Can blockchain disrupt the aid industry?

Blockchain is an emerging technology which have received great attention in the humanitarian and development sector over the last year. NOREPS has been a pioneer in financing blockchain projects and was invited by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to share experiences and recommendations last week. What is blockchain and what are the possibilities and challenges in using this technology in humanitarian aid and development?

Elisabeth Fosseli Olsen, head of humanitarian innovation at NOREPS was present under the launch of the report and shared experiences on NOREPS' engagement in blockchain innovation projects.

Elisabeth Fosseli Olsen, head of humanitarian innovation at NOREPS was present under the launch of the report and shared experiences on NOREPS' engagement in blockchain innovation projects.

Foto: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark

A new report was launched in the UN City Copenhagen on December 14th to answer these questions. The report investigates how blockchain technology can be leveraged in humanitarian contexts and is provied by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, the blockchain currency platform Coinify and the think tank Sustaina with the title "Hack the future of development aid". Click here to download the report. NOREPS participated at the launch and shared our experiences in engaging in blockchain innovation projects. 

So, what is blockchain? You have probably heard about Bitcoin – and no, it is not just money for nerds. Bitcoin is a digital crypto currency built on blockchain technology which allows peer-to-peer transactions through an open, distributed network. A blockchain is therefore like a distributed data base which has areas of use that reaches far beyond money transfers. Humanitarians are exploring the possibilities in this technology for providing a secure digital identity for refugees, providing financial products for the unbanked, beat corruption, ensuring access to energy for off grid communities, payments in supply chains and more. However, blockchain is a young technology, and it is still learning how to walk and talk.

Why does NOREPS engage in blockchain-based innovation projects?

The first blockchain project NOREPS has engaged in is the UN Women blockchain project which aims to develop a blockchain based identity solution for women refugees, which can also be used to transfer money and other digital assets. NOREPS believe that blockchain technology has the potential to enable humanitarian organizations and agencies to reach more people in need, while also improving the efficiency of humanitarian response. Or as the report states: 

"Crypto and crisis is a perfect match, because high speed money means more life saved"

The use of blockchain technology and crypto currency may also help decrease the enormous funding gap the humanitarian sector is currently facing. The humanitarian community needs to find new and innovative ways of delivering aid to those in need, and business as usual will simply not suffice. Flexible innovation funding which allows exploration is a vital tool in supporting the UN and other humanitarian organizations to dip their toe into this new and emerging technology. This is why NOREPS provides innovation funding for exploring the true potential of blockchain technology, and have decided to fund another blockchain project by the Norwegian Red Cross exploring the potential of it's usage in cash programming in humanitarian response. 

 

+ Main findings from the report

 

 

Do you have any questions?

For information about NOREPS work with humanitarian innovation and blockchain, shoot an email to Elisabeth Fosseli Olsen

For more information about the report, visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark's webpage

Watch a short video on how blockchain can hack the aid industry here