With my company Datarella we have specialized in Blockchain technology. Initially, we had started with data science and data analytics stuff, but moved on to Blockchain in 2015, when Ethereum was launched, the first distributed protocol we could use for industrial projects. Starting in 2016, we have been developing the Humanitarian Blockchains — applications in the fields of payments, disbursement, supply chain, and tracking: The Humanitarian Blockchain — DLT Applications for Social Good,
As with any new technology, the first months were tough, since nobody had heard of Blockchain or Distributed Ledger Technology DLT, as the engineers say. It was totally unclear if Blockchain would be adopted by the market since it comes with a paradigm shift: its distributed nature requires decentralized decision making and the finding of consensus in a network of nodes that might not know each other. In other words: running a blockchain requires a trusted consensus mechanism, a governance model, and a token design — all things not needed or unheard of, before. Next, IT departments typically tend to defend incumbent soft- and hardware infrastructures against newcomers, since past investments have to pay themselves off, and everybody had been trained in using and maintaining this legacy and is unwilling to switch to a completely different technology stack.
Humanitarian Blockchain #1
Since we had been absolutely convinced of Blockchain from day one, we tried to find use cases and partners in regions and industries that weren’t obvious for introducing high-tech. In 2016 we started working on a payment system that we installed in a Jordan refugee camp on 1 May, 2017, mandated by the United Nation’s World Food Programme WFP. Think twice about that: the latest technology is being installed in a high-security refugee camp in Jordan… In early 2020, nearing its 3rd birthday, the system is running flawlessly and saves the WFP tons of money. Furthermore, it makes financial transactions more secure and provides realtime reporting which, again, is a significant cost saver. These savings help WFP and the UN making their work more efficient and add trust towards the donor countries. In short, Blockchain makes aid distribution safer and more efficient.
Humanitarian Blockchain #2
In 2018, we started another way of applying Blockchain: together with UKAid, DFID / FTL, and logistics partners, we created a tracking solution for aid deliveries. When disaster strikes, aid agencies have to send out relief supplies, on very short notice. Our blockchain system helps to track and trace these supplies on their way to their destinations. Knowing all about the whereabouts and having realtime information about other product features allows for efficient logistics management, which in turn, saves a lot of money. and time. All participants of the network have realtime access to relevant supply chain data which eliminates the need for inefficient communication and additional paperwork. Again, Blockchain makes aid safer and more efficient. In early 2020, we are working on the next phase of our Track & Trust product: the last mile tracking of aid supplies with the help of a LoRa mesh network and a satellite uplink.
Humanitarian Blockchain #3
In mid-2019, we were asked to join the Baraka project in Dakar, Senegal, by YOU Stiftung. In this several years project, the Baraka slum in central Dakar has been rehabilitated into a modern village for former slum, now village dwellers. This project was started by UNESCO Special Ambassador Ute Ohoven and her daughter Claudia Jerger, who head YOU Stiftung, a Düsseldorf-based foundation that runs several development projects, mainly on the African continent. The construction work for the new village, called Nouvelle Baraka, has been done by Casa Orascom, a subsidiary of Orascom, a world leader in construction. With Datarella, we installed a Blockchain-based payment system for community fees for Nouvelle Baraka. In this case, Blockchain is used for eliminating fees of financial intermediaries, and for adding trust towards the village welters: they have visual proof of their payments. Since February 2020, the Soreba Manager, the system’s name, is up and running, saves money, and adds trust.
Humanitarian Blockchain #4
Also in 2019, we started to support the grassroots Rohingya Project. The Rohingya had been forced to leave their home country, Myanmar, their passports were removed, and with that, in essence, they lost their identities. The grassroots project tries to re-empower the Rohingya step-by-step. With Datarella, we have built the R‑Wallet, a crypto wallet for the management of tokens in exchange for Rohingya community services. In this case, Blockchain is used to securely manage tokens in a digital wallet, which enables the Rohingya to autonomously participate in a financial network. Blockchain empowers the individual and allows for efficient financial transactions. Everybody was proud of learning the project has won the Malaysian National Recognition Reward!
The Humanitarian Blockchain — DLT Applications for Social Good
Datarella is developing Humanitarian Blockchain applications for social good: payment, disbursement, supply chain, and tracking products. However, we do not exclusively work in the humanitarian space. We have clients and partners in the fields of IoT, Finance, and Supply Chain in less sensitive environments. However, we have learned that Blockchain has its biggest impact on countries and environments with developing infrastructures and processes. Here, Blockchain does not have to fight against legacy tech infrastructure and there often is a green-field situation in place: solutions have to and can be built from scratch, if possible with the latest technology at hand — Blockchain.
In this regard, we at Datarella experience two great advantages in developing the humanitarian blockchain:
- We use Blockchain technology for good causes, and this is very satisfying on a personal level.
- We achieve the biggest impact by leveraging Blockchain’s inherent benefits, which is paying off on the economic level.
Personally„ I’m very proud of my team at Datarella and grateful to be part of this endeavor!