“I don’t want to invite men into my conversations. It’s not up to me to carry that burden as well. It’s up to men to show up and join the conversation.” By the tone of this quote, one would think that this was said at a feminist rally advocating for men to show up and do better. Particularly in the United States where the #MeToo movement has given women a safe space to have a voice but is being met with resistance at a political level, that is both unsurprising and deeply horrifying. But this rousing feminist cry was actually said by Hera Hussain of Open Contracting Partnership at an international conference on open data. So why was Hussain making such a hard-hitting feminist statement at a data conference? Open and accessible data can help us identify gaps in gender equity and create the evidence-base for better policies in anything that you could imagine from literacy rates to video game users. But one area where open data is poised to make a huge impact is in government contracting. Governments spend one fifth of their budgets on procuring services and goods from the private sector, but women-led businesses only supply 1 percent of this market. This means the market is missing the innovation, creativity and most importantly, the perspective of women-led businesses. Data allows us to see women. That might seem like an odd statement. We see women every day. They make up about half of our global population. But if women aren’t counted and aren’t accounted for in the data, then policy recommendations will be made without women’s consideration. This is particularly true in government contracting, an estimated US$9.5 trillion industry. Open data can foster radical systematic change. First, the industry needs to collect, publish, and monitor gender disaggregated data especially in areas such as procurement to promote women led businesses. Governments can mitigate gender gaps in procurement by diversifying supply chains and contracting with small to medium enterprises and women led businesses. Many believe there is no bias in government contracting but having the data to prove this bias can be powerful in creating systemic change. Lack of clarity over opportunities can be a serious hindrance to entry into the public sector for most businesses. This can be even worse for women-run businesses where other structural inequalities can exacerbate existing barriers to entry. Second, the industry needs to do more with women-led business. Women should have an equal shot at doing business with the government and contributing to the public sector. By procuring more with women-led businesses through public policy reforms and open contracting data insights, governments and state-owned enterprises can tackle market bias proactively by encouraging the private sector to do the same. Many countries such as the Dominican Republic, Korea, Indonesia, South Africa, and the United States have brought in policies to limit competition in government procurement in favor of targeting women-owned businesses. In the United States, 5% of federal contracts are planned to go to eligible women-owned small business to boost women’s presence in male dominated fields. In 2013, a survey of women business owner contractors found that “fully 61% find the program useful, including 28% who find it very or extremely useful. With this playing field-leveling policy, more and more women are finding federal procurement success.” Similarly in Albania, women-led businesses only account for 5% of tenders and yet have a significantly higher procurement efficiency rate. Since January 2014, Korea has also designated a 5% target for women-led contractors alongside simplification of contracting procedures, which is delivering favorable results. We know women are under-represented in data. Not only do the numbers show us that women are not participating in society at the same rate as men, they are often left out of data considerations in the first place. Even the way that that data is collected shows a gender gap. Globally, only 29% of researchers are women. But there are solutions and the government contracting world is ready and able to turn the tide for gender equity. Inequality affects every aspect of our lives and access to usable, open data helps us quantify these inequalities so that problems can be addressed.

But it’s difficult to think about value when we have no buoy for understanding it outside our traditional lenses: for example, our time, our job, and what others tell us they are worth in cash. This, largely, is the world’s paradigm for value so far. But understanding what value really means changes everything—and will be at the center of the decentralized revolution in global coordination that will unfold over the next decade. So, where do we begin?

Let’s start with gold.

Gold is an inherent value. When backing a market, gold allows us to grow a balanced economy well into the trillions. But why does it allow for massive stable markets to form around it? It is gold's permanence that creates stability. We understand that gold will always have value, because it is inherent in all of us, not just in one part of the world, but everywhere, not just today, but tomorrow and for the long haul.

In the 1930s when the gold standard was removed, we learned that the U.S. dollar didn’t need gold to back its economy to flourish. We learned that it was just a symbol for U.S. citizens to decentralize their coordination around the United States economy.

It turns out, common agreement is a philosophy for building shared economy.

And so it seems inherent value is a marker for us to begin exploring what the future could look like—a future beyond gold and the existing realm of credit. And so what else has inherent value? Is education as valuable as gold? What about healthcare? What about a vote that can’t be tampered with? What about an ID that can’t be stolen or erased? What about access to nutrition or clean water? You will find value everywhere you look.

It turns out, we’ve already done the legwork necessary to uncover the most elemental inherent values: The Sustainable Development Goals are commitments grown out of the drive to bring to life basic tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—the closest possible social contract we have to a global, common agreement.

We’ve already agreed, as a global community, to ensure inclusive and equitable access to quality education. We’ve already agreed to empower all women and girls, to ensure pure and clean water access for all, to promote health at all stages of life, and to end hunger.

We’ve already agreed.

Our agreements are grounded in deep value centers that are globally shared, but undervalued and unfulfilled. The reason for this is our inability to quantify intangible value. All of these rich, inherent values are still nebulous and fragmented in implementation—largely existing as ideals and blueprints for deep, globally shared common agreement. That is, we all agree education, health, and equality have value, but we lack common units for understanding who and who is not contributing value—leaving us to fumble in our own, uncoordinated siloes as we chase the phantoms of impact. In essence, we lack common currencies for our common agreements.

Now we find ourselves at the nexus of the real paradigm of Blockchain, allowing us to fuse economics with inherent value by proving the participation of some great human effort, then quantifying the impact of that effort in unforgeable and decentralized ledgers. It allows us to build economic models for tomorrow, that create wholly new markets and economies for and around each of the richest of human endeavors.

In late 2017 at the height of the Bitcoin bubble, without individual coordination, planning, or the help of institutions, almost $1 trillion was infused into blockchain markets. This is remarkable, and the revolution has only just begun. When you realize that Blockchain is in a similar stage of development as the internet pre-AOL, you will see a glimpse of the global transformation to come.

Only twice in the information age have we had such a paradigm shift in global infrastructure reform—the computer and the internet. While the computer taught us how to store and process data, the Internet built off that ability and furthered the conversation by teaching us how to transfer that information. Blockchain takes another massive step forward—it builds off the internet, adding to the story of information storage and transfer—but, it teaches us a new, priceless and not yet understood skill: how to transfer value.

This third wave kicked off with a rough start—as happens with the birth of new technologies and their corresponding liberties. Blockchain has, thus far, been totally unregulated. Many, doubtless, have taken advantage. A young child, stretching their arms for the first couple times might knock over a cookie jar or two. Eventually, however, they learn to use their faculties—for evil or for good. As such, while it’s wise to be skeptical at this phase in blockchain’s evolution, it’s important not to be blind to its remarkable implications in a post-regulated world, so that we may wield its faculties like a surgeon’s scalpel—not for evil or snake-oil sales, but for the creation of more good, for the flourishing of commonwealth.

But what of the volatility in blockchain markets? People agree Bitcoin has value, but they don’t understand why they are in agreement, and so cryptomarkets fluctuate violently.  Stable blockchain economies will require new symbolic gold standards that clearly articulate why someone would agree to support each market, to anchor common agreement with stability. The more globally shared these new value standards, the better.

Is education more valuable than gold? What about healthcare or nutrition or clean water?

We set out in 2018 to prove a hypothesis—we believe that if you back a cryptocurrency economy with a globally agreed upon inherent value like education, you can solve for volatility and stabilize a mature long lasting cryptomarket that awards everyone who adds value to that market in a decentralized way without the friction of individual partnerships.

What if education was a new gold standard?

And what if this new Learning Economy had protocols to award everyone who is helping to steward the growth of global education?

Education is a mountain. Everyone takes a different path to the top. Blockchain allows us to measure all of those unique learning pathways, online and in classrooms, into immutable blockchain Learning Ledgers.

By quantifying the true value of education, a whole economy can be built around it to pay students to learn, educators to create substantive courses, and stewards to help the Learning Economy grow. It was designed to provide a decentralized way for everyone adding value to global education to coordinate around the commonwealth without the friction of individual partnerships. Imagine the same for healthcare, nutrition, and our environment?

Imagine a world where we can pay refugees to learn languages as they find themselves in foreign lands, a world where we can pay those laid off by the tide of automation to retrain themselves for the new economy, a world where we can pay the next generation to prepare themselves for the unsolved problems of tomorrow.

Imagine new commonwealth economies that alleviate the global burdens of poverty, disease, hunger, inequality, ignorance, toxic water, and joblessness. Commonwealths that orbit inherent values, upheld by immutable blockchain protocols that reward anyone in the ecosystem stewarding the economy—whether that means feeding the hungry, providing aid for the global poor, delivering mosquito nets in malaria-ridden areas, or developing transformative technologies that can provide a Harvard-class education to anyone in the world willing to learn.

These worlds are not out of reach—we are only now opening our eyes to the horizons of blockchain, decentralized coordination, and new gold standards. Even though coordination is the last of the seventeen sustainable development goals, when solved, its tide will lift for the rest—a much-needed rocket fuel for global prosperity.

“Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair.”  —George Washington
Coby Jones
Coby Jones is a Diplomatic Courier contributor focused on gender justice and equality.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.