Redesigning Trust: Blockchain for Supply Chains

The Challenge

Blockchain has the potential to revolutionize sectors and ecosystems in which trust is needed among parties with misaligned interests. It is precisely within these contexts, however, that deploying such a new and complex technology can be the most difficult. Providing increased efficiency, transparency and interoperability across supply chains has been one of the most fertile areas for blockchain experimentation, illustrating both the opportunities and challenges in realizing the transformative potential of this technology. Many of these experiments have focused on ports as the intersection of diverse and vital supply chains. In most cases, projects have come about as the result of the efforts of one or two parties focused primarily on their own interests, without taking into consideration unintended consequences or downstream effects on other parties or on the system as a whole. The result is a fractured system that leaves behind parts of the sector while capturing economic efficiency gains for certain actors. In fact, the hyper-focus on efficiency gains can reinforce existing mistrust or competition and undermine or even block the transformation that blockchain technology has the potential to bring about.

The Opportunity

This project will convene a broad, multistakeholder community to co-design governance frameworks to accelerate the most impactful uses of blockchain in port systems in a manner that is strategic, forward-thinking, and globally interoperable; and by which countries across the economic spectrum will be able to benefit. Since systemwide blockchain deployment will likely be accompanied by significant disruptions across industries, the deployment of this technology requires careful consideration of unintended consequences, as well as measures to ensure that narrow, un-scalable, or bilaterally-designed solutions do not dominate the marketplace. The frameworks developed will ensure that diverse stakeholders can utilize the unique qualities of blockchain to create trust in an environment that is prone to mistrust. They will be prototyped and piloted with relevant stakeholders, iterated based on learnings, and then disseminated broadly for international adoption. The frameworks can be applied to create a systematic global approach to the deployment of blockchain that allows for variability, but is not tied to a specific port system, and that helps to ensure that the needs of all players in the ecosystem are considered as the system transforms.

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