Authored by: Carrie Daly, Technology Practice Lead
I recently watched quite an interesting documentary on Quartz online around an ancient currency used on the Pacific island of Yap. The currency was in the form of large carved-out circular stones, which were carried over generations as a form of family wealth. The actual value of this ‘stone currency’, which still exist today, was determined by the amount of work that its owner had placed into the strenuous exercise of carving out the stone. Here is the part of the story that was of particular interest. Central to their stone money system was the fact that there was no third party intermediary or bank to play a role in the ownership process. Instead, ownership was determined by oral proprietorship underpinned by a central concept of trust.
How the world has shifted
Fast forward by a few hundred years and the world is a whole new place, with the added benefit of technology as a replacement for the human word. Of course, that has come with its own set of risks from hacking through to the threat of downtime. However with the introduction of blockchain, the world may be coming back full circle to that central concept of trust that was inherent to the Pacific Island of Yap’s banking system.
Described as the trust fabric of the digital currency revolution, the blockchain is essentially a digital ledger in which transactions are chronologically logged. What makes blockchain more secure is the fact that the spreadsheet is duplicated across a global network of computers and similar to the currency of the Yap culture, has no need for a third party intermediary. The real beauty of the blockchain, however, is its cross-functional purpose as a secure and transparent means to log, track and share data across any industry.
Blockchain applications across the communications field
As communications becomes increasingly integrated, I have found that I am working on multiple digital advertising projects, but face a major challenge in that digital advertising fraud has become a major issue. By that I mean that there has been a rise in ad space on fake sites and in fact WPP has stated that losses could account for as much as US$16.4bn in 2017. And because programmatic buying involves systematic bots and minimal human participation, the issue actually requires the implementation of a digital type ledger such as blockchain to basically record the fake sites so that digital advertisers can address the issue on a global level.
This same principle can be applied to the rise of fake news, which is threatening the very foundations of PR today. In fact a Warsaw based startup called Userfeeds is aiming to stop fake news in its tracks by linking the blockchain to social content. By using a token system, they are attempting to put a stop to fake news once and for all by offering an financial incentive to rank content well.
Of course the blockchain principle can be also applied across a number of other daily activities, such as keeping records of digitised client contracts, up-to date records of media contacts and even back to the basics of crypto currency by accepting client payments without the instability of the fluctuating Rand.
The islanders of Yap were clearly on to something when they established a societal currency system underpinned by trust. Through the blockchain, entire industries and survive and thrive despite the radical changes that have come along with technological innovation.