[Read more session reports and live updates from the 13th Internet Governance Forum]
Despite the fact that almost ten years have passed since blockchain was introduced by Bitcoin, the technology remains mysterious to many people, particularly in understanding how it could impact the Internet and its future. This session highlighted some key attributes that make blockchain stand out, compared to earlier database technology, and how this may disrupt traditional banking, real estate, media, and a host of other sectors. Instead of explaining how blockchain works under the hood, the focus of the session was to give an overview of the technology and its potential applications to inform the audience and trigger their curiosity.
The Lightning Session was led by Mr Walid Al-Saqaf, Senior Lecturer, Södertörn University, Stockholm.
The session agreed that the uniqueness of the Internet lies in it being a global network that is open and decentralised. The Internet is inherently built to be immune to attacks, but it can still have several points of failure, one of them being its susceptibility to censorship.
The evolution of technology adapts to user needs, and in the case of the Internet it is possible to have peer-to-peer exchanges specific to the distribution of information. However, it does not support exchanging values in the way that blockchain does. Blockchain is a secure and transparent distributed digital ledger that does not require trust in a third party, and was initially used by Bitcoin, a peer-to-peer electronic cash system.
Blockchain as a concept is powered by the idea of distributing control in a way that no single authority takes a unilateral decision about a process of transferring values. The main core values of this technology, being transparent and immutable, can facilitate the verifiability and traceability of data in the financial industry, land registry, and many other uses, such as the authentication of jewellery and other valuables.
Blockchain can be used by journalists to ensure data used on websites is original and traceable, to mitigate the risk of censoring information, and to verify if it is authentic or not. However, there is still a need to deploy use cases to further understand the intersection between the Internet as an infrastructure, and blockchain as an application powered by the Internet.
By Hanane Boujemi