Blockchain for Humanitarians Use

Capitalize on existing research and development: Block-chain technology is already having a profound impact on how private companies manage data, interact with custom-ers and pursue innovation.52 The humanitarian sector can leverage this existing knowledge to adapt the technology for humanitarian needs. This also involves creating incentives for the private sector to invest in research and development that benefits the humanitarian space. The humanitarian community can also partner with Governments and com-panies already working in this area (Estonia, Delaware, UK), as well as with the blockchain open-source community and non-profits in the blockchain space, such as COALA, IPDB and Blockstack.Build on existing infrastructure: There are several differ-ent blockchain platforms that can be adapted to humanitari-an use cases. The sector can partner with existing blockchain platforms, such as Ethereum, to build pilot projects for small-er and specific test applications.Similarly, those interested in implementing blockchain can look to previous instances of new technology being adopted in the humanitarian sector. For instance, humanitarian actors can look to the adoption of mobile banking as an example of how the blockchain and digital currencies can be adapted to humanitarian needs. Actors could also investigate leveraging existing infrastructure, such as mobile banking infrastructure, to enable blockchain applications.Research the humanitarian applications of blockchain technology: The humanitarian sector needs research and development to further investigate how blockchain technol-ogy can be adapted to address humanitarian challenges. The above use cases are just some of the potential applications of blockchain technology in the sector. More careful research into the benefits, challenges and consequences of using the technology should be pursued. Furthermore, additional re-search and evidence are needed to translate these potential use cases to actual implementation. Once clear use cases are established in other sectors, the humanitarian sector should adapt best practices and lessons learned from other sec-tors to translate the blockchain to humanitarian purposes. Research organizations, such as the Overseas Development Institute, can build and test prototypes of humanitarian-spe-cific blockchain applications.Create basic frameworks for understanding and using blockchain technology: If blockchain technology is to be implemented in the humanitarian sector, guidelines for safety, security and data sharing must be established. Best practices and guidance for using data responsibly must be adopted, which can then be used to develop a framework to use the blockchain responsibly. These policies must be developed and agreed on by all actors using the technology. For instance, this may involve creating minimum data-usage standards for blockchain-enabled information sharing. The Humanitarian Data Centre may be one space well suited for further exploration of this.


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