Empowering Women in Blockchain – Dinner and Data

Empowering women in blockchain was an invitation only event that attracted a group of influential, thoughtful, interesting and determined women in the blockchain space. The conversation was guided by our strong interest in where blockchain and fintech may lead and the hoped-for outcomes.

The overwhelming desire from the assembled guests was for faster, more transparent products and services with more benefits to the customer. They wanted to enable and grow the borderless digital economy and help startups participate in it.

Natalie Furness (Communications Director, MedicalChain), enthused us all talking about how blockchain technology can be used to store health records and maintain a single version of the truth. This has a far deeper consequence that might initially be imagined.

Different organisations such as doctors, hospitals, laboratories, pharmacists and health insurers can request permission to access a patient’s MedicalChain record to serve their purpose and record “transactions” on a distributed ledger.

All our guests around the table were very concerned about the future of healthcare and how the delivery needs updating – we felt we should own our own health records (they should not be the property of the Department of Health, or anyone else other than the patient).

The ownership of health records and accurate reliable recording of such items using blockchain technologies has a far more important underlying effect than might be thought on first read…it goes to the heart of general as well as specifically female economic empowerment and agency.

Around the world women are statistically less likely than men to have a birth certificate or other essential documentation that conveys agency and independence, according to the World Bank.

Blockchain can steeple-jump this anachronistic state for women by offering a safe, cost efficient way to deliver (and preserve) their digital IDs where land ownership (read the broader issue of economic property rights for women), bank accounts and jobs can be provided and recorded freely, securely, reliably and permanently within the formal global economy (as opposed to the informal or black global economy).

Worldwide, women own less than 20% of the total recorded titled land according to data from the United Nations. Blockchaining the records of titled land ownership without the intervention of government or the requirement for a male relative to endorse or indeed more likely, contest, the title record has to be a step forward for women (and a step back for patronymic social systems and the downright dishonest).

Sadly, the statistics speak for themselves across the globe. Everyday, women are being overworked and woefully underpaid. Everyone knows the age-old adage: “a woman’s work is never done”. But perhaps the expression should be “a woman’s work is never paid.”

A United Nations Development Programme Study (link to UNDP study) describes how in Africa, women make up more than half of the population and contribute to 75% of agricultural labour, and yet they hold just 1% of assets and account for 10% of total earnings. See How Cryptocurrency can help women https://bit.ly/2MxQgKV

Mobile phones have given individuals in many regions a stronger voice. This has happened through the deployment of mobile technology in developing economies, which in turn allows those economies to leap frog capital investment barriers found in the developed economies, e.g. the difference between bricks and mortar banking and financial services and mobile or online banking. Africa will very likely have full, mobile-only, banking before Europe.

Around the world, 42% of women still do not have their own back account – this statistic probably seems unthinkable in this day and age if you live in a developed economy. Many of the barriers to entry that prevent women holding bank accounts in developing economies will be circumvented by the ability to hold health records (establishing a digital ID) on a secure distributed ledger (made possible by blockchain).

Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, micropayment and informal employment will help circumvent other barriers to women gaining wealth and agency.

Although it had failed by August 2015, SMS wallet provider 37Coins stimulated the creation of competitors trying to tackle the same issue – delivery or a cryptocurrency wallet.

37Coins created a mobile SMS wallet for the sending, receipt and storage of bitcoins via SMS in conjunction with Blockstream. Find an introduction to Blockstream on wiki here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blockstream.

37Coins ran into problems of reliability of its SMS wallet when executing transfers between mobile network providers – it could not persuade the mobile networks to resolve this issue and the innovative Company concluded that it could not raise sufficient capital itself, to solve the problem directly.

Equalising economic opportunities in developing countries is bedeviled by a lack of infrastructure. Blockchain serves as a tool for change.

In developing economies, the battle is always one to empower underrepresented parties. Just 18% of men and women in the Middle East and Africa hold savings accounts, compared with 89% of the population in high-income countries, according to The Economist in 2014.

Worldwide, around 40% of women are considered “unbanked”, a figure seven percentage points higher than their male counterparts, according to a study by the World Bank. – Unbanked is used to describe individuals or groups that lack access to accounts and services traditionally provided by financial institutions, and in particular the ability to borrow, which is an essential route to capital and income smoothing over a lifetime.

On a more upbeat note we discussed some wonderful examples of successful ICOs this year with women at the helm:

Despite the relatively high risk associated with ICO fundraising, 2018 has already brought numerous success stories, from #Tezos CEO Kathleen Breitman who raised $232 million in July 2017 – “the most ever for an ICO to date,” reported Forbes – to Galia Benartzi who generated a whopping $156 million for her company #Bancor in a mere three hours. https://bit.ly/2MxQgKV

There has been much progress made in equalizing opportunities and access to capital over the last 50 years (compared to the previous 5,000) but there is still an awful lot more work to do. We are keen to see more stories from across the world where Fintech and Blockchain are making a real difference in the everyday life of women.

Appropriately enough, given the evening, we also discussed #Nitechain – Anna Frankowska (CEO and Co-Founder) was telling us about how the entertainment and drinks industry were really getting behind her blockchain powered nightlife market place. She is aiming to give customers a better quality experience and to map where the hotspots are with transparent reviews. I doubt this event would reach Nitechain due to its private nature, but the Nitechain idea struck a chord all the same.

In all that we do at ACF Equity Research we like to support an equal gender balance within the company wherever possible. We also like to get lots of female positive companies to come and speak at our events.

 

 

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