Blockchain is an open and distributed ledger technology that gives the opportunity to transfer money and information without the interference of intermediates like banks, and is therefore able to cut transaction costs and make transactions more transparent and efficient. However, money transfers is only one application of the blockchain. Blockchain startups and aid organizations are therefore currently looking into how this technology can be used for social good.
Blockchain powered cash programming
Nathan Cooper, the project manager of IFRCs blockchain project presented how they work to build a cash transfer solution to manage their cash programming in a more efficient and transparent way. They are building s solution of three components: digital ID system, blockchain-based data management and mobile money payments. The project is being developed in partnership with Kenya RC, MasterCard, AID:TECH and Safari-com, and is supported by the NOREPS grants for humanitarian innovation. Nathan also emphasized that there are many ethical challenges that must be solved I regards to identity and the management of personal data on a blockchain. These challenges need to be addressed by the humanitarian sector as a whole, and in close partnership with their private sector partners.
On the solution side, there were four Norwegian blockchain startups presenting their solutions who all address pressing global challenges. Among these were Empower, who launched their blockchain powered global recycling ecosystem at the seminar. They aim to use blockchain technology to fight the big challenges of plastic waste in the oceans and poverty at the same time. They are developing a solution to reduce and recycle plastic waste by paying people in digital tokens for national currencies, or they can donate the tokens to other people who might need them more. In this way, Empower can give people jobs and contribute to gathering plastic waste so it can become an asset in the circular economy. Empower is ready to launch their first pilot this spring, and are looking for partners to launch the solution in more markets soon - so stay tuned.
Diwala is building a solution where people in displacement can build and verify their skills. In this way, they empower people to use their skillsets and resources even when in displacement. This will also make it easier for them to rebuild their lives after a crisis. VipiCash also presented their solution for remittances: Through the VipiCash platform, people can send money back to their families in a safe and cost-saving way and lock the money into goods and services tackling the issue of mismanagement of money. Blockbonds is a company addressing financial inclusion. There are approximately 2 billion people who do not have access to a bank account. Blockbonds include more people in the economic infrastructure, and provide them with digital, blockchain powered bank accounts through their SPENN app.
Blockbonds is working with financial inclusion of the unbanked. Jens Glasø, CEO FOTO: Emilie Skogvang
Elisabeth Fosseli Olsen