In the aid sector, innovation is making waves. One example is how the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), mainly created to safeguard children’s rights, is exploring the innovative gateway of blockchain to pioneer cutting-edge ideas and transform the way assistance can be extended to the deprived areas of the world.
Amid the rising hype of Bitcoin, blockchain too has caught the eyes of many, thanks to its wide range of use-cases. Several market players have built business models based on blockchain to elevate the respective industries, be it healthcare or fashion. And thanks to pioneers like UNICEF, the technology is being leveraged far beyond industrial use-cases.
Blockchain in UNICEF immunization
According to a report published by WHO, immunization saves as many as 2-3 million lives every year. UNICEF’s immunization programs are aimed to support the countries in extending the service to deprived children. In doing so, UNICEF has partnered with several NGOs and startups throughout the world.
The issue at hand is that about 19.4 million children under the age of one year do not receive basic vaccines yet. The problem traces back to the lack of administrative data which inhibits the healthcare workers from reaching out to the underprivileged children.
To encourage immunization, UNICEF initiated the #VaccinesWork global campaign during World Immunization Week 2019. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) supported the effort through its donations. Moreover, the foundation, through the 22nd round of the Global Grand Challenges Explorations, funded eight startups. Recipients were recognized for their work in devising innovative models to acquire high-quality and timely data required to enhance immunization coverage. The eight teams will work with the business and technology mentors and UNICEF’s experts to develop models with scalable strategies which can be implemented in 2020, which will mark the last year of the Global Vaccine Action Plan.
David Sarley, Senior Program Officer at the Gates Foundation, said:
“The Grand Challenges Explorations mechanism has been a tremendous engine for identifying and testing innovative ideas. As we look to new approaches to improve immunization coverage and equity, we wanted to see whether additional sprint support from UNICEF could improve the likelihood that our GCE innovations can successfully go to scale.”
More recently, UNICEF, along with the Gates Foundation, assisted five of the aforementioned companies (Gram Vaani’s SnapVaxx, Har Zindagi, Macro-Eyes, Ona, Tupaia) in an initiative called Innovation Sprint Support. The companies participating in the program will spend the coming year developing solutions by combining business and technical aspects to meet UNICEF’s standards and demonstrate sustainability.
According to Forbes, the special innovation team is now exploring ways to transform their model both internally and in the field, using blockchain technology. It uses a blockchain-based platform called Bounties Network to track mentorship between mentors and startups in an efficient and transparent manner. The platform allows real-time tracking of the startups to learn about their operations and track the exchange of value.
UNICEF has also opened up job opportunities for blockchain developers to exploit the benefits of the technology.
— UNICEF Innovation (@UNICEFinnovate) July 26, 2019
Reforming influence through bounties
Earlier this year, UNICEF France joined hands with UNICEF Ventures and Bounties Network to study blockchain bounty prototypes. With a goal to incentivize the creation of digital public goods, UNICEF designed a digital token dubbed Boost token on the Ethereum blockchain. UNICEF took to ETHDenver, the largest gathering of the Ethereum blockchain community, to test the token and engage the community with it, from naming the token to finding a logo for it. Boost tokens were also offered to the individuals who were contributing to the cause on the lines of good deeds and selflessness. The valuation of the bounty rewards were based on the complexity of the tasks performed.
Sneak peek into the future
UNICEF and the Bounties Network are exploring bounties at a broader aspect to resolve tasks which can turn much more challenging over time. In a report, it stated that collaborations with partners to find solutions to complex problems, especially with rewards such as Boost tokens, will help involve more people and boost efficiency. Essentially, it will also help in bridging the gap between the NGO sector and the crypto space. Through these ventures, UNICEF is establishing a pivotal point for organizations to connect with the crypto and blockchain world and enhance their enterprise.
Over the next five years, UNICEF will venture to dumb down supply chain complexities to boost immunization process planning, implementation of the program and vaccination coverage, to offer a dynamic approach to monitoring and performance assessment.
Blockchain to make donations to UNICEF
UNICEF has been a strong advocate of cryptocurrencies in the past. Its inclination towards cryptocurrencies was clearly illustrated when it added nine popular digital currencies to its website donation portal last year, only to walk into 2019 by appending DAI crypto to the list.
In May 2019, UNICEF educated young individuals about the potential of blockchain at the SURGE event hosted at ETHCapeTown. The participants who had no prior knowledge about the technology, by the end of the day were found glued to their computers to further understand its diverse applications and transformational potential.
Brianna MacNeil, RightMesh, said: “After a full day of learning, it was clear that they understood how blockchain technology could play a transformative role in their lives. One of the most amazing moments was the demonstration of how blockchain can enable two people from separate countries to be able to transact directly with one another in seconds.”
The students also described how the traditional system requires them to pay SAR 5-10 (USD 0.35-0.70 USD) for every single action with their bank account, even if it was just to view their account balance. This is a striking divergence from a few cents required to send an Ethereum transaction through the network. This example established a strong reminder of the revolutionizing role technology has played in the financial world while shedding light on future roles.
Last year, UNICEF invested USD 100,000 into six blockchain companies and 20 other startups to leverage technology for the development of transformative solutions to social problems and help bridge the UN Sustainable Development Goals funding gap in innovative ways. Previously, UNICEF also pondered on the potential of blockchain to improve schools in Kyrgyzstan and enhance implementation of Project Connect in the country.
Ibrahim Mahgoub, UNICEF Ventures Technical Support Advisor told Forbes,
Everyone knows how quickly startups grow, and how technology can be used to transform a business. We believe children deserve that same scope of transformation.”
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