REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Leveraging cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology to enable anyone with a mobile device to earn a living wage is rapidly becoming a reality. In order to take full advantage of a new blockchain-enabled economy, the technology needs to provide career opportunities for a global remote workforce and facilitate economic mobility for millions of unbanked workers.

The rich-poor gap has significantly increased since 1980, with the top 1% enjoying twice as much global income growth as the bottom 50%. The statistics are astounding, and it's not difficult to imagine the impact this has on quality of life and access to opportunities. Poverty comes in many forms. It's not having job security or insurance; it's living paycheck to paycheck; having little or no access to financial services, or access that is predatory or exclusionary; it's not being able to invest in education, pay unexpected expenses, to save and invest, or retire, to name a few.

Already there has been some promising conversation in the blockchain community about the technology's applications for tackling economic exclusion. In addition to our work at StormX, there are several other exciting projects on the horizon that are confronting inequality from different angles, including Kora, Moeda, and the Root Project.

It is simply unacceptable that around half of the world's household wealth is in the hands of the richest 1% of adults. One area that is particularly promising is blockchain-based mobile earning opportunities for unemployed or underemployed people in remote areas and in developing regions. Coupled with the growing rates of mobile use and ownership in developing countries, the role of blockchain-enabled job postings and fulfilment could play a real role in addressing growing economic inequality. To consider just one example, recent figures show that cell phones are as common in Nigeria as they are in the United States. The technology is readily available, and now it's time to use it to its full potential.

Currently, the StormX mobile app (Storm Play) allows anyone, anywhere to earn in cryptocurrency by trying out new products, services, games and other apps, and then invest or exchange their earnings as they see fit. For example, users can download the Uber app through the StormX platform, be rewarded in STORM Tokens, bitcoin, or Ethereum, and then exchange their cryptocurrency for other types of coins, or fiat currencies, like the pound sterling or US Dollar. Already, this has proved popular in developing countries around the world — even in the most remote areas.

As the digital divide decreases, there is also a new gig economy emerging that is set to surpass traditional freelance work. Today, the reality of freelancing is often high transaction fees, high operating fees, murky payday timings, fierce competition, and natural favoritism towards those with the best access to opportunities — which tends to exclude lower socioeconomic groups. High fees and continued exclusion hit poor communities the hardest. However, blockchain technology is well-placed to overtake traditional freelancing. Blockchain allows for immediate payment for tasks completed, a transparent history of how and when the task was completed, and almost non-existent service fees due to low operational costs. This means freelancers can earn much more, and in real-time.

StormX is currently expanding its platform so that people can also earn from more skilled work, like writing blog posts, editing videos, QA testing, translating content, or programming websites — and letting them get paid instantly via the app. The best part is, many of these skills can be self-taught. In many developing areas, infrastrastructure may be lacking, but technology is immediately available, and a youth-driven demographic is welcoming blockchain with open arms. Blockchain-enabled mobile earning could mean people in lower socioeconomic groups are no longer left out of the traditional freelance earning equation.

The growing trend of Token Generation Events (TGEs) to develop and support blockchain-based social impact projects is one that I hope will continue to mature. In December 2017, the StormX TGE successfully ended with more than $32 million USD contributed, which has enabled us to dramatically expand our platform and our team in just two short months. The team is steadfastly focused on improving the economic health of users around the world, and providing real paths out of poverty to help improve the livelihood of millions of unemployed or underemployed workers.

As a community, we need to be realistic. Even though it can be difficult not to get carried away about what a new technology this disruptive can achieve, there is no silver bullet for economic development. However, there is an undeniably bright future for blockchain technology to improve people's lives. We're already on the right track to leverage blockchain so that it can significantly influence global human rights enjoyment — especially the right to equality, the right to an adequate standard of living, and the right to life and personal security.

Simon Yu is CEO of StormX, Inc