The Humanitarian Blockchain — DLT Applications For Social Good

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.

WFP Jor­dan

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.

Track & Trust

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.

Sore­ba Manager

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: 

  1. We use Blockchain tech­nol­o­gy for good caus­es, and this is very sat­is­fy­ing on a per­son­al level.
  2. 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!

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