In July The European Economic and Social Committee approved one important opinion, of which CECOP President Giuseppe Guerini is rapporteur: “Blockchain and distributed ledger technology as an ideal infrastructure for Social Economy”

The blockchain technology is a computer protocol configured in the 90s. However, its large-scale use and success are linked to the spread of cryptocurrencies, the best known of which is bitcoin. The blockchain is absolutely not only linked to cryptocurrency. In fact, thanks to the combination with the growing power of computing and data analysis of computer systems, the enhancement of connectivity in Europe and the evolution of artificial intelligence systems, the potential for using Distributed Ledger Technology  (DLTs) for multiple purposes is growing exponentially.

The blockchain is at the same time a communication protocol, and a public register in which all the transactions carried out between the participants of the network with a high degree of transparency and in a non-modifiable form according to a sequential order. Each participant is a "link" in the chain, which helps to validate and archive the data exchanged, thus making the entire information chain very safe.

The keywords of the blockchain technology: decentralization, transparency, peer participation, reliability and trust. It is easy to find many assonances in the main organizational forms through which enterprises and social economy organizations operate.

The EESC opinion strongly support the idea that Blockchain technology can be an ideal infrastructure for the social economy and social economy organisations can play an important role in helping the whole of European society to better prepare for the major transformations that new digital technologies are bringing about in all areas of our social, economic, political and cultural life.

According to the EESC in order to ensure that the benefits of blockchain technologies are properly developed, it is necessary to promote a framework of rules that encourages and facilitates collaboration between public administrations, organised civil society and economic and business systems.

The blockchain technology is a tool that seems particularly appropriate and useful to create the best opportunities to improve services both in the public and private sector, seeking to disseminate and increase accessibility to new technologies for all citizens and social actors.

  • Operational applications of blockchain technologies can improve the performance of social economy organisations, with benefits for organisations, their members and users of their services.
  • With blockchain technology, many social economy organisations could significantly improve and make secure, identifiable, transparent and trackable the management operations of associative governance (consultation of members and voting operations) facilitating participation and involvement even when members are not physically present or are so numerous as to make it difficult to meet in a traditional assembly.
  • In the field of training and education, the blockchain could be used for skills certifications, for securing of degrees and diplomas in digital format, or for digital certificates that automatically update the curriculum of workers or students*.

CECOP agrees with the EESC opinion on the enormous potential of new digital technologies and we share the corner about the high cost of the necessary investments which could expose blockchain technology to the risk of concentration of devices capable of making it work. There will be a democratization of the network, but also the risk of speculative hoarding of data and technology networks in the hands of the few players or countries able to make large investments.

In this sense, as Giuseppe Guerini wrote in this article (available only in Italian), public interventions should support a participatory and accessible development of these technologies.