Embracing Blockchain

Short Description of the Issue

Innovation is perhaps one of the most common buzzwords that have been used among peers in the technological sector over the past few decades. We have subconsciously assumed that anything that has to do with innovation has an element of technological influence due to the sector’s relentless focus on constantly finding new ways to be effective and efficient. On the other hand, there are numerous environmental, social, and economic issues that are yet to be properly addressed and solved with technology since there are multiple stakeholders involved, thereby making it a complex challenge. 

Generally, there is a lack of transparency between governments, corporations, and people in addition to increasing levels of cyberattacks due to which there is more room to engage in fraudulent or unethical practices. The financial crisis in 2008 detrimentally tainted the image of financial institutions as a result of their fraudulent dealings that paved the way for the crisis. The U.S. government was blamed for bailing the big banks while providing relatively little to no aid to the common people. Power and wealth accumulation tends to be some of the major factors that influence people to neglect collective gain and embrace individual success, hence giving rise to capitalism. From an environmental perspective, corporations and public institutions are gradually introducing initiatives to contribute to environmental sustainability but is it sufficient to handle the rate at which climate is deteriorating? This is where Blockchain comes into play and tackles the SDG 9 – Industry Innovation and Infrastructure, and SDG 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production.  

Its relevance and Long-Term Impacts

According to Sotoudehnia, “A blockchain is a digital ledger that uses encryption to publish ‘blocks’ of time stamped data distributed across a network of users and first popularized by bitcoin” (Sotoudehnia, 2021, Page 1857). In other words, blockchain provides a digital market for users to engage in secure transactions while making information-sharing more transparent to the people being affected. We are witnessing a shift in consumers’ mindset with respect to making ethical and sustainable purchasing choices. Due to the immutable nature of data present in the blockchain, corporations will be discouraged to deal unfairly thereby improving trust among consumers. For instance, blockchain will prevent falsifying product information by enabling users to track the movement of products and identify their original producers. This can be a game-changer to deal with inflationary concerns and supply bottlenecks that have had negative impacts on the global economy recently (Brawn, 2022). In terms of efficiency, transactions can take place swiftly through smart contracts, which are a “set of rules” or algorithms that can recognize transactions and execute them as desired (“What is Blockchain Technology”).  

What is currently being done and what solutions are being proposed?

In Canada, Michelle Rempel Garner (Member of Parliament – Calgary Nose Hill) proposed Bill C-249 which was aimed at protecting and building the crypto asset sector (Stradbrooke, 2022). This implies introducing policies to encourage employment in that sector and reducing the “administrative burden” (Stradbrooke, 2022). As a result of the proposal, several Canadian blockchain companies such as Hut 8 Mining Corp agreed to collaborate with the policymakers in establishing a pro-Blockchain framework. This is a special opportunity to engage in cross-sector collaboration and welcome more innovation in the crypto space, thereby strengthening the Canadian economy. However, it is worth mentioning that implementation of policy proposals often needs to go through a slow process of legal and political procedures. For example, since Garner is a member of the Conservative Party which is obviously in strong contention with the Liberals who are governing, her proposal would be considered a ‘Private member bill’ which dampens the probability of it ever becoming a law (Stradbrooke, 2022). In addition, since the Liberals control a minority government, they are positioned to seek support of another party in the Commons without which bills such as these are bound to fail (Stradbrooke, 2022).

The Maltese government brought about regulations that favored crypto investors, thereby attracting many among the crypto community into the island, therefore recognizing Malta as the world’s ‘blockchain island’ (Sotoudehnia, 2021, Page 1864). This also paved the way for crypto exchange companies like Binance to locate their headquarters in Malta. However, due to issues centered around corruption, their financial regulators were forced to introduce stricter measures to regulate crypto activity which led to crypto dealers leaving Malta (Sotoudehnia, 2021, Page 1864).      

Overall, blockchain is still in its infant stage in terms of development but holds immense potential to solve global issues as it creates space for transparency, improves efficiency, and can provide optimized security for blockchain users. The success of it, however, rests on policy makers to collaborate with the crypto industry experts and quicken the policy implementation process. 

Works Cited

  1. Sotoudehnia, Maral. “‘Making Blockchain Real’: Regulatory Discourses of Blockchains as a Smart, Civic Service.” Regional Studies, vol. 55, no. 12, Routledge, 2021, pp. 1857–67, https://doi.org/10.1080/00343404.2021.1882671.
  2. Brawn, Alan C. “Breaking down the Ongoing Global Supply Chain Problem.” CEPRO, 14 Feb. 2022, https://www.cepro.com/business-support/breaking-down-the-ongoing-global-supply-chain-problem/.
  3. (N.A). “The 17 Goals | Sustainable Development.” United Nations, United Nations, https://sdgs.un.org/goals/.
  4. (N.A). “What Is Blockchain Technology? – IBM Blockchain.” IBM, https://www.ibm.com/topics/what-is-blockchain.
  5. Stradbrooke, Steven. “Canada Gov’t Urged to Roll out Welcome Wagon for Blockchain Innovators.” CoinGeek, 15 Feb. 2022, https://www.coingeek.com/canada-govt-urged-to-roll-out-welcome-wagon-for-blockchain-innovators/.

This blog post series is an ongoing partnership between the SDG Cities program at Pillar Nonprofit Network and the Environmental Stewardship course in the Governance, Leadership, and Ethics program at Huron University. As part of their assignments, students are required to write about real-world challenges using the UN Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs) as a holistic framework to analyse the problem and propose solutions that could lead to systemic change and a better future for all. The series presents an opportunity for students to address practical and meaningful challenges that their communities are facing currently,  and an opportunity for SDG Cities to enrich their program by including youth perspectives.

All opinions expressed by the guest authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the SDG Cities program, 10C Shared Space or Pillar Nonprofit Network.