Year in review

The year in blockchain: Building trust and opportunity one brick at a time

December 21, 2023 | By Rebecca Oliver DiGenova

When blockchain burst into the popular vernacular, it was tightly linked to cryptocurrencies, but blockchain technology always had much broader uses than crypto. And this year was all about building many of those concepts across finance, government, global NGOs and the United Nations.

Here are stories about several innovators who helped propel blockchain in 2023 — solving sector-spanning problems, boosting transparency and advancing financial inclusion.

Blockchain gang: Tech disruptors pitch new use cases at first Innovation Sprint

If it were possible to distill the motivation to innovate down to a single phrase, it might be this: “There has to be a better way.” That’s the concept that drew 14 blockchain disruptors, from fintech startups to multinational banks, to Mastercard’s first Innovation Sprint in London in August.

The presenters pitched a broad array of scenarios — including mortgage escrow, carbon credits and “last-mile” humanitarian aid distribution — for the Mastercard Multi-Token Network, a platform designed to scale and secure all kinds of blockchain applications.

Meet the key collaborators tackling CBDCs 

As a steady swell of innovators come up with new uses for blockchain technology, another wave is focused on building trust in large-scale central bank digital currencies, or CBDCs, a government-backed digital version of traditional currency. A recent survey by the Bank for International Settlements found that the number of retail CBDCs in widespread circulation could rise from four to 15 by the end of the decade.

Mastercard launched its CBDC Partner Program earlier this year to foster a greater understanding of the benefits and limitations of CBDCs, which require painstaking security and regulatory considerations. The first group of partners to join the program includes Ripple, Idemia, Consensys, Fluency, Consult Hyperion, Fireblocks, and Giesecke+Devrient.

Coala Pay delivers lifesaving aid over blockchain rails

How do you ensure that donors can get lifesaving international aid into the right hands? Coala Pay founder Melyn McKay is tackling that challenge with blockchain, turning grant proposals into smart contracts with associated non-fungible tokens. When donors purchase these NFTs, aid workers on the ground have immediate access to the funds via crypto or U.S.-dollar-linked stablecoins.

In May, Coala Pay joined Start Path Blockchain and Digital Assets, a Mastercard startup engagement program. McKay’s vision is to use Coala Pay as the critical last-mile infrastructure for local aid, powered by a secure and transparent blockchain platform that can build trust with donors.

Rebecca Oliver DiGenova, contributor