“Perhaps the most encouraging benefit of blockchain technology is the incentive it creates for participants to work honestly where rules apply equally to all. […] But as an infrastructure that improves society’s public records repository and reinforces representative and participatory legal and governance systems, blockchain technology has the potential to enhance privacy, security and freedom of conveyance of data—which surely ranks up there with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” — from the World Economic Forum’s Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2016 Report.
Blockchain: a technology to abolish modern-day slavery?
Around the world, 25 million people work in forced labor conditions. Though we don’t usually think of it as a problem of our time, this is the equivalent of modern-day slavery and undoubtedly a humanitarian crisis. In an attempt to help resolve the issue, the US State Department, along with Coca-Cola, Bitfury, and Emercoin are looking to blockchain technology to create a registry for workers in the hope that it will help put a stop to forced labor worldwide.
Companies aren’t doing enough to fix the problem
A study released in 2017 by KTC (Know The Chain) revealed that food and beverage companies were not doing enough to solve problems in their supply chains. However, with the blockchain at their disposal, these companies would have the opportunity to make a significant change — they would also no longer have an excuse for inaction.
How blockchain will deter forced labor
The technology will create a safe, unalterable ledger that companies (like Coca-Cola) can use to verify workers and their contracts. The ledger will create transparency in how these companies operate giving them a real incentive to ensure that they abide by those contracts. The blockchain itself will be designed by Bitfury and Emercoin, while advice on worker’s rights and protection will be provided by the Department of state.
In an email to Reuters, Scott Busby (Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Department of State), said that blockchain couldn’t ensure that companies abided by these contracts, but that creating a validated chain of evidence would encourage them to do so. A company (like Coca-Cola) trades hugely on its reputation and doesn’t want that reputation tarnished by links to slave labor or unfair trade, so the Department of State’s outlook makes a lot of sense.
Blockchain provides the tools for crucial social change
This commitment to tackling forced labor represents a major collaborative effort (of Government and big businesses) to solve an important social issue, and it is all made possible by the blockchain. This proves that blockchain’s future is not restricted to the world of finance — a sector where FUD over crypto is rife.
At a time when mainstream media is focusing on the negative aspects of blockchain technology, this project could be one of the most important developments since the Bitcoin whitepaper was published in 2008. It may take the emphasis away from the financial applications of the blockchain, but it also returns the technology to its democratic roots. Blockchain was envisioned as a way to make an equal society possible. If it can take the fight to inequality again, we may see the majority of future innovations follow the path that was intended.
Michael is an English and Creative writing graduate of Liverpool John Moore’s University, a former editor of several magazines, and a crypto-currency enthusiast. He is mostly interested in crypto-legislation and the potential of decentralized technology to change the world.