Using blockchain technology to help people with no legal identity

Fintech and IT finalist in the 2018 Innovation Awards, Aid:Tech allows for the creation of a secure identity for aid or welfare recipients

Syrian refugees in Bekaa, Lebanon. Photograph: Furkan Guldemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Syrian refugees in Bekaa, Lebanon. Photograph: Furkan Guldemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

 

Support for young mothers in remote areas of Tanzania, aid to Syrian refugees in northern Lebanon and assistance for struggling farmers in Serbia. These are just a few examples of the benefits of the blockchain-based platform created by Irish company Aid:Tech.

The solution offers a secure means to deliver aid and other benefits to people around the world who previously might have had no bank account or legal identity in the form of a social security number of equivalent.

According to Aid:Tech chief operating officer Niall Dennehy, there are 2.4 billion people around the world with no legal identity. This presents huge difficulties in providing them with a range of benefits such as welfare, medical entitlements, remittances, healthcare, aid and peer-to-peer donations.

The Aid:Tech platform allows for the creation of a secure identity for an aid or welfare recipient, which is stored on a blockchain ledger and can’t be subsequently altered or erased. Aid in the form or vouchers or actual cash can be sent via the platform completely securely with an unalterable record of receipt, thus helping address corruption and improve efficiency.

The idea for the solution came from an unfortunate experience. Dennehy’s co-founder Joe Thompson ran the renowned 151-mile Moroccan desert marathon in 2009 to raise money for charity – but the money disappeared. That led to an interest in the security benefits of blockchain technology for such endeavours. “We asked ourselves if we could use it to bring transparency to international aid,” says Dennehy. “We found out that 30 per cent of international aid goes missing each year and we developed a solution which could verify to donors that their money has gone where it was intended.”

Syrian refugees

They approached the Irish Red Cross with the technology and partnered with them to deliver aid to Syrian refugees – the first time blockchain technology had ever been used for that purpose.

The system is quite simple. The aid or government agency involved can create a digital identity for the individual recipient, which is stored on the Aid:Tech platform. The recipient stores these details in a QR code on their mobile phone or, if they don’t have one, a plastic ID card. To receive aid or other entitlements they simply scan the QR code.

“They go on to the platform and sign up for the identity,” Dennehy explains. “All the usual know your customer and anti-money laundering systems are in place as part of the verification process.”

This gives full end-to end visibility from donor to recipient. Indeed, the company has just created a new app for the Irish Red Cross for that purpose. “Donors will be alerted when their donation has been used so they can be sure it has been used for the purpose intended.”

While the solution was originally created to support the international aid community, there are plans to roll it out to other areas. “It can be used to help people around the world to participate in the digital economy”, says Dennehy. “People will be able to use it to gain access to micropayments services, banks and so on.”

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.