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Blockchain for Good? Digital Ledger Technology and Sustainable Development Goals

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Handbook of Sustainability and Social Science Research

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Abstract

Blockchain technology (aka Distributed Ledger Technology or DLT) is a novel configuration of Peer-to-Peer, cryptographic and distributed computing technologies that have the potential to shift the internet from an internet of information to an internet of value network, with significant disruptive potential. To date, the cryptocurrency ‘bitcoin’ is the application of DLT that has attracted most attention, not all of it favourable. However, DLTs are about much more than cryptocurrencies and, as Kranzberg’s (1986) first law of technology, that ‘Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral’ reminds us, we can ethically frame applications of new technologies. To date, research has tended to focus on the technical characteristics of DLTs, and there has been little reflection on potential socially and environmentally beneficial use cases: Blockchain for Good (B4G). The aim of this this exploratory and descriptive paper is to reflect on innovative B4G applications that could help deliver socially and environmentally beneficial outcomes, framed in terms of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, through challenging existing business models and providing new opportunities for value creation.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    See, for example http://www.r3cev.com/ R3 is a financial innovation firm managing a consortium of some of the world's leading financial institutions to design and deliver DLTs to the global financial markets.

  2. 2.

    http://www.banquapp.com/.

  3. 3.

    Immutable to the extent that that particular blockchain continues to be maintained. It is not clear what happens in the circumstance that the blockchain ceases to continue.

  4. 4.

    Anyone, subject to, of course, the nature of the permissions.

  5. 5.

    For more details on mining, see Antonopoulos, A.M. (2014). Mastering Bitcoin: unlocking digital cryptocurrencies, O'Reilly Media, Inc.; Swan, M. (2015). Blockchain: Blueprint for a New Economy, O'Reilly Media, Inc., and: http://www.coindesk.com/information/how-bitcoin-mining-works/.

  6. 6.

    https://solarcoin.org/.

  7. 7.

    http://carboncoin.cc/.

  8. 8.

    http://bitlandglobal.com.

  9. 9.

    http://www.everledger.io/.

  10. 10.

    https://www.provenance.org/.

  11. 11.

    http://powerledger.io/.

  12. 12.

    http://transactivegrid.net/.

  13. 13.

    http://lazooz.net/.

  14. 14.

    http://id2020.org/.

  15. 15.

    https://bitnation.co/.

  16. 16.

    http://law.mit.edu/blockchainborderbank.

  17. 17.

    http://www.banquapp.com/.

  18. 18.

    http://nevtrace.com/.

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Acknowledgements

The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of a BA/Leverhulme Small Research Grant (SG160335) in the preparation of this work.

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Correspondence to Richard Adams .

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Adams, R., Kewell, B., Parry, G. (2018). Blockchain for Good? Digital Ledger Technology and Sustainable Development Goals. In: Leal Filho, W., Marans, R., Callewaert, J. (eds) Handbook of Sustainability and Social Science Research. World Sustainability Series. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-67122-2_7

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