SOCIETY | Oct 17, 2019

Blockchain: more efficiency and transparency in work

What are the benefits and risks associated with the introduction of this technology in work organizations?

In the era of the Big Data industry, the concept of transparency evolves and takes more efficient registration tools into account. Of all the enabling technologies of Digital Transformation, Blockchain promises a qualitative leap in terms of traceability, public control and security of any activity.

According to estimates by the Polytechnic University of Milan’s Smart Agrifood Observatory, there are currently over 800 Blockchains in the world operating in various sectors, from finance to automotive, from maritime transport to agribusiness. Despite the popularity achieved, however, its implementation still appears to be rather limited, insofar as it is not so easy to understand for public and private stakeholders that could use its enormous potential and advantages.

What is Blockchain?

Blockchain can be defined as an open and distributed digital register in which it is possible to enter and retrieve all the information relating to the actions and processes that led to the creation of a product or service, supporting all the players in the value chain. As it cannot be modified ex post and therefore it is not subject to falsifications, this digital register of actions improves transparency, the efficiency of commercial transactions, compliance and allows full monitoring and traceability of products for all those who wish to become acquainted with it in the event that this is a public Blockchain.

What are the advantages?

The register is divided into inter-connected blocks and made secure by the use of cryptography. In order to have control of the Blockchain system and make a change, it is necessary to have a percentage of control of the computing power, which varies according to the type of Blockchain. Therefore, once information has been entered into this system, it is no longer possible to make changes or even eliminate it, unless the entire structure is invalidated. In addition to guaranteeing the total absence of data manipulation, it makes it possible to protect and retain consumers or end users, by responding to the request for greater transparency on the one hand and the lack of trust on the other. For these reasons, Blockchain is considered comparable to databases and registers operated centrally by recognized and regulated authorities such as Public Administrations, banks, insurance companies, payment intermediaries, and represents an alternative in terms of security, reliability and costs.

How many types of Blockchain?

There are several variants of Blockchain. One of the first differences among the various options concerns validation: if the latter is entrusted to a consensus mechanism distributed on all nodes of the network, we speak of a public platform (which includes the original Bitcoin and other so-called “permissionless” systems, including Ethereum), in which the nodes themselves are anonymous. If instead the validation is entrusted only to authorized nodes, we speak of “permissioned” Blockchain, a private platform. However, both have limitations. In the first case, according to the experts, the slowness of the validation process would make it less efficient, while in the second model the weak point is identified in the presence of a leader who decides who can enter the data and, moreover, in the fact that all the stakeholders are known.

What are the impacts of Blockchain on work?

Blockchain will certainly have a profound impact on the organization of work. Having an unchangeable register will imply the possibility of tracking activities actually carried out. A best practice that will guarantee greater objectivity in evaluation of the worker, who will be judged on the basis of what has actually been done (for better or for worse).Natural implementation of Blockchain will be on assembly lines, in software production and maintenance, in logistics and in the transport of perishable/dangerous goods. That is in all jobs where it is important to know who did what.

There will also be a significant impact on those professions that require a guarantor authority such as notarial or contractual activities (many contracts will be signed online).Blockchain will also change jobs in which the retention of more or less sensitive data (medical records, land registry) is requested.

Finally, Blockchain will also open up prospects for reputational business: since registers are unchangeable, it will be easy to enter new goods/services in the logic of “TripAdvisor”. The “reputation” of the jeweler like that of the lawyer will be measured. Reputation will become a tangible and measurable asset.

Vincenzo Vespri