IGF 2019 WS #376 Can blockchain technology promote digital inclusion?

Organizer 1: Hanane Boujemi, DiploFoundation

Speaker 1: Hanane Boujemi, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Walid Al-Saqaf, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Renata Aquino Ribeiro, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 4: Glenn McKnight, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 5: Satish Babu, Technical Community, Asia-Pacific Group

Policy Question(s): 

For users and by users: Unlike conventional centralized databases, permissionless blockchains give users more power and control since they are distributed and decentralized. This is aligned well with the basic premise of the Internet itself. How then could this very characteristic be leveraged to empower users and enhancing their digital inclusion? In this workshop we present use cases and examples of how that is possible. Better security, stronger trust: The numerous cases of data loss, privacy breaches and other forms of incidents have made centralized databases less trustworthy. What do blockchain-based systems offer as an alternative and how can this trust aspect be highlighted so that they get closer to mass adoption. Concrete examples illustrating inclusion potential: What are real concrete examples illustrating the value of blockchains for digital inclusion? Examples are in promoting online freedom of expression, protecting privacy and intellectual property rights, boosting trust in journalism by providing means to track provenance and authenticity. Challenges and solutions: Like any new and disruptive innovation, blockchain technology suffers from several challenges. What are those challenges and how can they be address? How are regulators and governments tackling them without stifling innovation?

Relevance to Theme: Since blockchain technology is by-design reliant on many users utilizing their hardware for it to work, this is the epitome of inclusion in ownership, control and usage. The growth noticed in this domain is largely driven in a bottom-up fashion, which is also an illustration of how they are inclusive in nature. There is also some confusion and lack of clarity of how the technology could be beneficial to the wider public and the session helps illustrate this without disregarding the challenges and the strict regulatory and governance requirements for safe mass adoption. The workshop aims at reflecting the need to be open minded and encourage innovation while being responsible, accountable and mindful of consequences. Blockchain has the potential of enhancing inclusion even in the area of labor by giving them the right to work online (see: NExTpats, netizen) and solving problems that no other technology can. The technology may also help those people who do not already have access to traditional forms of identity as provided by governments. See the 'Nelson Passports' of post-World War 1.

Relevance to Internet Governance: Linking the discussion on an emerging technology to the policy fora is vital to tackle key policy questions. The IGF is one of the spaces which allow such dialogue to happen among various stakeholders so we are ceasing the opportunity to address this specific topic because it links Blockchain, as an application layer, which sits of the top of the Internet and generates data that can be utilised in various industries and processes.


Round Table - U-shape - 60 Min

Description: The Internet Society Blockchain Special Interest Group is organizing this workshop is in the form of an interactive panel in which participants learn about the various areas where blockchain can support citizen inclusion. It also would cover some of the exciting yet primarily misunderstood aspects of blockchain technology such as smart contracts and decentralized apps (DApps) and how they play a role in that.. Upon allowing panelists to present their own perspectives from experience in this field, we then start an interactive discussion about blockchain technologies use cases and implications for the internet and society at large. The event ensures active participation of attendees and provides an introduction to blockchain technology to attendees with various levels of experience. This interactive learning experience will have attendees start thinking about how this rapidly growing disruptive technology may support inclusion in day-to-day online activities from social media networking to e-health and from online payments to e-banking. However, the discussion will also trigger debates on challenges and limitations that ought be addressed.

Expected Outcomes: The main outcome is a greater understanding of the connection between blockchain technology and inclusion. The participants would come out of the activity more informed and curious about the possibilities the technology present as well as the needs to make those possibilities a reality. The fact that several of the speakers are from developing countries make it possible to broaden the horizon of attendees and those who would watch the workshop or read the transcription after it is held on the different benefits the technology may offer to well beyond those who come from technologically advanced countries.

Onsite Moderator: 

Hanane Boujemi, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator: 

NADIRA AL-ARAJ, Technical Community, Asia-Pacific Group


NADIRA AL-ARAJ, Technical Community, Asia-Pacific Group

Discussion Facilitation: 

5 min -The moderator will provide a brief introduction to the topic 5 min -Panellists will take turns introducing themselves 15 min-Each panellist will take turns to address the policy questions specified 15 min-The Audience will be given the floor to provide input/ask questions 15 min- Remote participants/Twitter contributors will be given the opportunity to provide input/ask questions N.B: the moderator will be rotating among onsite/remote participants to ensure the dynamic of the session is balanced. 10 min will be allocated to concluding remarks and the way forward

Online Participation: 

We will have an online moderator to facilitate any exchange with remote participants

Proposed Additional Tools: we will create a hashtag on Twitter for the session and we will tag IGF secretariat and IGF official twitter channel


GOAL 5: Gender Equality
GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
GOAL 10: Reduced Inequalities