The rapid advancement of blockchain technology and cryptocurrency has made it imperative for the higher education community to adapt and respond to this economic phenomenon. There is great opportunity for colleges and universities to expand their economic impact and footprint through the proliferation of information, exposure, and opportunities for people to create a better financial future for themselves and their families.
There is a tremendous need for greater education on how the permissionless nature of blockchain technology can have the power to break through existing barriers in the economic system like lack of access to credit and capital that has often thwarted prosperity for underserved and historically marginalized communities.
Financial institutions have traditionally been gatekeepers for lending, borrowing, trading, investing, and other similar activities. The historical patterns of behavior by many of these gatekeepers have had a disproportionately discriminatory impact of a significant number of people who have found themselves locked out of avenues of wealth building. Blockchain eliminates the need for unnecessary third, fourth, and fifth parties when accessing the services listed above and avoids some of the friction that has permeated these processes.
Instead of speaking to a person to try to get a loan or relying on a bank to complete a transaction, a user can interact with a smart contract that is governed by an algorithm that is responsible for granting its users’ loans and facilitating transactions. The only requirements for individuals to get involved are a smart device, internet connection, and the deposit of the capital required to fulfill the collateralization ratios that are set by the algorithm or set of rules that govern a software application.
In similar fashion to how the internet improves conditions for how information is shared globally, blockchain enables additional functionality through immutable data transfer. This means that users of blockchain can send valuable data to another person without having to worry about intervention or tampering by a third party.
Colleges and universities can lead the conversation around how the internet has changed the way that the world cooperates and how blockchain technology is a response to the failures of current internet infrastructure, regulation, and global monetary policy.
Recognizing the history of the internet and its roots in the most prominent universities around the world, educational institutions are best positioned to be at the helm of the changes taking place as the internet progresses into its most promising iterations, Web 3.0. As the leaders of research and educational initiatives in society’s most fruitful communities, colleges and universities are primed to be opportunity hubs for communities to be empowered through this significant global development.
It is imperative for plans of action to be developed to take advantage of the financial inclusivity and prosperity that blockchain technology can provide for otherwise underserved and underprivileged communities. Institutions of higher education can be the conveners that community partners, faith leaders, elected officials, and others can organize with to increase economic equity in the emerging fintech (finance and technology) sector.
Dr. Marcus Bright is a scholar and educational administrator.
Keith Smith is the Founder of WaveLink and the Communication Lead of Blockchain Acceleration Foundation.