Interview with Dr. Jane Thomason

Recognized in Forbes Magazine as a leader in Blockchain for Social Impact, Dr. Jane Thomason’s work is both inspiring and innovative. We are delighted to have had the opportunity to interview this wonderful thought leader and author about blockchain’s potential for social good, blockchain advocacy, and what she’s working on at the moment. Visit her website for more, and enjoy the interview below!

When did you first learn about blockchain, and what sparked your interest? 

I was introduced to Blockchain by my son.  In 2010 the price of Bitcoin was 10 cents. My son told me to buy Bitcoin. I ignored that advice, and I was wrong! Bitcoin is now over $30,000! In 2016, he asked if I had bought Bitcoin and went on to tell me about Blockchain and that I should learn about it.  When he told me about Blockchain – I just couldn’t ignore it. I realized that Blockchain if deployed and scaled could help solve some of the global problems of our time like climate change and poverty.  Since realizing the transformative potential of Blockchain for social impact in 2016, I set about to use my experience, networks and influence to envision the world on the power of digital transformation, and to be part of the movement to make it happen at scale.  My focus has been on blockchain emerging economies and social impact.

Being a prominent advocate of blockchain’s potential for social good, can you tell us about some particular advancements in this space that are creating meaningful change? Or any developments on the horizon about which you are optimistic?

For the first time in human history we have the technological tools that will enable us to connect the bottom billion unbanked to the global economy to provide digital identity to stateless people and to direct benefits to the poor and vulnerable. Because blockchains increase efficiency, reduce costs, and promote transparency it has the potential to transform systems and can enable solutions that have previously been thought to be impossible.

There are many social impact use cases being implemented globally including digital identity, remittances, traceability, management, transaction and storage of cash transfers, identity, provenance, voting, supply chain, health care, micro-grid distributed green energy, education and gender equality.  Many of these are in emerging markets, where there is an opportunity to impact on the lives of the disadvantaged by improving economic opportunity and access to services.   There are 70 million displaced people globally and humanitarian settings are an area for tremendous social impact, including remittances, digital identity and digital workforce applications.

Crypto Philanthropy is an increasing trend which offers an alternative to help organizations efficiently receive donations and raise funds.  Some examples include  Little Phil , ensuring direct giving to the beneficiary, reducing costs to not-for-profits and reducing financial leakage, and keeping donations within the giving ecosystem. Impactio aims to bridge the 2.5 trillion-dollar gap in funding necessary to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The Giving Block  provides organizations assistance to enable them to accept charitable donations by cryptocurrency. Binance Charity Foundation uses their custom ‘Binance’ chain to contribute towards eliminating corruption and poor efficiency in the charity sector for  SDGs. Bitpay enables businesses to send and receive cross border payments.  If Blockchain is deployed at scale it can help alleviate many challenges faced by the poor and marginalized.

Covid-19 is exposing the urgent need for more progress in low cost, direct digital transfers.   Blockchain has the potential to be a catalyst for digital financial services as governments need to look to the digitalization of payments and other services to minimize the devastating impact of the crisis on those most vulnerable, as well as to keep its economy afloat.  The positive potential value of Stablecoins is providing opportunity in emerging economies and for populations under threat. Think of people like who are watching the value of their hard-earned savings erode, and citizens of countries like Venezuela and Lebanon watching their currencies nose dive.  Think of how COVID-19 has exposed the urgent need for low cost, direct digital transfers.  Stablecoins carry the potential to facilitate secure and convenient transactions without volatility, at a lower cost than mobile money, held in a wide variety of non-bank wallets.  This is badly needed as global remittances, a critical development finance flow, have fallen during the pandemic due to job losses for migrant workers.

Developing countries are already embracing crypto.  The 10 top countries with users of cryptocurrency globally, include  Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, Venezuela, Colombia, and Vietnam.  Chain analysis also reports a trend of consumers in Latin America, Africa, and East Asia turning to crypto in order to preserve savings they may otherwise lose to economic turbulence. Play-to-earn games opens a whole new and accessible economy in developing countries, with just a mobile phone.  An average player can earn up to 4,500 SLP per month, (about $1,200). People in the Philippines and Vietnam are quitting their day jobs to dedicate themselves to playing Axie.  This is game changing.

You have spent time advocating for blockchain to governments and international institutions. I can’t imagine this has always been an easy process, but have you noticed a shift now that both blockchain and cryptocurrencies are making their way into the mainstream?

In 2017 I encountered a lot of push back from those who believed that the emerging Blockchain technology would fade into obscurity. It came from people in government, industry and the community in general with little understanding of the immense potential of the transformational impact it could have on the world if it was implemented at scale. In 2017 and early 2018, there was emphatic resistance in the traditional development agencies to Blockchain. However, this is changing. Skeptics believed blockchains are overhyped and present with too few use cases to be considered of any practical value. At the midpoint of these opinions are the entrepreneurs, small businesses and non-government organizations quietly establishing successful proof-of-concepts designed to effect socioeconomic change for the poor and marginalized. For, regardless of one’s opinion regarding blockchains’ many limitations, there are hundreds of examples of projects across the world making a difference in developing and developed economies.

The international and blockchain ecosystem communities are increasingly looking at how to use this technology to work towards achieving the SDGs. The UN  published a white paper entitled “The future is decentralized – Blockchains, distributed ledgers, and the future of sustainable development”. An increasing number of startups, non-governmental organizations, cryptocurrency philanthropy funds, and organizations including Unicef  and Red Cross are all working on applications for blockchain technologies to move the dial to achieve the SDGs. While the uptake among governments and donors was slow at first by 2018, we saw the UN, Denmark, Britain, Asian Development Bank, World Bank and USAID showing more than a passing interest in blockchain and its social impact potential.

Building a new decentralized financial system with Stablecoins can fundamentally change how people save and use their assets and money.

  1. Stablecoins have the potential to overcome significant shortcomings and friction in existing cross-border payments which is vital for remittances and reduce the cost of remittances
  2. Stablecoins can promote welfare as countries recover from the catastrophic consequences of the Pandemic, with money distributions, like the stimulus packages currently being distributed to the millions of unemployed during the coronavirus pandemic.
  3.  Stablecoins can positively impact financial inclusion, using electronic money for payments and savings, will allow people to build digital histories, which are so important for access to credit.
  4. Stablecoins can extend cross border trading opportunities for small and micro businesses.
  5.  Commercially issued stablecoins could present an alternative for the unbanked and provide greater stability by giving them access to a store of value, enabling them to save without having to overcome high barriers to entry for banking services.

I find that most of the obstacles are political, or inertia, and the tendency to be stuck within existing thinking models. But we are all agents of impact and for the first time, we have ground-breaking technology that will change the way we think, work and connect.  We need to drive progress to scale.

In what ways do you see blockchain tackling gender inequality and benefiting the lives of women worldwide? Are there any initiatives you’ve undertaken or promoted that inspire women to learn about and get involved with blockchain?

Blockchain and other frontier technology can be a tool to empower poor women and improve social inclusion.  It can connect them to the economy, enable them to access social services, improve their businesses, and can enable women to recapture the digital space through leveraging digital influencers, faith-based groups, politicians and marketing strategies to run targeted advocacy and social media campaigns that amplify the voice of women.  Smart phones can give answers in seconds. Traditional concepts of ownership are changing, assets can be now tokenized. Invest in women and technology, a game changer for anyone who is thinking about transforming women’s lives.  “When women and girls are empowered with technology, the whole world benefits

Another initiative to connect and empower women, from African media innovator Irene Kiwia is TWAA, a knowledge sharing and mentoring platform for women and girls. Her ambition is a world that is inclusive of women and girls’ social, political, economic and cultural participation at all levels. It is an AI platform, which in Beta testing reached 10,000 users in 8 countries over 12 months.  We have to create the enabling environment for women to work in blockchain and tech.

I think that tech generally is an ideal area for women – because it allows them flexible working hours and arrangements.  Blockchain is a rapidly emerging technology with new use cases emerging on a weekly basis – that means opportunity! We need to get over ourselves and stop complaining about male dominated industries and create our own future. If we think less about what others think and more about what we can do, individually and collectively – we will succeed. We need to create new stereotypes for women in tech who are smart, managing awesome tech and managing motherhood.  In some ways, I think the next generation of women will be better off because technology will enable flexible working conditions and even transform child care (self-driving cars and robots will be extremely helpful to mums!).  So their challenge as has been ours, is to believe in themselves, find a passion and follow it, work out how to successfully integrate work and family and get on and achieve their potential. Let’s find our women in tech superstar’s and role models and give them a profile and a voice!

Is there a project or initiative that you’re currently working on that you’re particularly excited about? How can people stay tuned for it?

I am working on a number of exciting projects at the moment with DeFi and stablecoins. One of my favorite projects is working with young game designers to create an educational table board game to teach the broader population about crypto.  It's a fun competitive game about investing and trading in the digital economy using tokens.  Players manage and compete with tokens from each other and exchanges in Bitcoin and Ethereum and use DeFi and NFTs. They randomly access a Community NFT Blackbox of different effects, including influencers, hacks, price rises and falls and even get regulated! The winner is the person who holds the most crypto at the end of the game.  It’s called “Chain Reaction'' watch this space!

Being the thought leader that you are, is there anything 'of the moment' that you would like to share with us?

The Play-to-Earn business model embraces the concept of an open economy and provides financial benefits to all players who add value by contributing to the game world. It’s likely to introduce new game concepts and retention models not yet seen. By participating in the in-game economy, players are creating value for other players and the developers. In turn they are rewarded with in-game assets. These digital assets can be anything ranging from cryptocurrencies to in-game resources that are tokenized on the blockchain. That’s why the play-to-earn business model goes very well together with blockchain games.  The powerful networking effect this tokenization will bring to the financial world, combined with the good incentives of a gamified environment, can create a boom of new businesses and new digital economies, where every citizen in the world with a phone or digital device can participate.

The metaverse is a network of always-on virtual environments in which many people can interact with one another and digital objects, while operating virtual avatars of themselves.  Games have become persistent social platforms.  They are places where people go to pass time, meet friends, and spend money. There are in-game economies, virtual marketplaces, and unique currencies.  Games continue to evolve into persistent online services and virtual worlds for millions of people.  Moving to the METAVERSE economy where play is work and work is play.  Fun is the on-ramp to the virtual world. Games are evolving into persistent social platforms. We will inhabit them and buy, sell, exchange and earn tokens.  “Play to earn” the dawning of a new era.


Thank you so much to Dr. Jane Thomason for sharing such insightful perspectives and valuable information. This correspondence was truly a pleasure and we are so glad to have had Dr. Jane Thomason’s participation! Cheers for now!