Live test of blockchain innovations to help women and girls in humanitarian settings

In the beginning of February, UN Women conducted a live test simulation of blockchain solutions from seven different companies at the UN Women headquarters in New York City. The aim is to find solutions that can empower women and girls in humanitarian settings. The Norwegian tech company Blockbonds was among the companies presenting their solution at the blockchain lab.

In front f.l: Jens Glasø, Caroline Rusten, Elisabeth Fosseli Olsen. In the back f.l: Sebastian Hagman , Magne Fretheim, Sindre Glasø.

In front f.l: Jens Glasø, Caroline Rusten, Elisabeth Fosseli Olsen.

In the back f.l: Sebastian Hagman , Magne Fretheim, Sindre Glasø.

Foto: Emilie Skogvang

A maze of solutions

The lab is designed as a maze. The participants move through the maze to test each solution and talk to the solution providers. All participants are provided with a score card so they can give feedback to UN Women about the different blockchain solutions. Inside the maze, we find the Norwegian tech company Blockbonds showcasing their solution SPENN. Blockbonds have created a small supermarket inside the mze selling fruit and bottles of water. By using their SENN-app, the participants can buy goods for Kenyan Shillings using blockchain technology. SPENN is an app that makes it possible to create a digital wallet on your smartphone. It makes it fast and easy to pay, and it is also very secure with the help of the blockchain. Blockbonds want to bring financial services to those who are not included in the economy. Today, there are over 2 billion people without access to bank accounts. Today, Blockbonds collaborate with several major banks in a number of countries, primarily in Africa and Asia, where the access to banking services is low. By using blockchain technology, Blockbonds have developed a payment system where more people can participate in the digital economy and can save money, make payments and invest in an open and safe way. The technology can also be used by refugees to receive money or to get access to services and products, personal data storage and digital identity.


"Most Norwegians still think of bitcoin when the term blockchain is mentioned, but the technology is so much more than that. It changes the way we do transactions, which can be of major importance to how organizations like UN Women work. Humanitarian innovation is a large market where several Norwegian entrepreneurs have the skills and resources to contribute. They should take that chance”, said Magne Fretheim, Technology Director of Blockbonds.


Diwala and Vipicash also receive international attention

The two tech companies Diwala and VipiCash were launched after participating in the Innovation Norway and UN Women hackathon last May, and they also participated in the blockchain lab. Both VipiCash and Diwala will continue the week in New York with a visit to UNICEF Innovation, where they will share experiences and contribute to create new innovation processes.

“Innovation Norway is working in new ways to establish new innovation partnerships. Our job is to be a connector and build bridges” Says Elisabeth Fosseli Olsen – head of humanitarian innovation in NOREPS/Innovation Norway.


VIP reception

The blockchain live simulation was kicked off the night before the lab with opening speeches from UN Women ASG Yannick Glemarec, Lise Gregoire van Haaren from the Permanent Mission of The Netherlands to the UN, The Minister of Fisheries and Equal Opportunities of Denmark Karen Ellemann and Elisabeth Fosseli Olsen, head of humanitarian innovation in NOREPS.

“Right now we are not on track to reach the SDG 5 Gender equality, and UN Women believe that we are very unlikely to achieve any of the other SDGs unless we reach SDG5. But trends can be broken. And they can be broken by policy and by financing and supporting technological, institutional innovation.” said Yannick Glemarec, Asistant Secretary General in UN Women.



Elisabeth Fosseli Olsen

Emilie Skogvang