BanQu - Information Governance Perspectives

Using Blockchain for the Common Good – An Interview with Ashish Gadnis of BanQu

Sixth in a series of in-depth interviews with innovators and leaders in the fields of Risk, Compliance and Information Governance across the globe.


Information Governance Perspectives - Ashis Gadnis of BanQu discusses Blockchain

Ashish Gadnis is CEO of BanQu, Inc. and a recognized thought leader in the blockchain community. He chairs the Financial Inclusion Working Committee for the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance and travels the world explaining how this revolutionary new technology is transforming the way we think about supply chain economics. He holds an MBA from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management and graduated from the Global Leadership and Public Policy program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. I spoke with him this July about blockchain, business administration and professional development.

Ashish, you recently spoke at the MER conference where the theme was “Records for Humanity,” how data governance impacts the human condition. And your company, BanQu, offers a unique solution to the challenge of extreme poverty by leveraging blockchain. With BanQu, people ensure their economic identity with an immutable record of their transactions in a system benefiting the entire supply chain. But how exactly do you, your clients and big brands set about prioritizing and realizing these goals?

Over the last two and a half years we’ve realized that 2.7 billion people, that includes refugees displaced and those in extreme poverty zones, participate in some sort of a supply chain. That can mean you’re the poorest farmer in Congo growing coffee, cacao or shea butter, you know, the ingredients that go into cosmetics, and your contributions show up in brands like eight dollar lattes and expensive body lotions. And in examining this, we realized that that current models for getting people out of poverty have failed. Those models have failed because they look at the ability to help people out of poverty separate from enabling people in poverty to participate in the supply chain. And so we actually took the other route. And nobody had ever done it. We said, “What if the people who are absolutely in that last mile, if they get to equally participate?” Then the value for the brand is suddenly more relevant.

Let’s use a simple example. If you’re buying cacao in Ghana and you’re a large chocolate company, there’s a good chance today that your last mile farmers are extremely poor and also invisible. No matter much traceability, transparency or fair trade you implement, until and unless that farmer can participate in his data, to know for example “I’m selling 40 kilos every other week to this big brand,” then that farmer will continue to live in poverty. And this is kind of a long answer, but the detail is important because that poor farmer today has everything stacked against him or her, especially if conditions are so rough. I was just in Zambia a week and a half ago and I saw firsthand some of this problem, which was that women farmers have to borrow at a higher price point.

Women farmers are always at the short end of the stick because they’re not allowed in many cases to prove their history. So what happens if you happen to be selling 40 kilos upstream and there are seven middlemen… after I sell my coffee… somebody picks it up, then brings it to somebody else, the next one goes to the warehouse and eventually you’ve lost the ability to track. And while the internet has come to people in poverty it hasn’t pulled people out of extreme poverty permanently. There’s mobile money, there’s big data, AI, etc., but none of those models actually have ever allowed that mother, that farmer, to participate equally.

BanQu helps farmers in eight countries ensure their identity through blockchain

When I say participate equally, it’s very basic. To me participate equally means that one, she has a physical (stored digitally) copy of that transaction that nobody can ever steal or manipulate. Two, she has the ability to prove her transaction history which legitimizes her existence in that supply chain. And three, it allows her to now leverage that data in a way that reduces her cost of borrowing. It allows her to be portable. That’s how we decided to look at blockchain and nobody in the world has ever done this. People keep talking about how they’re going to use blockchain for good and we’re the only ones doing it everyday, taking a commercial approach while being simultaneously deeply purpose driven. We started a for profit, for purpose software company and now the largest brands are coming to us because it solves two sides of the problem for them. One side is that the supply chain now becomes more cost effective and efficient. They get better visibility into the supply chain in terms of quality, market access and forecasting which enables an ecosystem for crop insurance, climate protection, education. And the other side of the coin is now they can start addressing issues like gender equality, labor rights and other important issues.

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Directing The Flow Of Information – Interview with Jones Lukose of The International Criminal Court

Second in a series of interviews with leaders in the fields of Risk, Compliance and Information Governance across the globe.


Jones LukoseJones Lukose, MBA, PhD is the Information Management Officer for the Criminal Court in the Hague and has over twenty years of experience developing and implementing strategies to achieve operational effectiveness and regulatory compliance for engineering firms, in energy and utilities sectors as well as for international and judicial organizations in Africa, Europe and the Americas. I interviewed him this past February to learn more about his unique insights into information management fundamentals and our future.

Jones, your work and research has taken you to many corners of the world including Kenya, Rwanda, Botswana, Jamaica, Uganda, the UK and now the Netherlands. It’s there you presently direct an important Information Governance program for the International Criminal Court.

What do you consider the most common theme in the information management challenges you’ve faced across so many unique cultures and how has that experience shaped how you think about solutions for international organizations?

I have worked in organisations where data is everywhere but the common challenge has been that it seems no one is directing its flow. There is a lot of evidence of information collected and stored that does not fit with the organisation’s strategy. The organisation may say that it is going in a particular direction but the data it holds does not provide the required evidence or proof.  My experience in this regard has led me to reconsider my role in the organisation as an Information Manager. In such environments, it is my first priority to help determine the real purpose and value of data to the organisation. In other words lend a hand in crafting the strategy of the organisation by leveraging information management.

How can we, as information management practitioners, as data stewards, effectuate best practices in our workplace in the face of constant, sometimes paradigm shifting changes in technology?

We now live in a world where small sets of information can alter the economies of the most powerful organisation and states on the planet. It is a world, where small streams of sensitive information can digitally leak and cause violent reactions from people living far and beyond the source. Tiny words or images transported via exotic technology can lead to wide-spread panic across whole populations even wars. A world where information is fragmented infinitely raising an infinite number of world views and identities. It is a world where the same information is interpreted differently in space and time. It is a world where information is presented in constant flux with the only constant being surprise.

Whatever your personal convictions, I challenge you to consider that we need a new way of looking at information management. It won’t help to retreat to our old maps and models because the more frustrated we become. We need new information management techniques to navigate the chaos, filter the wrong and point us to the significant. The new information manager will thrive and even love to embrace the chaos of information by applying new lenses and insights. He or she should be ready to be inspired to experiment and try out new ideas and solutions.

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