This will be continually updated. Last updated 12 January 2017.
Blockchain technologies are introducing new systems of trust and exchange on which users can send value directly from one party to another without the need for intermediaries.
Blockchain systems have no central points of control, are powered by the internet, and are governed by computer code normally referred to as smart contracts. Digital currencies (e.g bitcoin) are famous applications of blockchain technologies, nevertheless, these technologies have promises to go beyond currencies or financial transactions.
UNICEF Innovation Ventures team explores these technologies, with the potential to impact children. The team sees blockchain technology as having benefits in 3 main ways: 1) new ways of donating money 2) creating better transparency in internal processes, and 3) potentially addressing certain development issues like payments of partners of frontline workers.
To understand the technical, social, ethical, and legal challenges of utilizing blockchain technologies in our complex and interconnected world — the team is exploring this space with open eyes on practical experimentations of cryptocurrencies, smart contracts, digital scarcity, digital collectibles and various types of tokens.
We’re working on integrating blockchain technology and supporting programmatic applications in several areas:
➜ UNICEF Innovation Fund Call for blockchain proposals, where we’re interested in companies that use distributed ledger tech in new, groundbreaking ways that are scalable and globally applicable. Learn more here.
➜ Working with start-ups like the IXO Foundation in South Africa (recent profile of their “proof of impact” protocol in Fast Company) – specifically around developing identity tools for early childhood education
➜ Fundraising, online transactions and institutional processes at UNICEF – e.g. our Multisig contract on Ethereum / accepting Ether donations.
➜ Participating in a Blockchain Lab and Simulation with UN Women and others (Member States, UN agencies, NGOs and others) – a hands-on opportunity to see how blockchain technologies can address challenges faced by women and girls in humanitarian settings.
➜ A recent Blockchain Hackathon in Kazakhstan – some details here.
A closer look:
UNICEF’s Multisig contract on Ethereum
➜ UNICEF is now beginning the first explorations into this technology. The creation of the first UNICEF Ethereum-based smart contract – in which all activity can be seen – provides a window into the work UNICEF is doing. The individuals involved in authorizing and testing UNICEF’s Ethereum-based smart contracts are also fully, publicly auditable.
How it works: the smart contract is established to receive Ether tokens which will be used as “Gas” (the Ether price required to execute a smart contract – essentially the fuel you need to interact with the Ethereum Blockchain). Validating initial actions is required (e.g. Ether transfer proposals) on this contract through signatures by validated accounts; meaning that in the future, anyone could look at the transactions and see what’s happened, and any movement of tokens could be accounted for. Read more here.
UNICEF Ventures Multisig Contract Address: 0xb23397f97715118532c8c1207F5678Ed4FbaEA6c
- Christopher Fabian (@hichrisfabian): 0x8717d7cf7368e593967c1b975bbb23553e4fb3bb
- Sunita Grote (@sunitagrote): 0x4911426057aBf81AFEC290d026AeF1EfaE96547A
- Qusai Jouda (@qusaijouda): 0xC98e86927D9752586da1081c8dD9a41450232Deb
Below are two alternative ways to see the activity in the smart contract. There are many other Ethereum explorer sites that could be used – they will all show the same indelible information.
Kazakhstan Blockchain hackathon
➜ On 3-5 November, UNICEF in Kazakhstan held the first hackathon worldwide on the use of blockchain technology for advancing children’s rights. The event attracted two hundred entrepreneurs and technical experts from Russian-speaking countries in Europe and Central Asia to downtown Astana to explore the potential of the technology to help address some of the most pressing issues affecting children. In particular, how smart contracts and cryptocurrency enabled exchanges will change how UNICEF works with its partners, and whether it opens up new pathways for improving our efficiency and for generating greater transparency in development systems overall. Find out more here.
— UNICEF Kazakhstan (@unicef_kaz) November 4, 2017
Educating and Building Bitcoin and Blockchain capacity [Ongoing]
The Office of Innovation has held multiple technical sessions to outline and demonstrate how blockchain networks work, using the Bitcoin network for:
The World Bank
The U.S State Department
UN Blockchain Group
An-Najah & Beirzeit Universities
UNICEF explored and developed a prototype app for identity
➜ Created a prototype to demonstrate the concept of “Anonymous Identity” based on James D’angelo’s video titled, “The Basics Of A Bitcoin-Based Global Identity System“. *This app was designed for illustrative purposes and not for field use.
Example Scenario: Enable UN staff in conflict zones to prove their affiliation without having to show identification.
The way it works: UNICEF uses its public address on the blockchain to send a small amount of bitcoin to another address on the blockchain represented by the digital signature of a photo of the staff person. This app receives a copy of the image, and verifies that it’s been signed by UNICEF.
To demonstrate this: we put our colleague’s cat, Fuzzy (a sample UN staff member) on the blockchain and then found her with the app. To see her yourself, go to http://vipid.herokuapp.com and enter: 1 cat show. To see our colleague, a la Blade Runner, enter: 206 teddy bears.
Media & Podcasts:
Fast Company: This New Blockchain Protocol Wants To Create Accountability For Social Impact
Coindesk: No Token Response: UNICEF Is Open to Doing Its Own ICO
Coindesk: UNICEF’s Venture Arm Trials Ethereum Smart Contracts
Coindesk: UNICEF Just invested in its first Blockchain Startup
Wired: UNICEF is funding blockchain and health tech to solve the world’s biggest problems
Epicenter TV: Unicef & Ixo: Towards More Transparent Humanitarian Projects with Christopher Fabian & Shaun Conway.
Hackernoon: Crypto For Social Good
UNICEF Blockchain lead, Qusai Jouda testing #bitcoin payments on @lightning network.
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Technical Contact: @qusaijouda
Communications Contact: acollins [at] unicef [dot] org