UNICEF Invests in Six Humanitarian Blockchain Startups
Written by John Butler
Posted December 17, 2018
When I was in grade school, we’d have this small, orange-and-black cardboard box perched on the chalkboard during October. Every now and then, someone would put change or bills into the box.
It spelled trick-or-treat for UNICEF.
UNICEF stands for the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund. It was formed by the UN in 1946 to care for children in areas that were in bad shape after World War II. This included providing food, medicine, and other care services.
By 1953, UNICEF’s goal extended to women as well, and it appears as if the organization now intends to help all people, regardless of age or sex.
In January 2018, UNICEF published a global “blockchain call” to startups that use the technology. The organization wanted to invest in blockchain companies whose goods and services would benefit humanity.
After hundreds of applicants and months of review, UNICEF chose six startups in which to invest $100,000 each.
This week, I’ll let you know about the six blockchain startups that UNICEF’s investing in, as well as other blockchain humanitarian efforts happening around us.
#1. W3 Engineers
W3 Engineers is a company based in Khulna, Bangladesh. It is using blockchain as a foundation in its mobile messaging application.
What makes W3 Engineer’s app so appealing is that it uses mesh technology — a network of communication devices — to connect its users.
What’s best is that an internet connection isn’t required with mesh technology — the more devices connected to the mesh, the stronger the connection will be.
W3 Engineers aims to use its blockchain app to connect the over 68 million people across the globe that have been displaced by things such as violence and poverty. The app will provide them access to communication with loved ones, education, health care, and job opportunities.
Utopixar is a company based in Tunisia that was picked by UNICEF for its blockchain-based social tool.
The Tunisian company was inspired by the Arab Spring, a period of demonstrations and riots in the Middle East. It lasted two years, from December 2010 to December 2012.
During the Arab Spring, many Middle Eastern countries overthrew their oppressive governments, Tunisia included.
Utopixar’s blockchain tool is meant to boost collaboration within communities, organizations, and groups aimed at confronting social issues. There’s a reward system with its tool that rewards tokens to users for participating in social and community activities. The tokens can be redeemed as cash or used as credit in marketplaces within the community.
UNICEF is investing in StaTwig to support its challenge of the food and medicine supply chain.
The company, located in India, wants to ensure food and medicine is reaching children within the country in a timely manner. In some locations, delivering supplies is tough, and current supply chains are inefficient, causing failed deliveries, spoilage, and losses.
According to the company, when it comes to refrigerated transports, “Nearly 30% of all the food goes to waste during its storage and transportation and the number is nearly double for vaccines.”
To that end, StaTwig uses blockchain to connect everyone participating in the supply chain — producers, distributors, financiers, regulators, and consumers. This provides transparency to everyone involved, also mitigating the possibility of wasting supplies for people in need.
Prescrypto wants to put your medical records in your hands, and UNICEF likes that.
The Mexican company is building a system named RexChain that uses blockchain technology to store your sensitive medical records.
Its reasoning is that since people are typically seeing a rotating collection of medical professionals, it’s sometimes hard for them to access your records. They usually have to call the previous professional to receive your records via fax.
There’s also the fear of your medical records being used for commercial purposes.
With RexChain, your medical records would be on a blockchain, and you’d have the ability to share them with your trusted professional. No more hassle of getting your information sent all over the place or it being used for commercial exploitation.
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OneSmart is a company also based in Mexico. UNICEF chose it for its interest in resource allocation accountability.
The company is building a platform that uses blockchain to record what governments are doing with the resources allocated to them for public use. People could view what’s on the blockchain for themselves and see what their governments are using funds for as well as what public services they're delivering.
OneSmart’s platform would also benefit governments, as they would have access to the blockchain, getting “continuous access to new and better data.”
With OneSmart, UNICEF hopes to improve government resource allocation and service delivery, thus promoting trust with the public.
#6. Atrix Labs
Lastly, UNICEF chose Atrix Labs because of its goal of improving social impact financing.
It seems like the problem with social impact financing isn’t the access to investors, but rather transparency between the investor and the invested.
The Argentinean company is building a platform that uses blockchain technology to help fund startups in Southeast Asia. The platform would connect startups in need of funding with investors from all over the globe. Since the platform’s on a blockchain, all the invested funds would be transparent.
With blockchain technology involved, the problem with transparency is solved.
There Are Others…
UNICEF isn’t the only organization interested in blockchain humanitarian efforts.
Here are a more few examples.
First, IBM and Global Citizen partnered together to form Challenge Accepted, a challenge for blockchain developers to create an original application that tracks donations for the needy. The challenge lasted from May to July 2018.
Second, a European company named Bitnation uses donated Bitcoin to reach refugees in need.
Microsoft and ID2020 are creating a blockchain-based system that lets users register their identification documents. It’s intended for people who are undocumented and stateless who require government and financial services.
And to ensure legal, transparent, and fair pay, Handshake is designing a blockchain-based system for migrant labor workers.
It’s been compelling to see different governments’ takes on blockchain, companies pivoting to fit blockchain, and the first case of deceptively promoting a cryptocurrency.
With that being said, I can certainly say it’s been more compelling to see blockchain being researched to better humankind. If we’re not being taken care of, who will be around to continue innovation?
The more you know,
John Butler, Jr.
Contributing Editor, The Token Authority
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