Restoring faith in charity: a smart way to keep track of your donations
Aid:Tech uses blockchain to ensure money you donate will reach its intended recipient
Irish Times managing director Liam Kavanagh (second from left) with Martin Woods, Niall Dennehy, Danny Curran and Nicola Paoli of Aid:Tech at the Irish Times Innovation Awards 2018. Photograph: Conor McCabe.
A system which creates a permanent and immutable record of charitable donations, from the point of giving right through to how they are spent on the ground, earned Dublin company Aid:Tech the overall 2018 Irish Times Innovation Award.
The invention uses blockchain technology to create a digital record of the donation and to assign a digital identity to the eventual recipient to ensure it is spent in the way the donor intended.
“Our Trace Donate system is used to track donations to the Irish Red Cross,” he says. “If you want to donate to the Irish Red Cross and it’s done through our platform, you will get an alert when the donation goes to the individual it was intended for.”
The technology is being used at the moment for an Irish Red Cross campaign to combat TB in India.
“They want to prove to donors that their money is going where they say it does,” says Dennehy. “We create a digital twin of a TB kit using blockchain technology. The individuals in India who those kits are destined for have a digital identity represented by a QR code. This is used to confirm their identity when they receive their kits. As soon as that confirmation is received the donor receives an alert by email or SMS to let them know it has happened.
“We are able to reassure donors that their money is going to where it is intended and not being swallowed up by administration and so on. It makes donations and funding much more transparent.”
The inspiration for the company came from a problem faced by Dennehy’s co-founder Joe Thompson some years ago. Thompson ran the renowned Moroccan desert marathon in 2009 to raise money for charity. But the money he raised disappeared, and he wasn’t able to tell his donors what had happened to it. That piqued an interest in the security benefits of blockchain technology for such endeavours.
The need for transparency and traceability is very topical right now in light of interference in elections and so on
“We asked ourselves if we could use the blockchain to bring transparency to charitable donations and 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.”
And potential usage goes far beyond charitable giving.
“The need for transparency and traceability is very topical right now in light of interference in elections and so on,” Dennehy explains. “The creation of a digital identity on the internet will enable a means for the exchange of items of value without having to use traditional banking systems and so on. Rather than people being the product when it comes to internet services, they will be in control of their own data and make it work for them. That’s what we have wanted to achieve from day one. It’s impossible to tamper with blockchain. Records created on it are permanent and immutable.”
The company is working with a number of different organisations around the world.
“We are working with St Vincent de Paul in America. They have a number of different offices there. They distribute disaster relief on behalf of a number of different government bodies and are using our technology to distribute aid to people in Texas and Florida who have lost their homes to floods and hurricanes. They have a House in a Box project which provides financial assistance to buy new furniture and so on. We create a digital twin of that asset so that the aid can be tracked from source to the point where it is spent.
Our ambition is to give a digital identity to as many people around the world as possible
“We are also working with HIV Ireland, ” he continues. “On World AIDS Day earlier in the year we worked with them on an awareness campaign and enabled trackable donations. We will be working with a US government department shortly on welfare distribution and we are already working with the government of Singapore on a welfare project.”
And this is just the beginning.
“The future is going to be huge for us,” he says. “Our ambition is to give a digital identity to as many people around the world as possible. We want to give everyone a self-sovereign identity which they can use for a variety of purposes. They will be able to use blockchain to hold all their personal documents like passports, educational certificates, financial details, personal records, property deeds and so on in one single secure place as an alternative to existing systems. If someone wants to buy or sell property or get a visa to live and work in another country all they will need is that self-sovereign identity.”