Blockchain for social good

14 Nov 2018 13:00h - 14:00h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 13th Internet Governance Forum]

Blockchain in essence is a governance tool. Technological tools we are creating now will have significant effects as a check-and-balance of powers. However, we need to distinguish governance by the infrastructure (i.e., code embedded in a blockchain) and governance of the infrastructure (i.e., chain governance by changes in code).

The moderator of the session was Ms Carla L. Reyes, Michigan State University College of Law.

Mr Pindar Wong, Chairman, VeriFi, pointed out that this ten-year-old technology is still evolving. Blockchain creates incentives on the network in the form of software, which can enhance thinking about new structures and different ways to structure society as we move toward a fully digitalised society. He added that blockchains are, ultimately, a governance technology. Currency and financial applications were its starting point, but, ultimately, he added, blockchains are a governance technology for nation states.

Ms Primavera De Filippi, National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS), Paris, pointed out that technology is an important proxy for change. Nevertheless, decentralisation of resources does not necessarily mean decentralisation of power; therefore, it is important to look at the governance model in this technology and to redistribute power in decentralised systems. Even if mesmerised by the potential of new technologies, implementation demands confronting the details that generate problems and issues. So we need to distinguish governance by infrastructure (code in a blockchain) and governance of the infrastructure (governance of changes in code).

Mr Rick Dudley, CEO,, added that the most prominent value to blockchain is its ‘right to exit’, that is, the ability of individuals not to bind their work to an arbitrary institution. This technology allows one to create groups that are not geographically bound, and which share the same interests and goals. Also, he added, we need an understanding of the concept of privacy in a contemporary Internet environment. In concluding, he added that considerable marketing influence affects the discussion of blockchain.

Ms Constance Choi, Co-Founder & Director at COALA Foundation, presented the promises of blockchain as a global infrastructure allowing global coordination. This echoes the effort of the GDS in promoting global action. Interestingly, she added, most of the financially based blockchain projects created systems with many intermediaries (system, exchanges, wallet companies). Choi used an Estonian e-residency example as a case of a paradigm shift from governments that serve its constituency to virtual nations that provide services to consumers. Tools with great promise are presently in use to recreate the same systems. We need to use this technology to increase our capacity to make informed decisions.

Ms Maria Gomez, Aragon Project, shed some light on the Aragon decentralised project. Aragon is building a system to support applications to run on blockchain. The system is built in an open source format and applications such as voting or finances can be supported. Another part of the project is an Aragon network that will allow decentralised organisations to make transactions in a trust-minimised way. One of the organisations that this project could support is a decentralised court.

In closing, Wong pointed out that the main issue is how to replace institutions with software. That is a main political and governmental issue. This is the right time to start participating in this discussion, he added. Decentralisation does not mean disorganisation. Dudly stated that at the end these efforts to replace institutions with software will fail. De Filippi added that technological tools can affect government structure and process, but it the end we will still have the process, because process occurs between different actors (people). Gomez stated that the tools we are creating now will significantly affect the check-and-balance of centralised power.


By Arvin Kamberi