Although Wall Street pundits and big bank proofs-of-concept often steal the bulk of the attention, they’re not the only global groups with an interest in blockchain technology.
In fact, behind the scenes, the world’s largest and most influential non-profits and multilateral organizations are turning to blockchain solutions as a way to improve social and economic outcomes in the developing world.
The UN World Food Programme has already implemented pilots to distribute aid to refugees in Jordan; the World Bank launched a Blockchain Lab in June to help develop solutions that can be deployed in its client countries; and the Inter-American Development Bank is working on a digital asset registry designed to help businesses in Latin America more easily access credit.
But while these institutions bring significant resources and institutional muscle into the blockchain arena, they also face unique hurdles to implementation.
Like all organizations, not only must they stay up to date on the latest technologies and bridge the chasm between ideation and finding scalable solutions, but they must do so within risk-averse internal bureaucracies funded by donor-country tax dollars.
These institutions also face a different set of financial incentives than private companies or sovereign governments when it comes to deploying new technologies. This is a key reason blockchain investment in the international development space has lagged behind other sectors.
Despite millions pouring into blockchain and financial technology investment, there remains a “big gap when it comes to deploying blockchain in social impact and governance” areas, said Tomicah Tillemann, head of the Bretton Woods II program at New America.