Can decentralised finance make poverty history?

  • TWCF Number:


  • Project Duration:

    December 20, 2021 - June 19, 2023

  • Core Funding Area:

    Individual Freedom and Free Markets

  • Region:


  • Amount Awarded:


  • Grant DOI*:

  • *A Grant DOI (digital object identifier) is a unique, open, global, persistent and machine-actionable identifier for a grant.

Director: Chris Berg

Institution: Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology

Decentralized finance (‘DeFi’) technologies, a suite of financial products built on open-source blockchains, offer enormous potential to overcome institutional disadvantages in many developing economies. These technologies are practical tools that provide a substantial opportunity to alleviate poverty and enhance human flourishing.

There are substantial barriers to adopting DeFi in poor communities. These barriers range from a lack of knowledge and understanding of the opportunities to difficulties articulating local needs to technology innovators. This project led by co-directors of the RMIT Blockchain Innovation Hub, Chris Berg, Principal Research Fellow at RMIT and Jason Potts, Distinguished Professor of Economics at RMIT, seeks to understand the barriers to adopting DeFi technology in developing economies and identify the possibilities that DeFi presents for poverty alleviation. DeFi allows individuals and communities open access to financial infrastructure that they may not have had before. This access can offer households and local communities a way to access and use savings as a step toward poverty elimination.

The project will identify barriers to DeFi adoption, and then use that evidence to understand the opportunities DeFi presents for developing economies. Experimental economics methods will be used to conduct randomized control trials in two developing economies, Guatemala and Vietnam, providing participants with differential access and education to see how individuals interact with DeFi technology. Data collected will be analyzed to inform a model simulating the interaction between financial literacy, financial access, and wealth dynamics. Together these methods will provide researchers, policymakers, and innovators with a greater understanding of the barriers and opportunities for DeFi.


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