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Microsoft and MIT explore use of blockchain technology

The many ways in which the blockchain technology can be used for social good was the topic of a recent event held in New York. Among other, the group of speakers included John Paul Farmer, director of technology and civic innovation at Microsoft, and Brian Forde, director of digital currency at MIT MediaBI Lab and former technology adviser to the White House.

New-York-CitySome of the other speakers were CEO of OneName Ryan Shea, as well as Chelsea Barabas, Ann Sim and Peter Kirby.

The event focused on how Bitcoin’s blockchain technology could be used to improve different aspects of our daily life such as reducing crime or improving the way people make donations.

Reducing crime

Chelsea Barabas explained how the crime levels in the United States could be reduced and how criminals could quickly be prosecuted by building an online ledger using the blockchain, a technology that is completely decentralized and would allow the public to upload video or image evidence to the system without the chance of human error or fraud. This evidence could not be tampered with and would greatly help the law enforcement agencies in the country.

[tweet_box design=”default”]Bitcoin’s blockchain technology could be used to improve different aspects of our daily life such as reducing crime or improving the way people make donations.[/tweet_box]

Social welfare

Barabas went on to explain the use of technology to change the way the United States currently distribute welfare. Criticizing the current welfare system, she said, “We’re still distributing welfare the same way we did 100 years ago,” she said. The blockchain technology could allow people to receive welfare using their smartphones.

Another benefit would be to empower the public, allowing them to see how the government allocates funds and manages processes. The result would be a more transparent system that would welcome the public’s opinions.

While talking about governments, she said:

“We have governments coming to us saying ‘hey, we’re really interested in being proactive about understanding this technology and using it to improve our ability to serve the public’.”

Identification and storage

CEO of Factom Peter Kirby explained that their company is looking to use the technology and become the central storage for land databases. The same storage systems could be used for voting.

Later, the CEO of OneName Ryan Shea took to the stage to explain his vision for the future. He said almost 25 percent of African-Americans in the United States do not have government issued ID’s, which causes these people not to benefit from services that require identification. He said the blockchain could be used to issue official ID’s that cannot be tampered with without the knowledge of the person in question. This would reduce identity theft, which currently costs the country $25 billion annually. The physical documents require a lot of manual labour and are not cost-effective or reliable.

Infrastructure and charitable Causes

Ann Sim, from consulting firm IDEO, believes that the frictionless transactions enabled by the blockchain could be used for charitable purposes, as well as to fund other non-profit organizations. She introduced a very innovative idea called ‘The Dandelion’, which was initially proposed by Princeton students.

“Students planted a dandelion with petals that have addresses on them. As people donate small amounts of money, the image of the playground started filling in, and the very block was being visualized,” Sim said.

FarmerAt the end of the event, John Paul Farmer encouraged the speakers to go home and think about the ideas discussed. While addressing the audience, he said the world needs people to come up with game-changing ideas and solve some of the big social problems we have today.

“Please leave this room tonight thinking how you might come up with new, creative and innovative ways to use these technologies or other technologies to help people, because that’s what it’s all about.”

The full recording of the event can be viewed here.

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