergent, now is the time to engage, and for government and industry and the community to help shape it, exploring and benchmarking how it could be better shaped for real use cases, both as standalone or integrated with other technologies , so that it does achieve social transformation.
4. What more do you think is needed in the ecosystem to support and facilitate creating a greater social impact?
The social impact ecosystem is fragmented and not connected. The technologists who are building new technologies have limited connection with the communities who will be beneficiaries, nor the institutions which have been working on social impact traditionally.
Bridges and understandings need to be built to connect entrepreneurs, government, industry, academia, capital, start-ups and schools (the new generation is a vital player). Building the evidence base is critical, so that we start building a repository of credible case studies and data showing the actual impact of technologies on people’s lives.
However, we need new models of research and evidence building, which can keep pace with the pace of technology as well as new frameworks for evaluation. I am working to create a distributed policy think tank that can allow you to reach into a “curated crowd” of experts across the world to generate the new thinking that is needed and formulate the global policy challenges that technology is posing.
5. What do you hope to see or achieve in 10 years’ time?
I want to see, and be part of, shaping Fintech and Blockchain ‘at scale’ to create social benefits and leveraging the fintech-powered global financial system with sustainable development and digital technologies to enhance financing and implementation of sustainable development globally.