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Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain, New Movie Out This Week

The first film to be fully funded by and distributed on blockchain is on release this week and the subject is blockchain itself.

Documentary filmmaker Alex Winter, known to some for his role in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, has moved from the frivolous to the relevant in the years following his appearances in a handful of popular teen movies in the 1980s.

His latest offering, ‘Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain’, is out on general release in the US on 26 October and puts DLT under the microscope. This is not Winter’s first foray into the world of the internet following his 2015 documentary Deep Web about the dark web marketplace Silk Road, which focused on cryptocurrency use on black markets. It is also the subject of a play, ‘Silk Road: How to Buy Drugs Online’, by English playwright Alex Oates which has been playing at theaters in the UK this year.

Trust Machine is reviewed as being an honest appraisal of where blockchain is today, focusing at one point on current UN action to integrate blockchain into the food program supporting Syrian refugees in refugee camps.  Kenya and Venezuela, two countries seriously suffering from fraud and mismanagement at a governmental level, also get coverage in Winter’s evaluation of blockchain and its broad sphere of use.

Since last year, the United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed cryptocurrency-based food vouchers to more than 100,000 Syrian refugees living in Jordan, bypassing bureaucracy and getting aid to where it’s needed. The new project initiated by the WFP and UN Women was announced last month and will support the UN Women’s “cash for work” program currently running at both camps.

In a fight against rampant voting fraud in Kenya, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Chairman has now tabled a detailed potential blockchain solution as providing security for all presidential candidates, allowing them to access and verify the results of elections.

Winter takes a positive approach to his subject, stating:

“Naysayers have two groups: one says all of it is BS, and a scam, and a fraud, and then a slightly more nuanced group says a lot of it is scams, but the verifiable ledgers are a natural evolution of the internet. Some folks believe blockchain will save the universe. I don’t agree with the group that thinks it’s bullshit. They are uneducated.”

The film’s primary focus is to feature both the trials of developing nations, particularly where blockchain is changing the lives of the disadvantaged, and to measure the overall impact that DLT could have on the financial sector and on food supply chains. As for the future, Winter maintains:

“If it happens, it will be slow. Some will be blunt and disruptive like Uber, I don’t see a revolution imminent that will compensate artists, or mirror banks and governments. Too much of that is based on greed and power dynamics that aren’t going to change overnight.”

It is interesting that Winter has chosen Trust Machine as a title for his latest film. Many users at every level from multinational to the individual have cited the element of “trust” as blockchain’s greatest attribute, because of its transparency and reliability in creating irrefutable records of transactions.

 

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Closing Charities’ Accountability Gap Through Blockchain Technology

Humanitarian Blockchain

a BitcoinNews.com series

   Part 3: Closing Charities’ Accountability Gap Through Blockchain Technology

          Welcome to the third installment of the Bitcoin News Humanitarian Blockchain Series. Charity begins at home, but the growing question being asked over the past few years is, where does it actually go?  We try to highlight some of the current solutions being presented by blockchain technology to this essential industry

The track record of the charity industry has been, regrettably, far from exemplary, and in some instances, at worst, disgraceful. Well-publicized scandals over the past few years have seen a decline in the public donations to charitable organizations, with some of those intuitions being brought into disrepute by misappropriation of public funds or inappropriate behavior of field staff.

Even now, a US investigation is looking into fraudulent identity activity in Myanmar where refugees fingerprints from amongst the Chin minority are causing confusion as fraudsters purchase refugees’ identities for their own ends. Also, in Bangladesh many Rohingya refugees in safe-harbor there have been registered multiple times and records of family groups have been almost non-existent,

Using Blockchain to clean up the industry is possibly the only way that many charitable institutions can survive, and regain public trust by demonstrating a greater level of transparency and accountability.

The main barriers to success in the humanitarian field have been lowering the impact of administration, transportation and documentation cost on donated funds, and making every aspect of donations totally transparent from source to final delivery of the benefit to the recipient.

Charities have been slow to take up the obvious benefits that can be offered to the industry. In fact, it is no exaggeration to suggest that there could be no more obvious and beneficial use case for DLT than its solution to the accountability problems that charities are currently suffering.

Luckily some organizations are on board, but far too few. The World Food Programme (WFP) has been quick to realise the potential of blockchain solutions. As Bitcoin News reported in the first of its humanitarian series, the uses in Jordan’s refugee camps has been essential, in not only feeding and providing work for Syrian refugees but also creating a renewed feeling of self-worth, particularly against female escapees from the war in Syria.

Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, as far back as 2011, was trying to deal with how to get donated funds from a source. At the time, a massive $40 billion was failing to reach its intended recipients, the money was diverted to corrupt officials and middlemen. Seven years on, the blockchain is now being used by the WFP to tackle this problem. Gustav Stromfelt, one of the project managers working on the WFP’s program commented:

“We have this rapid ability to understand where our money is throughout the process…It improves transparency, accountability, and communication across the board.”

This UN-supported programme in Jordan uses dollars at this stage, not cryptocurrency, but through DLT every cent is accounted for right up to the purchase and delivery of physical goods.

Charities accepting cryptocurrencies, and there have been many, were badly hit by the drop in the value of Bitcoin at the end of 2017 and much of the funds were seriously diminished before funds could be dispersed. Silicon Valley Community Foundation revealed in its 2017 audit 45% of its investment assets were unable to be turned into cash in 2018 due to government restrictions.

Many of these problems are now being overcome through online mining schemes which benefit charities and straight crypto donations fund by such organisations as Children in Need and others.

Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by 24-hour trading volume, has recently tried to address some of these issues with the announcement of a Blockchain Charity Foundation which aims to plug the transparency gap for multiple organisations with its planned donation tracking system: Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao explains:

“Lack of transparency has been a problem for charities today. Some estimate up to 80% of donations does not reach the intended beneficiaries. With the ability to track every single transaction, blockchain technology seems tailor-made to solve this problem.”

Although the Blockchain Charity Foundation is still at concept stage, Binance suggest that the system will allow donors to give to one or as many chosen charities as they want whilst retaining anonymity if they wish: The company commented:

“Each BCF program will have its unique receiving address(es). BCF may choose to donate directly to the ultimate beneficiaries or work with other charity partners who then distributes the funds to the ultimate beneficiaries. Either way, the funds will be tracked in a transparent manner.”

Solutions to past problems are slowly being presented through new technology, but clearly, more urgency is required to reshape the face of the charity industry and restore public face so that charity can transit from home to its needy target and arrive at its destination intact, as was intended from the source.

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Sierra Leone President Welcomes New UN-Supported Blockchain ID Project

The small West African nation of Sierra Leone is to get support from the United Nations to help a non-profit startup launch a blockchain-based identification system for use in the country.

The country of some 7 million has had a difficult past and is currently trying to rebuild its economy after a decade-long civil war erupted in 1991. The war ended in 2001 after UN intervention, leaving 50,000 dead. This was more recently followed by a severe Ebola outbreak in 2014, which according to World Health Organization figures caused 3,000 deaths and recorded 10,000 cases.

A non-profit tech startup, Kiva, is to launch the blockchain ID program in Sierra Leone ahead of 85 other countries after research showed that the country only had one credit bureau covering 2,000 people, less than 1% of the population. Also, only 20% of the population were banked.

Sierra Leone’s President Maada Bio has expressed that he wants his nation to become less dependent for support on international benefactors and overseas aid. For this to happen he has asked for homemade answers to some of the nation’s problems through “visionary and innovative” solutions.

According to the UN’s Capital Development Fund executive secretary Xavier Michon, this may boost the country ahead of others in creating a better banking system for Sierra Leoneans, suggesting:

“Through this implementation, Sierra Leone is setting out to build one of the most advanced, secure credit bureaus. It could serve as a model for both developing and developed nations in the future and has the potential to radically change the landscape of financial inclusion.”

The project is aimed at providing Sierra Leoneans with personal identification tools including a personal digital wallet which will outline their entire credit history, eliminating paper, and making personal banking far more accessible to all. This will also make it far quicker for lenders to assess customers before offering credit, by being able to instantly check their credit rating.

The system is expected to roll out in the country in 2019.

 

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Farmers Worldwide Are Now Seeing Blockchain’s Real Advantages

Farmers are beginning to see the potential of new technology, including blockchain, as a solution to supply chain problems in the industry.

Although farmers are sometimes skeptical towards tech solutions coming from an industry steeped in traditional methods, more of them are taking the plunge given the obvious advantages of blockchain’s supply chain clarity and accountability.

Around the world, growers are finding success in change. From Queensland cane growers tracking the movement of sugar around Australia, to growing and tracking organic rice in Cambodia, and cocoa in Ghana, blockchain is providing farmers with a way of tracking their products from field/farm to table.

Organizations such as Olam Farming Information System offers transparency for small farmers in 21 countries around the world. With 100,000 small hold farmers now registered with OFIS across Asia, Africa, and South America, the organization has developed a system which allows easy access and information sorting for the user to get to know more about the farming communities who supply their ingredients.

In mid-2017 Af Funder calculated a potential $213 million was there to be accrued by farm management software and IoT start-ups due to rising interest within the industry. Most development in the industry has been in traceability solutions which many smaller producers have already adopted.

However, there is the potential for blockchain to operate in the farming industry on a much larger scale, such as the French supermarket giant Carrefour’s blockchain project which began tracking its chicken supply earlier this year. This provided customers with an egg to table history by using a smartphone to scan a code on the packaging to obtain details on each stage of production, including origins, earlier location, feed and where the meat was finally processed.

The potential to cut down on an illegal harvesting and shipping fraud are other advantages. A new project in Kerala in India’s deep south will now be ensuring that goods now include RFID tags and the use of IoT devices to monitor transportation and delivery, primarily of milk, vegetables, and fish. All components of the milk supply chain will be strictly monitored and recorded on the blockchain.

Projects like this are making illegal trading far more difficult; the cost of food fraud has now reached an estimated $40 billion a year according to the UN.

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China Tracks Charity Donations with Blockchain

The Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA) in China has commented that the government is planning to implement blockchain technology in order to track charitable donations.

The Chinese plan is very much in line with many governments and NGOs around the globe, many of whom are already utilizing the technology in the sector.

While technological innovations have been boosting capital in practically every other industry, the charity sector has fallen behind. Millennials especially just don’t seem to have confidence in an industry that has had scathing media coverage of improper practice, damaging commercial partnerships and a lack of transparency when it comes down to seeing how donations are distributed.

MCA has just released its four-year blockchain plan for charities, principally to enhance supply chain transparency in the sector, promising to integrate blockchain into charitable institutions systems by the end of the year. The ministry appears to be moving very quickly on this, suggesting that online charities will be connected to government charity databases in the oncoming months, promising to build:

“… a tamper-proof charity organization information query system and enhance the authority, transparency and public trust of information publishing and search services.”

A report conducted by independent think tank Charity Futures concluded that charities have yet to engage with blockchain with the kind of urgency required to keep up with technological advances. The study, ‘Nothing to Lose (But Your Chains)‘, was clear in pointing out that the charity sector had as yet failed to tap significantly into available blockchain technologies.

The report recommends the use of DLT by creating a transparent, end-to-end supply chain for each project. This means that all those involved – government departments, NGOs, funders, charities, local offices, delivery partners, and the individuals receiving the benefit have access up to the moment information regarding the funds or supplies donated.

Some charities and NGOs are getting it right, however. Along with IBM, both the UN and the World Food Programme (WFP) are now proactively using blockchain to record transactions.

The Chinese government has announced that it also intends to integrate blockchain into a range of social services programs.

 

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NGO in Tanzania Registers First Babies on Blockchain

A Dutch-based NGO working in Africa has teamed up with AID:Tech on a women’s aid project in Tanzania by using blockchain tech to assist pregnant women.

AID:Tech is an award-winning company that focuses on the delivery of digital entitlements, including welfare, aid, remittance and donations using blockchain and digital identity. The company was the first in the world to successfully deliver international aid to Syrian Refugees in Lebanon using blockchain technology, according to Wikipedia. The Dutch NGO, PharmAccess, works on projects in Africa and uses blockchain to make aid delivery more efficient.

The AID:Tech platform describes itself as a company which offers digital identity, represented by a blockchain wallet address. Each identity profile is unique and documents every transaction associated with it. Each digital identity can also be used to receive, send and hold digital entitlements. Each profile is both an identity solution and a built-in tool for managing social and financial entitlements.

The Tanzanian project’s main focus is not simply targeted at pregnant mothers, as it also ensures that beneficiaries receive supplies and services including pharmaceutical necessities. The blockchain program being used by the team ensures that individual women can be tracked for receipt of benefits, vitamins, doctor appointments and medication through AID:Tech’s digital ID system. This ensures that funds arrive at the nominated source correctly and that post-natal treatment is being properly delivered.

Postnatal treatment is clearly not the only thing that the program can deliver, as this month, using the new digital system, the births of three babies were recorded on the blockchain, reportedly the technology’s first of its kind.

Charities are currently receiving poor press because of recent developments, particularly reporting that sexual predators are working for international aid organizations where they can abuse children, young girls and women from vulnerable communities. Little appears to be done despite reassurances from the UN that charities such as Oxfam and Save the Children will take immediate action.

Another problem has been aid actually reaching its designated beneficiaries or donations being carelessly monitored and utilized. CEO of AID:Tech Joseph Thompson was reportedly inspired to launch this latest fundraiser due to a charity in the past losing his donation, which ended up not reaching those it was targeted for. A more successful project in 2015 saw it successfully deliver 500 food vouchers to a Lebanese camp for Syrian Refugees.

Such programs can go a long way to restoring much of the trust that has been lost in charitable organizations over recent years, also reminding the public that new technologies will be the key to making NGOs and private charity activities far more transparent and trustworthy.

 

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Sun Exchange Plans to Provide Africa’s Poor with Crypto-Funded Energy

Sun Exchange, the global micro-leasing marketplace, is announcing a new partnership with Powerhive which aims to use the crypto economy to offer decentralized solar power to poorer nations.

With over one billion of the world’s population still living without electricity, the new project between the two companies aims to eradicate worldwide energy poverty by using cryptocurrency and blockchain technology to harness sustainable solar power.

AfricaPowerhive will be the beneficiary of funds generated from the sale of Sun Exchange’s SUNEX rewards tokens by public sale. The money will then be spent on developing solar-powered mini-grid projects in Sub-Saharan Africa. The project will allow for the solar panels used to be sold off later to Sun Exchange members who will, in turn, own the cells used in the projects and subsequently profit from a sustained period of “solar-powered money”. Sun Exchange founder and CEO Abraham Cambridge is reported to have said in a press release that:

“Together, we are working towards a world where no one is forced to cook with unsafe kerosene or wood-burning stoves, no child has to worry about how they will study after dark, and lack of energy access ceases to propel cycles of poverty.”

The project will raise in the region of USD 23 million in capital and finance 150 new projects offering 175,000 people electricity.

Powerhive has other projects underway in Africa, such as its Kuku Poa initiative which uses solar power for chicken incubation. Powerhive founder and CEO Christopher Hornor explained that the crypto-community is not simply in it for financial gain and is made up of “inspired individuals” who support crypto projects such as this that clearly work towards reducing global inequality and making a significant climatic impact. He added:

“Over the past seven years, Powerhive has built a vertically integrated platform that allows us to identify, construct and operate the highest quality and lowest cost solar-powered mini-grids in Africa.”

Sun Exchange works from the perspective of being highly respected for the humanitarian work it carries out the field of fintech and has piloted a blockchain-based program on behalf on the UN, as well as winning the Mondato Award for Social Impact in Sub Saharan Africa.

The company has been recognized as the best blockchain business in Africa at the African Fintech Awards for the past two years running.

 

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Blockchain Must Make Impact on Digital Identity Crisis of Refugees

World Refugee Day on 20 June cast focus again on how blockchain technology could play a part in presenting a major solution to the problem of displaced people around the world, writes Bitcoin Magazine.

There are currently 25.4 million refugees in the world and some 3.1 million asylum seekers around the world, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.

Blockchain solutions are in place in many poorer countries working to improve the lives of individuals at community and national levels, but it is noticeable that the worldwide refugee crisis hasn’t as yet been significantly impacted by new technology. The biggest problem in this area is one of identity as Joseph Thompson, co-founder of AID:tech, illustrates:

“Not only do refugees need to reformulate their personal identity to secure a sense of belonging, but also it’s imperative from a legal, social, and political perspective. Needless to say, the issue is more complex than simply assigning each individual an identity card, as global crises happening throughout the world are different and varied with refugees and their situations.”

AID:Tech works with NGOs, governments and cooperates to tackle the most topical and entrenched issues in their particular areas of operation. Thompson suggests that the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals with the World Bank program is beginning to take notice of the identity issue, but he claims there is still much further to go in order to tackle this problem. Its suggested that in particular children born without a homeland due to displacement could be legitimized on the blockchain giving them verifiable identities, which would entitle them to essential services such as healthcare and education.

“An effective identity solution needs to be flexible, reliable and sustainable while also accommodating the transitional circumstances often faced by refugees. This is particularly crucial and alarming when we consider that refugee children are being born with the risk of missing out on legal identity —including healthcare and education.”

The Social Alpha Foundation is a nonprofit, grant-making platform that funds blockchain humanitarian-based startups. Co-founder Nydia Zhang believes that this access to services through verifiable identity is an essential role that blockchain can, and should, be playing in order to at least give a sense of identity to the stateless; Zhang’s “invisible population”.

Bruce Silcoff, CEO of the Shyft Network, whose team is working on a blockchain platform to ensure those fleeing from conflict have their basic necessities delivered, suggests that ID is more of a “right” than a “privilege” and thus should be prioritized using the very latest in technology in order to overcome bureaucratic barriers:

“We are witnessing millions of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers crossing borders to escape violence and build better lives for themselves and their families, only to run into institutional barriers, unable to access basic services and participate in the global economy.”

These questions of how technology should be offering solutions, come into stark focus given the importance of a day which is designed to draw the world’s attention to the plight of those displaced by war and conflict. On this important day, homeless children are still being created by careless legislation and bureaucratic obstacles, clearly illustrated by US President Trump’s announcement yesterday that he will separate children from their “illegal” parents at border crossings.

 

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UN Publishes White Paper on Supply Chain Blockchain Applications

The United Nations Center For Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business’s (UN/CEFACT) blockchain project team recently published a ‘Blockchain White Paper’ for public review, describing technical applications for blockchain in supply chains. The paper describes an intent to use blockchain technology to support supply chain interoperability, efficiency, and integrity.

Since the 1980s, UN/CEFACT standards have played a fundamental role in facilitating trade and making economic supply chains more efficient. The Blockchain White Paper analyzes how blockchain technology can be maximized to further the organization’s mission.

It says the UN/CEFACT will focus on a few aspects of blockchain technology including smart contracts, electronic notary and decentralized process coordination. The ability of blockchains to transmit money with cryptocurrency and to facilitate digital voting will not be focused on, since the primary goal of the paper is to see how blockchain could improve supply chains.

The paper states that blockchain could improve supply chains by moving away from traditional paper record systems and replacing it with a digital trustless system. If the UN/CEFACT were to implement blockchain technology, it could standardize supply chain records into one database rather than the many different databases there are today, and the ledger would be immutable, meaning that no one could go in and manipulate the data in order to commit fraud. This would make a blockchain ledger solution for supply chains more reputable and credible than older systems.

The UN/CEFACT says that many different types of supply chain data can be transmitted through a blockchain ledger, including consignment and shipping, invoicing, insurance, and movements through international customs.

On the downside, blockchain doesn’t solve the supply chain interoperability problem, and the UN/CEFACT says it must be careful to choose the right blockchain technology since not all blockchains are created equal. Indeed, some cryptocurrency blockchains have been compromised recently by 51% attacks.

According to the UN/CEFACT Blockchain White Paper, more research and development is needed to ascertain the potential of blockchain to facilitate international trade, and it is suggested that blockchain experts from member nations work together to develop new blockchain technology that could be implemented for supply chains.

 

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Charities Must Embrace Blockchain to Make Genuine Impact, Report Says

A report conducted by independent think tank Charity Futures concluded that charities have yet to engage with blockchain with the kind of urgency required to keep up with technological advances, writes Live Bitcoin News.

The study, ‘Nothing to Lose (But Your Chains)’, was clear in pointing out that the charity sector had as yet failed to tap significantly into available blockchain technologies.

Asheem Singh, former interim chief executive of the charity’s lead body Acevo, who commissioned the report, said that blockchain held great potential for charity organizations. “Blockchain could herald the sort of seismic changes in the charity sector as the digital revolution before it,” he wrote.

The report suggests that there is one area of significance where blockchain could make the most impact should it be employed. Foreign aid was singled out, noting that aid distributed by the UK government currently stands at 0.7% of GDP, which in 2016 was GBP 12.7 billion. International aid has been susceptible to corruption and bureaucracy in many receiving countries, which are exactly the kinds of problems that blockchain’s accountability can address.

Many charity organizations are dragging their heels regarding the new technology according to the report. “Despite the potential benefits, the charity sector is currently behind the curve on blockchain technology,” the study said.

The report recommends the use of DLT by creating a transparent, end-to-end supply chain for each project. This means that all those involved – government departments, NGOs, funders, charities, local offices, delivery partners, and the individuals receiving the benefit have access up to the moment information regarding the funds or supplies donated.

Some charities and NGOs are getting it right, however. Along with IBM, both the UN and the World Food Programme (WFP) are now proactively using blockchain to record transactions.

As previously covered by Bitcoin News, WFP has been employing the blockchain in a number of its projects and making a significant impact in the field as a result. In just one of its recent programs, the organization has distributed cryptocurrency-based food vouchers to more than 100,000 Syrian refugees living in Jordan, bypassing bureaucracy and getting aid to where it’s needed.

Singh feels that it is time charities came together with those actually creating the technology, in order to fully draw on its potential across the whole sector.

“It may be time for the sector to convene a high-level task force that brings together charity leaders and technologists… to articulate the contribution blockchain can and should make to the charity sector and the problems it is trying to address.”

 

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