Dr. Jane Thomason

Frontier Technology Social Impact Thought Leader - Entrepreneur

Frontier Technology, Social Impact, Thought Leader, Entrepreneur

Jane comes from a very interesting background. International development in emerging economies and transitioning from that role into blockchain thought leader, was a fascinating story to hear. Jane’s main concern was trying to understand the problems people are facing in emerging economies and how technology can be used to address them.

Exclusive interview

Jane comes from a very interesting background. International development in emerging economies and transitioning from that role into blockchain thought leader, was a fascinating story to hear. Jane’s main concern was trying to understand the problems people are facing in emerging economies and how technology can be used to address them.

The first time she was exposed to the blockchain was in 2010 when her son told her about the digital currency called Bitcoin and suggested she buy it. The price back then was just 10 cents, so Jane did not pay much attention to it at the time and decided to pass. However, after three years she had another conversation with her son about the subject of Bitcoin, and by then her perspective had completely changed.

“Hey, mom you remember I told you to buy Bitcoin, it costs $3000 now. You did not listen to me before, now you have to listen to me. You need to know about the blockchain, this is what Bitcoin is built on and this is going to change everything and you need to understand it.”

After the conversation with her son, she decided to look into it and try to understand how the blockchain works. Back then it was just a curiosity that was driving her to know more.

The real epiphany happened, when she was thinking about the devastating tsunami in Indonesia where 200,000 people were lost, where she previously worked on the reconstruction. What made things worse was that all the identities, ban records, land and health records were destroyed, which made the recovery process, that much harder.

“ I suddenly thought, if all of this had actually been recorded on the blockchain, it would not have prevented the loss of human life, but it would have really made the reconstruction much easier, better and faster, and we would have known who was who.”

Jane saw how relevant blockchain was for the problems she had been working on for decades in developing countries. At that point, she decided to purposefully gain a deeper understanding of this technology and how she could apply it to better tackle those issues of the poor and vulnerable in emerging economies.

2017 was the year when Jane went to her first ever blockchain conference, the London Blockchain Week. With the Central Bank of Papua New Guinea, Jane sponsored the Hackathon on Financial Inclusion and worked with innovators over the weekend to see how blockchain might solve financial inclusion problems in Papua New Guinea. She recalls the event being very productive for her, she spoke to a lot of people, including developers, about the problems in developing countries, and how they could utilize the technology to benefit the development of emerging economies and infrastructure. The event basically gave her the confidence to really get involved in the blockchain and help shape people’s thinking about Blockchain and social impact.

She started talking about the blockchain opportunities on different events and occasions, she has helped several startups working in developing countries, and basically set on her journey as a thought leader.

Dr. Jane Thomason

Before setting on her blockchain journey, which initially led her to found a company called Blockchain Quantum Impact, Jane was involved in the international development company, founded by herself also, which was sold to an Abt Associates.

“So I was CEO of Asia Pacific region for a company called JTA international, they wanted me to stay on and grow the business in the Asia Pacific, so I committed to staying on for 4 years and growing their business in the region. However, once I started working on the blockchain, I said I needed to resign; I have done my part. So I am off on my blockchain journey, and I resigned as CEO last March.”

After resignation, Jane has focussed her efforts and attention on Quantum Blockchain Impact. She recalls setting up the company as a way to get out there and see where her efforts could be best spent. Since then she has worked with some startups, a book about blockchain and social impact, which includes a number of case studies, from startups working in developing countries, from Asia, Africa, and South America.

She is also working on plans for a distributed think tank, not just an advisory service, addressing the lack of high-quality, credible information on blockchain in social impact space. Jane spoke about the current state of blockchain conferences, where everything is really hyped up and tokenized. The community does not pay much attention to social impact and how we can utilize blockchain to tackle the issues in this field.

One of the subjects Jane is looking into and is actively involved in is women and children's health.

“I have been working with the Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health which is the biggest connected partnership of organizations today working in women’s and children's health. I hope to continue to work with the digital transformation strategy and how they can use digital technology to prevent deaths in women and children, that did not need to happen in the first place. I think it would be really productive if we can make it work, there is so much potential in something like women and children's health.”

The fact that Jane worked on a lot of projects and startups from developing countries, made it interesting to hear her thoughts about the important aspects of a blockchain project. First, she mentioned the importance of a good team and a business model. There are a lot of good projects out there, but if it is not scalable, it will most likely fail. However, her second point, concerning an identity was very interesting and refers to a much larger problem within the space.

Blockchain-based identity nowadays is a very crowded space with a lot of projects working around this field, but the group of people, who could benefit from this technology, do not have much access to it since almost all of this technology is based on smartphones. But people at the bottom of the pyramid, do not have smartphones, some of them do not even have electricity. According to Jane, in order for us to really make a difference for those people, we need to think of a solution, that will be compatible to their limited resources, based on 2G mobile phones, with no dependence on the internet, or electricity; this is where Jane’s focus is.

“One of the projects I am working with is a device that is using biometric technology, to take a hash of the fingerprint on to a blockchain, with the 2G mobile phone and no internet and no electricity, just with a solar panel. It is very interesting.”

Jane also mentioned another interesting point, that the innovations that are going to solve the problems of the developing countries, will come from within. She says that western innovators will struggle to solve real problems in emerging economies.

“If you want to solve a problem of the poorest people in the world, you can not do it from New York with a smartphone.”

She also mentioned the hackathon she did in Nigeria, and how excited she was from the interest, level of engagement of the Nigerian tech community. She saw how they live and breathe with the problems that exist there, thus have a greater incentive to work on a solution.

“I think we are going to see a lot of innovation coming out of the emerging economies, so we need to work to encourage, facilitate and enable this process because they are going to be the ones, who really understand their problems, not us.”

Reading all this, I am sure it is clear by now, that if it is the social impact you are interested in, you definitely need to listen to Jane Thomason. Below, you will see the list of future events she will be speaking at.

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Bali
October 9, 2018 | Bali