Aid:Tech, the first organisation to use blockchain technology as a means of distributing humanitarian aid, has been shortlisted for a prestigious technology innovation award.
The Irish Times Innovation Awards 2016 has recognised the organisation’s use of blockchain in helping hundreds of Syrian refugees at a camp in Lebanon last year. In a pilot programme it provided 500 digital ‘credit cards’ to Syrian refugees, each with $20 (£15) for use in a camp store.
Running alongside a traditional paper voucher system, which tends to prove problematic as fraudulent copies inevitably emerge, the Aid:Tech cards eliminated fraud through the use of scannable QR codes. While perfect copies of the cards did appear, invalid codes were immediately flagged to the traders.
Now, given the large sums of money circulating among charities, NGOs and other humanitarian organisations, Aid:Tech hopes the highly scalable digital currency solution becomes commonplace in order to enhance the reliability of financial transactions.
“We just became obsessed with the technology and we found a way to harness it that nobody else did,” Niall Dennehy, chief operations officer at Aid:Tech told The Irish Times.
“Blockchain is, at its simplest, a digital spreadsheet of transactions – easy to share, impossible to destroy – enabling safe, transparent accountability. Its use in the aid sector, where fraud, theft and general mismanagement all occur, appears a no-brainer.”
The potential for a secure digital currency is certainly there, according to Aid:Tech. It says that there is a lack of transparency and accountability in the distribution of funds by NGO’s and governments. Of the $360bn transferred each year by NGOs, only $90bn is currently delivered via transparent systems and these systems are extremely expensive to administer.
By utilising private blockchain technology, AID:tech enables all international aid to be accounted for, including the distribution of assets such as medicine, food and other essentials. The platform also offers add-ons such as smart contracts and instant micro-insurance, as well as advanced data analytics that help organisations to better plan and execute aid deliveries.
Recognising this potential, Aid:Tech was recently selected as one of 11 “Techstar” companies in London, a mentoring programme seeking the world’s most innovative companies.
The organisation has also reached the final 30 in the European Commission’s “European Social Innovation Awards” from 1,095 entrants.
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Shortlist named after 40,000 public votes cast