PublicationsThe U4 Blog

U4 Issue

Blockchain as an anti-corruption tool

Case examples and introduction to the technology

The technology behind bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies was supposed to end poverty, eliminate corruption, and provide financial inclusion for all. The very financial institutions it was created to exclude are adopting the technology to increase transactions’ security and reduce costs. Its degree of success is more contextual than related to the technology itself.

31 March 2020
Download PDFRead short version
Blockchain as an anti-corruption tool

Main points

  • Blockchain has the potential to be a game changer in anti-corruption efforts. Whether it is successful or not largely depends on contextual elements – infrastructures, legal systems, social or political settings – rather than on the technology itself.
  • Implementation of blockchain technologies in governance affects fundamental aspects of society, such as trust in institutions, identity, transparency, and data and privacy protection.
  • A blockchain is designed to operate in environments where trust in data/code is greater than trust in individuals or institutions.
  • Records entered in the blockchain are transparent and immutable. Because of these features, there may be conflicts with individual rights such as the right to privacy or the right to be forgotten, as described in the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
  • When blockchains hold registries of physical items, trusted gatekeepers have to ensure that the physical reality and digital information correspond.
  • Digital infrastructure, governing regulations, and digital literacy should be in place before blockchain-enabled registries are rolled out, particularly in developing countries.
  • Decision makers should have an understanding of the technology before deciding on whether or not it is appropriate.

Cite this publication

Aarvik, P.; (2020) Blockchain as an anti-corruption tool. Bergen: U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Chr. Michelsen Institute (U4 Issue 2020:7)

Download PDFRead short version

About the author

Per Aarvik

Per is an independent writer on applied digital technology for humanitarianism, development, governance and anti-corruption. Social media data, satellite imagery, geographical information systems, and applied artificial intelligence are among his interests. He holds a Master's degree in Democracy Building from the Department of Comparative Politics, University of Bergen, Norway. His thesis focused on the potential of crowdsourced civil society election monitoring as a tool to combat election fraud. His background is from journalism, advertising, and higher design education – as a practitioner, educator, and in managerial roles. In recent years, he has led digital humanitarian work during disasters and in democracy projects.


All views in this text are the author(s)’, and may differ from the U4 partner agencies’ policies.

This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International licence (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)