Exploring the governance and implementation of sustainable development initiatives through blockchain technology

Societies at large still grapple to categorize digital space as a phenomenon. At the same time, scientists and developers are searching for innovative methods to better understand how the fundamental shifts caused by digital change will affect the future of humanity over the coming decades. Interdisciplinary governance research at the intersection of technological and environmental foresight is urgently needed to minimize the risks of technological change and explore how digitalization may support, hinder or re-shape sustainability transformations. In this article, we focus on the case of ‘blockchain’ or distributed-ledger technology (DLT) to investigate how recent digital technologies may support the implementation of sustainable development initiatives. Our investigation is centered on areas of public administration and governance which will most likely see an adoption of DLT over the next two decades, such as digital identity, social service provision, and innovative climate finance. To allow for a meaningful comparison of various use cases, we propose four guiding questions that can help researchers, decision-makers and practitioners to determine whether DLT might be an appropriate choice for the sustainability-related task at hand. Moreover, we illustrate how the initial design and subsequent implementation of DLTs may support more centralized or networked modes of governance.

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