What I consider to be some of the most exciting news coming out of the Kimberley Process since its inception (and one that the UAE deserves significant credit for), is the proposal that the certificate issuance process could be reborn in a more secure means through Blockchain technology.

The KP Chair’s office in collaboration with the UAE KP office discovered that Blockchain could be immensely important to the future of the Kimberley Process, and help to eradicate false KP certicates and reduce the impact of human error while uploading data signicantly.

I personally think this is such a good idea, that I called for it in December, 2015:

… and wrote an alpha version of proposed software on the Ethereum blockchain to accomplish such a thing in April of 2016: (Github)

There are many well-known complaints of the KPCS, but the process certificate issuance and integrity is easily the most addressable one and it’s incredible to see the UAE taking the effort to address the important issue. There really is little excuse for fake, forgeable, smuggle-able paper certificates as it regards to securing such an expensive good.

Limits, and The Reality on the Ground

A few months ago, I had a great lunch with my friend Rob Bates (insightful as ever), in which he quite easily parried my excitement with a reminder of what happens when the rubber hits the road: “So, every shipment would be accompanied by … a bar code? A QR code for its address on the blockchain?”

And here is where Silicon Valley hype and excitement often dies:

  • What if a KPCS officer doesn’t do his due diligence and waves a shipment through without looking up the certificate’s validity on the blockchain or that the shipment matches the data on the certificate?
  • What to do in geographic areas where internet connectivity is non-existent?
  • If an importing/exporting party becomes suspended, under what conditions do they get re-admitted to the process? Who/what controls that parties really are who they say they are? How is the integrity of KPCS officials controlled?
  • Is the KP going to consider amending their certificate issuance rules so that expiration dates become significantly less generous, sidelining the problem of certificate reuse?
  • Would the KP consider making notification of receipt of the shipment mandatory? (it’s currently not)
  • What would Blockchain do to increase rough buyers’ confidence in the system in general?