When people hear the word ‘Blockchain’, they usually think of Bitcoin.
Perhaps they think back to a sensational media headline about:
‘Bitcoin being in a bubble’
‘Bitcoin being used by criminals’
or other similar exaggerations.
The reality is that the underlying technology that makes cryptocurrencies possible, blockchain, has a wide variety of uses, far beyond that of just the financial markets. Many, or most, of these uses are objectively good. In refugee camps and aid distribution centers around the world, blockchain technology is poised to revolutionize aid delivery, with cases of its use already appearing. This article will examine how blockchain technology can be used to improve the lives of refugees, and how it‘s being used for that purpose, right now.
Greater Transparency Of Aid Distribution
One of the greatest challenges in distributing foreign aid is making sure it reaches the right people. Foreign aid goes through various middlemen, which can make it difficult to track the distribution of funds. This is especially true in the developing world, where record keeping often doesn’t meet international financial reporting standards. Blockchain makes it possible to easily track the flow of funds, anywhere around the world. This provides greater transparency than ever to ensure the effective distribution of aid.
Reducing The Risk Of Fraud
Blockchain technology can also reduce the risk of fraud or theft in the aid distribution chain. This can be accomplished in a number of ways. Firstly, blockchain technology allows for there to be verification of transactions from NGOs to government agencies, and finally to the end recipients. With usage of the technology, all transactions made, and their records, are immutable; meaning that they can not be tampered with or altered. This makes theft far more difficult, and infinitely more traceable. In addition, the blockchain-based transactions can be paired with biometric data to confirm when those in need actually receive funds, as well as how they’re spent.
The World Food Program In Jordan
The World Food Program has combined the usage of blockchain technology with biometric technology to ensure secure, efficient delivery of foreign aid to Syrian refugees living in Jordan. At the Zaatari refugee camp, displaced Syrians can walk to the grocery store, select what products they need, and pay by simply glancing at a retinal scanner. The identity of every refugee in the camp is stored digitally in a biometric database. At the point of sale, the retinal scanner confirms the buyer’s identity, queries a World Food Program account on a variant of the Ethereum blockchain, and settles the bill.
This all happens without cash ever changing hands in the refugee camp.
Blockchain For Good
Blockchain technology has the power to revolutionize aid delivery in the developing world, and the ability to change the lives of many for the better as a consequence of that. Greater security and accountability will make it easy to confirm when aid has actually reached its intended recipients. Greater accountability may also make it easier for NGOs to raise funds from donors, now that they can see and track the direct impact of their contributions.
The Zaatari refugee camp could be the model for getting critical aid to those who need it most, or it could turn out to just be a stepping stone to something better. It represents an important, and easily forgotten reminder:
blockchain technology is not just a tool to be used for speculative assets, but also for the bettering of the world, and all its people.
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