Blockchain Lab: Innovative Solutions for Sustainable Development

Project description

Title: Blockchain Lab
Commissioned by: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH
Country: Global
Overall term: 2018 bis 2020


Once in a while, we wake up to some new technology that promises to change the world. Blockchain or so-called distributed ledger technology (DLT) has come to be one of those widely acclaimed disruptive forces. The hype surrounding the technology has sparked anything from vivid dreams to sobering disillusionment during the past couple of years. While some argue that blockchain will completely revolutionise the social and economic fabric of our societies, others discard the technology as a self-indulgent hype by enumerating shortcomings of DLT and pointing at the eminent suitability of existing technologies such as traditional databases, cloud computing or cryptography. So what is all the fuzz about?

Hype vs. Reality

Blockchain promises to fundamentally transform how societies, economies and governmental institutions collaborate. Its transparent, disintermediating and resilient nature has engendered massive expectations and hopes – also regarding the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A few blockchain applications have indeed already demonstrated direct or indirect impacts on these goals. Transferring remittances, for example, has become cheaper than ever before, and responsibly mined diamonds are now traceable on digital ledgers thus giving consumers the certainty that they are not purchasing blood diamonds.

But implementation experience in the field of sustainable development remains scarce. Considering that DLT is still at a very early stage of its development, the most suitable framework conditions and design choices have yet to be determined. Many possibilities and impossibilities of the technology remain unknown and most blockchain initiatives still need to demonstrate their viability in real-life settings and at scale.


The LAB taps into the transformative potential of blockchain and related technologies in the realm of the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.


The LAB concentrates on examining and piloting a subset of the most promising blockchain applications, which outline clear added value in terms of societal benefit as expressed by the SDGs. The scope of blockchain applications ranges from simple timestamping tools for public sector accountability over to reliable education and green energy certificates all the way to transparent carbon emission marketplaces for better climate accountability. Through proof-of-concepts and pilot projects worldwide, the LAB seeks to generate much needed real-world exposure of DLT use cases, while exploring the convergence of blockchain with other technologies, notably, artificial intelligence (AI), sensors and data analytics.

For the most promising DLT use cases to acquire real-world exposure, the LAB builds upon the cross-fertilisation between the tech world and the international development community. It engages the start-up ecosystem, development practitioners, governmental institutions, academia, and the business sector alike, to develop the necessary economic, legal and institutional frameworks for blockchain use cases to gain traction.


Solution Conference „Chain2Sustain“ – Blockchain for Sustainable Supply Chains

The LAB uses an agile, interdisciplinary, and innovation management approach, which relies, among others, on co-creative workshops, design thinking and hackathons. Its work is geared towards users and target groups as well as development-policy objectives as illustrated by the Principles for Digital Development.



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