Since last year, the United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed cryptocurrency-based food vouchers to more than 100,000 Syrian refugees living in Jordan, bypassing bureaucracy and getting aid to where it’s needed, reports Rightsinfo.
The WFP is just one of an increasing number of global institutions and non-profit organizations and charities adopting DLT in order improve the lives of those either caught up in humanitarian crises or simply in need of support.
Think tank Blockchain For Good, which cites 10 principles on its BC4G website as a company ethos, claim a first principle of “Blockchain is Trust, and trust is at the heart of blockchain“. It is an approach with others that can help to underpin a fairer society, helping with redistribution of wealth, and global human rights and humanitarian issues, and a form of redistributed power for the masses.
Along with IBM, both the UN and the World Food Programme are now proactively using blockchain to record transactions. IBM project manager Kathryn Harrison commented that the company was looking to become involved in projects that can make some social impact, exploring “opportunities to use this technology in areas that we can do some pretty substantial social good”.
Robert Opp, Director of Innovation at WFP, points out that it is this desire for “social good” which is driving the current use of blockchain technology by the organization, adding that:
“Blockchain technology allows us to step up the fight against hunger. Through blockchain, we aim to cut payment costs, better protect beneficiary data, control financial risks, and respond more rapidly in the wake of emergencies… using blockchain can be a qualitative leap, not only for WFP, but for the entire humanitarian community.”
WFP now has many small localized blockchain-based projects in progress around the world, such as providing lunches for Tunisian schoolchildren. Partnering up with startup Devery and the Tunisian government, the NGO has developed a more accountable tracking system for meal deliveries in that country, also delivering training for local workers on the ground.
A private company, London-based Provenance, is currently using DLT to support retailers and producers to trace origins of products and materials, ensuring that their source is entirely reputable and has no attachment to the current scourge of slave labor in some countries. The company claim that it is “working towards an open traceability protocol – that anyone can use to track the provenance of anything from coffee beans to a roll of fabric“.
Such technology offers consumers the opportunity to make wise choices, given the clarity that blockchain provides. Disreputable companies are thus given a greater incentive to change their operations to reflect ethical and humanitarian norms when dealing with their staff and workers on the ground.
A recent project overseen by the Provenance involved the seafood industry in Indonesia, where slave labor was being used to catch tuna. Other similar projects are becoming more common as blockchain’s accountable system of tracking shows its worth to NGOs and private companies globally.
Africa is the most expensive country to send money to, due to money needing to pass through expensive intermediaries such as Western Union. BitPesa, a Bitcoin payment firm, has created a platform to facilitate people working abroad to send money home to their families in sub-Saharan Africa and vice verse, both cheaply and efficiently.
Also due to a partnership with Germany firm Bitbond which uses blockchain for lending, BitPesa now helps small businesses find financing in Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, and Tanzania.