How Refugees Are Helping Create Blockchain's Brand New World

WIRED | 3/14/2018 | Jessi Hempel
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Without legal proof of your existence, you can’t do many things. You can’t vote, and you can’t drive. You can’t start a bank account, or access government services. Good luck getting into a bar.

According to the World Bank, more than a billion people have no way to prove their identity. The un-verified include refugees, trafficked children, the homeless, and other people who slip through society without developing many institutional affiliations. The problem feeds on itself: the longer a person goes without associations, the harder it is provide enough of a record to create them. But as bitcoin’s popularity swells, a small group of cryptocurrency enthusiasts and social entrepreneurs is trying to put the cryptographic ledger that underpins the novel currency to work in service of the vulnerable. They see promise in using blockchain technology to create an immutable record, one that has the added side effect of making financial transactions cheaper and more efficient.

Cryptocurrencies - Bitcoin - Ethereum - Blockchain - Technology

Though best known for underpinning volatile cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin and Ethereum, blockchain technology has a number of qualities which make it appealing for record-keeping. A distributed ledger doesn’t depend on a central authority to verify its existence, or to facilitate transactions within it, which makes it less vulnerable to tampering. By using applications that are built on the ‘chain, individuals may be able to build up records over time, use those records across borders as a form of identity—essentially creating the trust they need to interact with the world, without depending on a centralized authority, like a government or a bank, to vouch for them.

For now, these efforts are small experiments. In Finland, the Finnish Immigration Service offers refugees a prepaid Mastercard developed by the Helsinki-based startup MONI that also links to a digital identity, composed of the record of one’s financial transactions, which is stored on...
(Excerpt) Read more at: WIRED
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