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But power and influence is no longer concentrated in the hands of a few corporations.
The underlying concept of a blockchain, or decentralized public ledger, collectively maintained by a network of participants, is key. Recording transactions, and other events, is an integral component of much of human activity and it is hard to imagine modern economies operating without underlying systems of verification, validation and record keeping.
And, by eliminating the need for bank accounts and intermediaries, blockchain can significantly bring down the costs of transactions, including remittances and aid.
Blockchain technologies are being explored in many settings.
By using cryptographic tools (hence the name), a broad network of computers and programmers is able to provide the same – or greater – level of security as provided by traditional financial institutions.
Refugees, for example, tend to have lost not just their homes but also often their paperwork, including identification.
Through blockchain, their identity, once established, can no longer be lost.
In Ghana for instance, a local not-for-profit startup, Bitland, is using blockchain to manage land titles and settle land disputes.
Bitland is working closely with local institutions to solve issues that have been outstanding for decades.