On Monday, October 7th, practitioners from the international development and humanitarian sectors and members of the global technology community gathered in Osaka, Japan, for the Ukiyo Conference, a one-day event aimed at establishing blockchain for social-benefit use cases that leverage the attributes of Web3 technologies. Attendees participated in a series of presentations and workshops and gained a clearer understanding of the potential impact of emerging technology on humanitarian development.
Kelsie Nabben, Architect and Co-Organizer of Ukiyo Conference, said, “Blockchain for social benefit is important, historic even, as it gives organisations the tools to design and build solutions that offer agency to the people and communities that use it. Digital solutions offer great potential in regards to efficiency and scalability, especially in international development, where decentralized solutions give users more autonomy. Ultimately, Web3 is about enabling choice, and we hope Ukiyo Conference has helped to bring organizations closer to developing solutions in-line with their mission and values that will provide people around the world with that choice.”
Ukiyo, meaning ‘floating world’, was conceived, designed and delivered by a team of volunteers whose experience spans both the international policy and development sector, as well as the Web3 technology space. The event took place the day before the 5th annual Ethereum Developers Conference (Devcon), the largest annual gathering of open-source blockchain developers. Multilateral aid NGOs shared real use-cases alongside technology vendors that were co-designed and co-delivered, including Oxfam, Sempo, Etherisc, The Red Cross, Althea, Wireline, Iden3, and others.
Speakers at Ukiyo Conference included prominent multilateral aid and development organisations and not-for-profits, renowned computer scientist and cryptocurrency pioneer David Chaum and cutting edge social science researchers. Featured workshops included direct cash transfers, digital identity, community inclusion currencies, decentralized automated insurance, peer-to-peer networks for low connectivity and data management and design.
Speaking at the event, Sandra Hart, Pacific Cash Transfer & Livelihoods Lead at Oxfam and “UnBlocked Cash” Blockchain Project Lead, said, “In order to stay true to blockchain’s promise of inclusion, we need to reach out to the margins – and seek to build with, and in, underserved communities to make sure solutions actually reflect and meet their needs.”
Following the event, a breakout session was held during Devcon to facilitate further discussion with the broader software development community on the themes and collaboration opportunities uncovered, and to create stronger relationships and feedback loops between worlds.
Ukiyo participants have been empowered to drive newly seeded projects forward and further the development of blockchain-based solutions for social benefit. The momentum of Ukiyo Conference is set to continue, with multiple pilot projects commencing or scaling in the coming months. One example is a newly formulated industry working group for a project called OpenLibra, an open-source alternative to Facebook’s privately led Libra blockchain, which allows civil society organisations shape the design and influence governance decisions of new technologies, as well as other projects on Community Inclusion Currencies and off-grid communication networks for disaster response scenarios.
Referring to blockchain’s social benefit, Cade Diem, Design Ethicist at Tactical Tech, commented, “Our work must embrace the reality beyond user personas and business requirements. We must build for the worst case beyond the edge case and confront the outcomes of our work if we are to have a real chance of solving the inadvertent harm of our work at scale.”