IBM and Global Citizen are issuing a challenge to the world's developers: use blockchain to revolutionize how donations are made to humanitarian causes.
The tech giant and the anti-poverty campaign movement are partnering on "Challenge Accepted," inspired by the United Nations' Envision 2030 initiative, which aims to improve the lives of impoverished and at-risk people.
Developers taking part in Challenge Accepted will use IBM's Blockchain Platform Starter Plan to build a network that encompasses all aspects of the donation process.
There's a gamification aspect as well – along the way, developers who perform certain actions can earn "points" that they can then redeem for access to IBM experts, for example.
Stepping back, the UN and other assistance groups have previously explored using blockchain to track aid to impoverished areas. Cryptocurrencies, too, have served as a platform for facilitating donations to a range of causes, from clean water access to the provision of electricity for a school in South Africa.
And in what is perhaps the most notable trial of its kind to date, the World Food Programme (WFP), the food assistance arm of the United Nations, tapped the ethereum blockchain to authenticate and record disbursement transactions.
More than money
Simon Moss, a co-founder of Global Citizen, argued in a blog post published Friday that the technology has the potential to change the face of humanitarian aid.
And it's not just the money that would be better accounted for, he said – organizations can use a blockchain to improve transparency in the flow of goods being delivered as well.
"Blockchain can provide clarity on not only who is donating, but how money and supplies flow through organizations that provide aid – such as tracking a gallon of water purchased by an organization to the location where it was delivered," he wrote.
Kathryn Harrison, who leads product management for the IBM Blockchain platform, told CoinDesk that the initiative grew out of internal conversations earlier this year about the "opportunities to use this technology in areas that we can do some pretty substantial social good."
"I think it's a really exciting opportunity to help engaged citizens see how they can build something that's going to drive accountability and improvement in the [non-governmental organization] sector," Harrison said.
A link in the chain
Harrison also framed the challenge – which runs from May 15 to July 14 – as part of the wider work being done at IBM on the blockchain front.
"We're focused on so many different types of use cases. We look at food safety, we look at microfinance, we look things like the environment and carbon credits and energy savings," she explained. "And this just seems like another opportunity to empower developers to put their skills to use for good."
At the end of the challenge, five winners will be chosen from the pool of contestants. Harrison said some of the projects may be listed in the IBM Blockchain Platform, opening up those templates to other users – and winners could potentially take their projects further through IBM's Garage workspaces. The winners will also receive tickets to Global Citizen's Global Citizen Music Festival in September.
The challenge is an opportunity for developers looking at aid-focused uses of blockchain to advance their ideas – but as Moss contended in his blog post, there's a bit more at stake here.
"This is a bold reinvention of how philanthropy and donors interact."
Humanitarian aid image via Shutterstock