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Helping More People in More Innovative Ways: UNICEF Explores Crypto

UNICEF explores blockchain to revolutionize its ventures.

In the aid sector, innovation is making waves. One example is how the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), mainly created to safeguard children’s rights, is exploring the innovative gateway of blockchain to pioneer cutting-edge ideas and transform the way assistance can be extended to the deprived areas of the world.

Amid the rising hype of Bitcoin, blockchain too has caught the eyes of many, thanks to its wide range of use-cases. Several market players have built business models based on blockchain to elevate the respective industries, be it healthcare or fashion. And thanks to pioneers like UNICEF, the technology is being leveraged far beyond industrial use-cases.

Blockchain in UNICEF immunization

According to a report published by WHO, immunization saves as many as 2-3 million lives every year. UNICEF’s immunization programs are aimed to support the countries in extending the service to deprived children. In doing so, UNICEF has partnered with several NGOs and startups throughout the world.

The issue at hand is that about 19.4 million children under the age of one year do not receive basic vaccines yet. The problem traces back to the lack of administrative data which inhibits the healthcare workers from reaching out to the underprivileged children.

To encourage immunization, UNICEF initiated the #VaccinesWork global campaign during World Immunization Week 2019. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) supported the effort through its donations. Moreover, the foundation, through the 22nd round of the Global Grand Challenges Explorations, funded eight startups. Recipients were recognized for their work in devising innovative models to acquire high-quality and timely data required to enhance immunization coverage. The eight teams will work with the business and technology mentors and UNICEF’s experts to develop models with scalable strategies which can be implemented in 2020, which will mark the last year of the Global Vaccine Action Plan.

David Sarley, Senior Program Officer at the Gates Foundation, said:

“The Grand Challenges Explorations mechanism has been a tremendous engine for identifying and testing innovative ideas. As we look to new approaches to improve immunization coverage and equity, we wanted to see whether additional sprint support from UNICEF could improve the likelihood that our GCE innovations can successfully go to scale.”

More recently, UNICEF, along with the Gates Foundation, assisted five of the aforementioned companies (Gram Vaani’s SnapVaxx, Har Zindagi, Macro-Eyes, Ona, Tupaia) in an initiative called Innovation Sprint Support. The companies participating in the program will spend the coming year developing solutions by combining business and technical aspects to meet UNICEF’s standards and demonstrate sustainability.

According to Forbes, the special innovation team is now exploring ways to transform their model both internally and in the field, using blockchain technology. It uses a blockchain-based platform called Bounties Network to track mentorship between mentors and startups in an efficient and transparent manner. The platform allows real-time tracking of the startups to learn about their operations and track the exchange of value.

UNICEF has also opened up job opportunities for blockchain developers to exploit the benefits of the technology.

We’re Looking for a full-stack #blockchain developer to join our growing team – building prototypes and supporting @UNICEF in the exploration of the technology.

APPLY today: https://t.co/aKh301PMbv pic.twitter.com/j9ZqYLFws8

— UNICEF Innovation (@UNICEFinnovate) July 26, 2019

Reforming influence through bounties

Earlier this year, UNICEF France joined hands with UNICEF Ventures and Bounties Network to study blockchain bounty prototypes. With a goal to incentivize the creation of digital public goods, UNICEF designed a digital token dubbed Boost token on the Ethereum blockchain. UNICEF took to ETHDenver, the largest gathering of the Ethereum blockchain community, to test the token and engage the community with it, from naming the token to finding a logo for it. Boost tokens were also offered to the individuals who were contributing to the cause on the lines of good deeds and selflessness. The valuation of the bounty rewards were based on the complexity of the tasks performed.

Sneak peek into the future

UNICEF and the Bounties Network are exploring bounties at a broader aspect to resolve tasks which can turn much more challenging over time. In a report, it stated that collaborations with partners to find solutions to complex problems, especially with rewards such as Boost tokens, will help involve more people and boost efficiency. Essentially, it will also help in bridging the gap between the NGO sector and the crypto space. Through these ventures, UNICEF is establishing a pivotal point for organizations to connect with the crypto and blockchain world and enhance their enterprise.

Over the next five years, UNICEF will venture to dumb down supply chain complexities to boost immunization process planning, implementation of the program and vaccination coverage, to offer a dynamic approach to monitoring and performance assessment.

Blockchain to make donations to UNICEF

UNICEF has been a strong advocate of cryptocurrencies in the past. Its inclination towards cryptocurrencies was clearly illustrated when it added nine popular digital currencies to its website donation portal last year, only to walk into 2019 by appending DAI crypto to the list.

In May 2019, UNICEF educated young individuals about the potential of blockchain at the SURGE event hosted at ETHCapeTown. The participants who had no prior knowledge about the technology, by the end of the day were found glued to their computers to further understand its diverse applications and transformational potential.

Brianna MacNeil, RightMesh, said: “After a full day of learning, it was clear that they understood how blockchain technology could play a transformative role in their lives. One of the most amazing moments was the demonstration of how blockchain can enable two people from separate countries to be able to transact directly with one another in seconds.”

The students also described how the traditional system requires them to pay SAR 5-10 (USD 0.35-0.70 USD) for every single action with their bank account, even if it was just to view their account balance. This is a striking divergence from a few cents required to send an Ethereum transaction through the network. This example established a strong reminder of the revolutionizing role technology has played in the financial world while shedding light on future roles.

Last year, UNICEF invested USD 100,000 into six blockchain companies and 20 other startups to leverage technology for the development of transformative solutions to social problems and help bridge the UN Sustainable Development Goals funding gap in innovative ways. Previously, UNICEF also pondered on the potential of blockchain to improve schools in Kyrgyzstan and enhance implementation of Project Connect in the country.

Ibrahim Mahgoub, UNICEF Ventures Technical Support Advisor told Forbes,

Everyone knows how quickly startups grow, and how technology can be used to transform a business. We believe children deserve that same scope of transformation.”

 

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Russian Gazprombank to Launch Crypto Trading Service

Russian Gazprombank to Launch Crypto Trading Service

State-owned Russian bank Gazprombank is making good on suggestions it made earlier in the year that it was hoping to provide cryptocurrency assets to its clients in the future.

Back in March, Gazprombank’s Swiss division declared that demand from clients asking for facilitation and management of cryptocurrency funds meant that this next move was definitely on its radar and consequently a July pilot was put in motion.

The Russian government is still reviewing cryptocurrency regulation under the Digital Assets Regulation Bill, filed 25 January. The bill defines cryptocurrencies and tokens as digital financial assets. If the bill passes in its current form, it would allow trading on cryptocurrency exchange operators with authorized Know-Your-Customer (KYC) standards. This would also apply to initial coin offerings (ICOs) established in Russia. The Russian Duma will also lay out specifications for interacting with crypto and blockchain-related technologies.

The bank has decided to forge ahead with 2019 as its latest target, snapping up partners Avaloq and Metaco on the way, using SILO, a product developed by blockchain technology company Metaco. Metaco has integrated SILO into one of Avaloq’s Banking Suite product. An older, more established company, Avaloq supplies “core banking” products to some major financial institutions, including HSBC, Barclays and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Avaloq’s Group Chief Technology Officer Thomas Beck claims that Metco’s integration of DLT will give crypto traders an extra layer of security:

“Thanks to the close integration of the Metaco storage solution, banking and wealth management customers won’t have to trust additional third parties when trading with cryptocurrencies. By bringing together all asset classes in one portfolio view, the solution will also ensure the highest levels of convenience and usability.”

In a joint statement released by the companies involved, they’ve stated that the bank will be able to “buy, sell and transfer crypto assets and currencies on behalf of clients and provide a consolidated portfolio view, without any need for a crypto-wallet or private key management”.

In other breaking crypto news from the region, the Russian Intellectual Property (IP) court has successfully used a blockchain-based solution for storing copyright data, with the court using blockchain solution provider IPChain‘s system to record a change in rights holder data of an IP, thus saving the data on the decentralized ledger permanently.

The IP recording platform is already working for the government of Uzbekistan, helping it record copyright data, especially in science and innovative sectors. Uzbekistan has also penned a deal with Kyrgyzstan’s State Patent Office, helping them digitize and store records in a decentralized environment.

 

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Chechnya Eurasian Crypto Mining Pool to Boost EAEU Nations

Eurasian Economic Union Countries (EAEU) are to receive some support in their crypto mining activities suggests Ramzan Kadyrov, leader of the Chechnya Republic.

According to the head of state’s press secretary Alvi Karimov, Chechnya has come up with a plan to create a mining pool to support mining in the Eurasian region by pooling resources of regional crypto miners.

Situated in the eastern part of the North Caucasus, partially in Eastern Europe, Chechnya is surrounded on nearly all sides by Russian Federal territory. In the west, it borders North Ossetia and Ingushetia, in the north, Stavropol Krai, in the east, Dagestan, and to the south, Georgia. Its capital is Grozny.

Chechnya is a federal subject of the Republic of Russia, which has once entertained the thought of a crypto-ruble in the past, despite attacking public cryptocurrency adoption. Although Chechen authorities have not outwardly supported cryptocurrency adoption themselves, the government has begun to demonstrate an interest in implementing blockchain and electronic payments systems. In a surprise move earlier this year, President Kadyrov publicly became a private cryptocurrency investor himself after slamming the concept, maintaining:

“Someone who puts money into cryptocurrencies expects their value to increase many fold… Their price grows only at the expense of investors’ greed. Those people are trying to draw in new investors and then get rich thanks to their greed.”

Ten days later the unpredictable Kadyrov bought his first Bitcoin. He said, “I’ve made up my mind to buy a share of bitcoin to follow the evolution of the cryptocurrency,” he further added: “I have already stated that blockchain will be introduced in the Chechen Republic and I am also interested in innovative payment networks.”

Although, the head of state calls for further regulation to protect Chechen citizens from “financial pyramids and other fraudulent schemes,” he wants miners from Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan to unite to create the new pool.

It is likely that President Kadyrov is buoyed by neighboring Russia’s increased mining activity with 400,000 people now employed in the sector. 70,000 enterprises operate hundreds of thousands of mining rigs. Russian money going towards foreign enterprises through crypto mining is also on the increase, a fact that has driven pooling ideas.

As a result, the RACIB has linked up with Crypto Universe Company to develop two mining pools under the project name “Mine Russia”.  Each of the pools is speculated to support 3000 units, mining a range of cryptocurrencies. One of the main aims of the project is to cut back on the amount of Russian money going towards foreign enterprises through crypto mining. The Russian Association of Crypto Industry and Blockchain’s (RACIB) president has vowed that there will be no hidden fees for the transfer of assets or connecting the mining equipment to the pools.

The Chechen pool will jump-start the ‘Crypto Chechnya’ program, which is aimed at developing the region’s economy with the use of blockchain technologies. The government has confirmed that before the mining pool can be launched, the adoption of the laws regulating the operation of cryptocurrency in the territory of Russia needs to be ratified; possibly later this year as a new bill passes through the Russian State Duma.

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Moscow to Use Ethereum to Oversee Farmers’ Markets Allocations

Moscow is going ahead with plans to develop a system using the Ethereum blockchain which will simplify the allocation of commercial trading plots to farmers.

The system is designed to allocate some 1,500 trading spots which become available each year with 20,000 farmers scrambling for a foothold in the April to November agricultural season. The race for a livelihood is enormously competitive, with farmers from Russia and original federated states, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, all vying for a place to conduct weekend trade in the nation’s capital.

Along with allocation of the spots, blockchain should help with recording applications and keep details of those who have been denied access to a trading location. Blockchain product manager at Moscow City Hall, Andrey Borodyonkov sees the use of blockchain as a huge advantage, commenting, “Blockchain is an additional guarantee that the incoming applications remain immutable as well as makes the audit of the application history possible.”

Until now, farmers have had issues with the current method of allocating trading spots, receiving little to no indication from City Hall as to why unsuccessful requests to trade in the capital had been denied. Also, with the blockchain system, the risk of any allegations of fraud or tampering with requests will be eradicated. A government statement suggested:

“The entire dataset is publicly viewable, transparent and available for download. In that case, submission time can be confirmed, while the application cannot be deleted or altered by someone once it is submitted.”

Andrey Belozerov, an adviser to Moscow City Hall, is particularly happy with this outcome as he sees it as offering clarity to farmers:

“We believe that farmers should have a transparent system to see why their application is declined or approved…blockchain is to make sure that the process is fully transparent and no one can alter an application. We hope that blockchain will provide full transparency for everyone.”

Moscow City Hall, which has recently formed a new department called Product Blockchain, is clearly intent on putting the new technology into commercial use at government administrative level since hiring blockchain developers back in 2016.

 

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