the changing face of the blockchain

Blockchain continues to occupy an unusual place in contemporary technology, with concepts such as “decentralization”, “transparency” and “immutability” continuing to alternate between a purely technical and an openly politicized meaning.

Certain blockchain proponents – at least those still anchored in the libertarian ethos that survived the technology’s roots in the Cypherpunk movement – continue to question the technology’s implementation for projects like government defense contracts, as well as its wider adoption into traditional financial banking systems was originally designed to get around.

Earlier this week, Cointelegraph reached out to several Fantom Foundation executives to reflect on the decisions and approaches of blockchain companies operating in government and institutional contexts that raise fundamental questions about the status of blockchain from a sociopolitical perspective.

Fantom recently announced a new public-private partnership with Tajiki’s Ministry of Industry for New Technologies to introduce a range of blockchain-based solutions across its IT infrastructure. The partnership is part of Fantom’s broader business strategy in Central and South Asia.

With regard to the incumbent Tajik government, citizens have long drawn attention to the abuses of the dictatorial regime of President Rahmon, which emerged from a brutal civil war after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the mid-1990s. The state media monopoly, the systematic suppression of political disagreements and the ban on the main opposition party, as well as the lack of civil and democratic freedoms, have forced many Tajiks to seek political asylum abroad.

Speaking to Cointelegraph, Barek Sekandari, Fantom’s Chief Government Relations Officer, said that Fantom’s decision to partner with different regimes despite its policies was based on the company’s priority to provide the populations of countries in underdeveloped economies with the same level of technological modernization as in all other countries there is the global north.

Sekandari argued that for Fantom:

“Our goal is not to help these so-called regimes or whatever to be more repressive […] Our goal is to solve […] real problems […] There are many people who suffer from the state financial and health systems, supply chain management, education system, and paper money system. These are the problems that the general public faces on a daily basis. It is not the government as a whole, if you put it that way. “

As mentioned earlier, there are many blockchain companies that are choosing, for example, to enter into contracts with federal military authorities in the core of the global north, the United States, where innovative technologies are already widespread and widely available.

Sekandari also emphasized that Fantom not only works with the Tajik Ministry, but also coordinates its work with international organizations in the region, such as the Asian Development Bank and the United Nations.

Fantom’s previous engagements in Central Asia and South Asia also included signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Pakistan’s Punjab Prison Department to formalize the start of blockchain-based software implementations.

As in Tajikistan, Fantom’s decision to work with the authorities is difficult: Led by Imran Khan since 2018, the government has been criticized for its brutal repression of grassroots movements among students, farmers and teachers against the austerity measures of a 2019 IMF loan on condition a structural adjustment program.

When asked by Cointelegraph about Fantom’s decision to partner with the Pakistani state’s prison system management, Samuel Harcourt, Director of Asia Operations at Fantom, replied that improving transparency and data integrity, regardless of the institutional context, remains an important matter.

As part of another project in the region, Fantom continues to work with the Afghan Ministry of Health, including work on a blockchain-based product to prevent the spread of counterfeit medicines. Michael Kong, CEO of Fantom, told Cointelegraph that this is where the benefits of a blockchain system become particularly apparent, given that 40% of medicines in Afghanistan are counterfeit and therefore most citizens cannot trust the quality of their procurement from local pharmacies.