In the past decade, cryptocurrencies and blockchains have become increasingly significant in terms of technological innovation and potential socio-economic impact. However, due to the manner in which blockchain-based technologies operate, they run the risk of reproducing existing inequalities. The inequality in question here is that surrounding digital divide
- the uneven distribution and development of information and communication technologies (ICT) from local areas to global communities -
and the global distribution of Bitcoin mining
- a labor task facilitated by humans and machines in order to extract cryptocurrency rewards -
Bitcoin mining is truly a global phenomena.
As we can see using data from Bitnodes, the distribution of miners around the world is highly concentrated in North America and Europe. These are parts of the world in which ICT infrastructure was first developed and most frequently updated with the most modern hardware and software techniques.
This is largely due to how the Internet and its infrastructure was originally deployed.
Many of the major points of access are located along the coast of North America and Europe as a result of early deployments and adoption of infrastructure that now constitutes the Internet.
For example, the deployment of submarine cables as seen here was and is extremely expensive.
The nations and corporations that have funded the development of this infrastructure optimized connectivity from themselves to other wealthy areas of the world that were looking to “shrink” communications distance.
This means that citizens in these areas are optimally situated to enter, compete, and benefit from new blockchain-based technologies.
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One of the primary points of contention with new technologies is the matter of who has access to them.
Despite the distributed nature of blockchain technologies, access remains an issue as those best located near existing ICT infrastructure are those who will ultimately benefit from their use.
Much has yet to be done in terms of design, scalability, and latency if blockchain technologies are to be considered revolutionary for everyone.