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Blockchain in humanitarian assistance: How promising it is?

Humanitarian actors are harnessing the distributed ledger technology to improve the lives of the bottom billion people around the world.

Renu MehtaRenu Mehta | Devdiscourse | Updated: 11-03-2020 17:07 IST | Created: 11-03-2020 17:07 IST
Blockchain in humanitarian assistance: How promising it is?
Blockchain, the technology associated with cryptocurrencies like bitcoin has opened up new opportunities for industries ranging from banking and finance to healthcare and real estate. Image Credit: Flickr

Today, organizations and businesses around the world are increasingly turning to blockchain, the technology associated with cryptocurrencies like bitcoin that significantly increases transparency by providing real-time data access to all participants across the entire supply chain.

Blockchain is a decentralized, distributed and public digital ledger technology that provides unprecedented levels of transparency at every stage by providing real-time data access to all participants across the entirety of the supply chain. It has opened up new opportunities for industries ranging from banking and finance to healthcare and real estate.

Beyond disrupting businesses, this new technology has far-reaching social implications too. It empowers international aid agencies and foundations by enabling real-time financial transparency and inclusiveness. Humanitarian actors are harnessing the distributed ledger technology to improve the lives of the bottom billion people around the world.

Blockchain technology can be key in humanitarian contexts as it provides a great level of transparency and accountability. Here are a few examples to show how blockchain-based donation platforms are revolutionizing the way humanitarian organizations deliver aid.

Humanity First Token

The Binance Charity Foundation, the philanthropic arm of cryptocurrency exchange Binance and Mercy Corps have designed and issued an impact token called "Humanity First Token" (BHFT) to improve the living conditions of the refugees who fled from South Sudan to Uganda after the 2016 civil war.

According to the information available on its official website, the token is issued on Binance Chain with its value pegged to Uganda Shilling, the fiat currency in Uganda and backed by the bitcoin reserve of Binance Charity. Binance Uganda exchange guarantees the redemption of BHFT into Uganda Shillings.

Refugees receive a certain amount of BHFT directly in their Trust Wallet account and exchange the token for goods at the vendors' who accept crypto for payment. During Market Day, the refugees can buy food, essential items and even solar energy systems with a simple tap on their phone.

In its past projects, Binance Charity Foundation has helped over 100,000 people, and all charity related transactions are shown on the website, proving blockchain's great value in philanthropic use.

In January 2020, Binance Charity launched the Australian Bushfire Donation project to help victims alleviate the impact of this disaster and facilitate the restoration afterward. This project accepts cryptocurrency BNB as a donation and provides 100 percent transparency in the process.

Most recently, Binance Charity announced the conclusion of the second phase of the "Binance for Wuhan" donation project to support the battle against the coronavirus. As of March 9, 2020, it has distributed another 6 batches of medical supplies across 130 hospitals, medical teams, and disease control command centers in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

In all its present and past projects, Binance Charity clings onto the mandate of 100 percent transparency. For every step during the process, the NPO keeps records for public monitoring, in the form of contracts, receipts, signed letters, photos, and even videos.

GiveTrack

GiveTrack is a revolutionary blockchain-based donation platform for global nonprofits to provide transparency and accountability to donors by sharing real-time financial information and direct project results.

Developed by BitGive, a non-profit leveraging Bitcoin and Blockchain technology to fund high environmental and public health impact projects globally, the platform adopts the transparent, immutable, public features of the Bitcoin blockchain to provide a more transparent, public financing option for charitable giving.

For example, BitGive has partnered with the South American Initiative, a US-based non-profit organization that is providing large-scale humanitarian aid in Venezuela to provide food, clothes, shoes, medications, toys and clean drinking water to Venezuelan orphans. It also provides support to animal shelters and quality food, medicine for vulnerable adults and children in hospitals across Venezuela. Fundraising for the program will end in April 2020.

Now using GiveTrack, the charity give donors the ability to trace transactions on a public platform in real-time. Donations made in bitcoin are displayed on the Bitcoin blockchain while expenses in fiat are logged manually by the charity. Project results are tied into GiveTrack through a reporting mechanism that provides notification of project milestones and written updates from the charity's representatives in the field. Donors can log back on to GiveTrack to see photos, written updates, and sometimes videos of the completed project.

Building Blocks

Building Blocks is a project of the World Food Program that uses a private, permissioned blockchain and UN High Commissioner for Refugees' biometric identity management system. It facilitates cash transfers while protecting beneficiary data, controlling financial risks, and allowing for greater collaboration.

The UN agency is using blockchain to deliver food assistance more effectively to 106,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan. Cash value from WFP or other partners is stored in a beneficiary virtual bank account maintained on the blockchain, but the cash that beneficiaries receive or spend on goods and services is paid to the beneficiaries or to the retailers through a commercial financial service provider.

In January 2017, the WFP pilot tested the early-stage project in Pakistan's Sindh province to test the capabilities of using blockchain for authenticating, recording, and reconciling cash and food assistance transactions. Now, WFP is looking to expand the blockchains' application beyond just money transfers in areas like supply chain tracing and digital identity management.

Disberse

Disberse is a fund management and distribution platform built on the distributed ledger technology. The platform enables donors and aid organizations to send and receive funds around the world more efficiently, and to track those funds through the entire funding chain from initial donor to the final recipient.

The platform has partnered with several organizations to plan and implement pilots and projects across Europe and East Africa including the Star Network. Disberse has been successfully piloted in a development project involving Positive Women, a UK-based international development charity. Using this platform, the charity was able to reduce its transfer fees and trace the flow of funds down the chain to a project in Swaziland, resulting in zero losses at the points of delivery and allowing it to fund an additional three students' fees for a year.

Disberse has received the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) authorization in the United Kingdom as a small electronic money institution.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are the personal views of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Devdiscourse and Devdiscourse does not claim any responsibility for the same.)


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