Since SDG Knowledge Weekly has covered the latest blockchain technology, technology-related activities at the UN have not slowed down. Blockchain for Impact hosted a summit in June to direct the guidelines responsible for industrial governance, among other topics, and a side event on the role of the blockchain in advancing the SDGs took place on the sidelines of the High-Level Political Forum United Nations on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in July. This brief integrates these events by reviewing recent work published on blockchain and highlighting developments in other financial and mobile technologies.
A report from the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) examines blockchain applications in the financial, economic, public and climate change sectors to assess technology contributions to SDGs. The report, written by Alexis Rocamora and Aryanie Amellina, identifies 100 applications of technology and maps through the aforementioned sectors and SDGs. The exercise shows that although technology can contribute to all 17 goals, the blockchain is more relevant to OSS 8 (decent work and economic growth), 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), 10 (reduced inequality) and 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions). However, the authors take note of the adoption of technology, resulting from technical, regulatory and social problems.
Badreddine Tazrouti and Namira Samir, blockchain specialist and fellow at the Bank of Indonesia, highlight the potential of technology to reduce transaction costs and support SDG outcomes for the world's poorest. Their editorial in The Jakarta Post reveals opportunities for formal identification, remittance services, more sustainable supply chains that reduce losses and waste and improve the lives of refugees. A post on edie by Sarah George articulates eight ways in which companies can use blockchain to promote sustainability, including carbon offsetting (SDG 13), energy trading and facilitating peer-to-peer transactions. peer on a virtual energy market (SDG 7), food traceability (SDG 2), plastic compensation similar to carbon offsets (SDG 12 and 14) and autonomous vehicle networks (SDG 9 and 11).
The World Bank has announced that it is developing its first blockchain bond in collaboration with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. According to a press release, the bond will be the first of its kind "to be created, assigned, transferred and managed through its life cycle using distributed ledger technology."
On financial technologies (fintech), Geoffrey Gunn and Madeline of IISD Stanley describes how the Internet of Things, big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain can be used to improve performance of sustainability. They observe the "flow of data flowing" from devices connected to the Internet and how these data can be cured or otherwise exploited to be used in environmental contexts. The authors highlight in practice examples of fintech, pointing out that the blockchain is a fulcrum because it makes data reliable.
However, the disadvantages of blockchain should not be overlooked, says an article by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) entitled "A Reality Check for Blockchain in Commodity Trading." The article, produced by Antti Belt and Steven Kok, states that "companies have already invested in different mechanisms to promote trust" and blockchain has several drawbacks in terms of price, risk, regulatory oversight, information technology (IT) investments and changes and new funding mechanisms  In terms of international and national security, the Stimson Center published an online publication on the role of the blockchain for non-proliferation. The Center's nuclear safety program is investigating how to use blockchain technology to improve the safety of nuclear materials, while the Nuclear Safety Control Program is examining how technology can facilitate export controls. Further work is being done on synthetic chemicals and opioids that have arisen as public health problems in the United States.
A World Bank Group publication published in July entitled "Implementing the 2030 Agenda: 2018 Update" notes the potential for "disruptive technology for development", underlining a fund launched in partnership with Credit Suisse in the May 2018 which aims to carry out pilot projects on new technologies to help put an end to poverty by 2030. It also notes a previous partnership with GSMA – a trade body representing the mobile network operators worldwide – launched in February 2018 to exploit the IoT and the big data for development.
On mobile technologies, Christie Roby of Devex interviewed Yasmina McCarty, head of the Mobile for Development strategy at GSMA. McCarty highlights mobile money and the successful reduction of cross-border remittance costs, as required in SDG Objective 10.c: reduce these costs to less than 3% by 2030. It also notes progress in health solutions based on SMS in the last ten years. and an increase in messaging in the agricultural sector, where mobile technology has facilitated the increase in tandem household harvests and income with the decline in pesticide use. McCarty identifies the unused markets in energy, water and sanitation areas, but takes into consideration the broader challenges of local policies and contexts. GSMA held a Mobile360 Africa conference in Kigali, Rwanda, in July 2018, which highlighted the opportunities offered by mobile technology to advance the SDGs.
A paper published by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) discusses the use of mobile phone surveys to track post-disaster recovery and changes in levels of resilience over time. The authors point out that much of the current knowledge of resilience comes from "one-off investigations taken at a single point in time" that "risks neglecting important temporal dimensions" of post-disaster contexts. Key findings include 1) recognition that levels of resilience fluctuate, changing considerably over time; 2) the impact of floods on all neighboring families, not only on those directly affected (even extending to households that report themselves as unaffected); 3) the negative impacts of floods are felt among social groups, even if families with head of household show a sustained decrease in resilience compared to families with male heads; and 4) the most common coping strategy after the disasters is to fall back on personal financial buffers.
SDG Knowledge Weekly will track more emerging data and monitoring initiatives while the global community looks ahead to the United Nations World Data Forum and Eye on Earth Symposium to be held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) this October.
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