Making blockchain more inclusive and accessible

Lacey Hunter is the CEO and Co-Founder of TechAid, a web3 startup envisioned at the World Economic Forum (2022) that enables a data-driven approach to humanitarian aid.

At WebSummit 2022, an audience was asked whether they felt like they needed a PhD in order to download and connect a digital wallet – several hands went up, and laughs could be heard because it’s true! 

The UI/UX for blockchain as it exists today is inherently inaccessible and difficult to navigate and use. 

This represents a significant missed opportunity for contribution to the web3 ecosystem – after all, the users of technology generally don’t need to, nor care to, understand how it works. 

For example, If you are using the Uber app to request a ride to the airport, you’re likely much more interested in whether or not a car shows up at the scheduled time than what the codebase looks like or how to interact with it. 

Making blockchain accessible to the everyday user 

In addition to simpler UI/UX, we’re overdue for a move towards de-jargonization.

Instead of using buzzwords to describe blockchain applications, the industry -and end users would benefit greatly in terms of mass adoption if actual blockchain use cases were described in terms of the benefits the technology enables (immutable record keeping, full transparency, elimination of manual/redundant data transmission between parties) and ideally demonstrated with simple infographics and images, not 10+ page whitepapers. 

Lastly, a decoupling of ‘blockchain’ and ‘cryptocurrency’ is needed as many people mistakenly assume that the terms are interchangeable. 

The tokenisation that blockchain enables can be used for any number of things (like tracking unique transactions or patient record IDs, for example) and is not limited strictly to digital currencies whose value is inherently speculative and subject to manipulation. 

Cryptocurrencies at large have rightfully earned a terrible reputation in the market as feeding into ‘pump and dump’ schemes, money laundering and outright fraud. 

Whereas IBM Blockchain offers incredible examples of blockchain infrastructure to improve supply chain logistics, and startups such as StatWig are using blockchain to ensure the safety of and enable the tracking of vaccine distribution in underserved populations. 

The need for more women and marginalised individuals

Considering women comprise 51% of the world’s population, it’s a tremendous missed opportunity that only 17% of technology jobs are held by women

This means that the software built today is likely not representative of the needs of the majority of the population and that the majority of ‘would-be’ innovations from women never see the light of day. 

This is likely because women either self-select out of STEM education and jobs in technology because they don’t see anyone that looks like them succeeding in the field or holding leading roles or because there is no emphasis or even general awareness of the risk that employing a non-diverse, homogenous workforce represents when it comes to building technology with global implications. 

After all, technology is just a tool, and whatever is built will inherently reflect the biases and perspectives of the humans that built it. 

Rebranding diversity

Perhaps ‘diversity’ needs a wholesale rebrand to simply ‘diversification’ when it comes to the makeup of teams. 

This is a data-backed risk management strategy that’s been employed since the dawn of trading and finance. For example, no lender would ever suggest financing a portfolio of similar companies in a similar life stage with similar customer bases any more than a fund manager would suggest investing in a portfolio of only stocks of only companies operating in a single sector. 

This is a paradigm shift that’s sorely needed when it comes to thinking about the optimal makeup of a team. 

This issue is apparent in many different industries. When there is not enough diversity within the design team in gaming, BIPOC and female characters are often represented in unrealistic and potentially offensive ways, ignoring the range of demographics that make up gaming consumers and sending negative messages to millions of impressionable younger people. 

When solely male teams design health tech, the end products and services do not serve the different requirements of the female anatomy. 

As with all things, the proof lies in the data. A recent WSJ study indicated that the 20 most diverse companies across the S&P 500 not only have “better operating results on average, but their shares generally outperform those of the least-diverse firms.” Coincidence? I think not. 

A more equitable technology future 

Blockchain has so much potential for improving and enhancing human interaction with technology, the services we use, and the welfare of our data. 

Unfortunately, whilst the branding consensus is still aligned with the negative connotations of crypto, and overcomplicated UX turns off the majority of everyday users, these benefits will continue to be inhibited. 

Research has proven that diverse teams of people bring an array of personal and professional experiences to the table, design products that aren’t just more inclusive but perform better in the market and achieve a greater financial return. 

For blockchain-enabled systems to achieve widespread adoption that could significantly assist inclusivity in global society, the industry must also become more inclusive and more accessible.

Lacey Hunter is the CEO and co-founder of TechAid, a web3 startup envisioned at the World Economic Forum (2022) that enables a data-driven approach to humanitarian aid. 

Lacey believes access to proper nutrition is a fundamental human right for families everywhere, that should not be dictated by the arbitrary nature of one’s birthplace or gender. She is passionate about the potential of combining existing technologies to facilitate the connection of food supply with demand, and turning the tide of the escalating global hunger crisis.

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