Emerging Opportunities for Blockchain in Development


Emerging Opportunities for Blockchain in Development

Image credit: Cryptoeconomy.net


  • Blockchain and ICT4D
  • Blockchain use cases in ICT4D
  • Opportunities for blockchain 

In the past month within the ICT4D, blockchain is probably the most popular topic. The question that l feel resonates with many colleagues in the agricultural sector (and ICT4D) is that, what is this technology, and does it offer any value in international development work?

It is with this self-inquisitiveness that l read the GSMA report entitled, ‘Blockchain for Development: Emerging Opportunities for Mobile, Identity and Aid”. My initial interest was to get practical applications and use cases of blockchain in the developmental world; and frankly the report did cover the topic well.

Before l delve into the uses cases let me glean some of the reports key points.

Locating the blockchain’s conception

The first part introduces us to this technology and the ‘hype’ around it. It explains it, “blockchain is a secure platform that lets people and organisations share information with each other with an unprecedented degree of trust and transparency” (GSMA, 2017:3).

Thereafter, the report hinges its definition on Satoshi Nakamoto’s (pseudonym) paper entitled, “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System” and explains its development hitherto. In essence, blockchains are “machines for creating trust”(Don & Alex Tapscotts:2016).

The use cases in ICT4D

The most interesting part is the chapter that deals with blockchain for development within the context of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The report highlights how four blockchain platforms are currently being used “to improve people’s access to self-sovereign identities (BanQu and Gravity), bring new levels of transparency to the distribution of international aid (Disberse), and improve the efficiency of humanitarian cash transfers (WFP’s Building Blocks)” (Wilson, 2018).

Each of the case studies sought to answer the following 5 questions:-

  1. What development challenge does the blockchain platform solve?
  2. How is blockchain changing or improving the approach to tackling this challenge?
  3. Why was blockchain chosen as the most appropriate technology?
  4. What were the main challenges to implementing this platform, and where is there evidence of success?
  5. How can the mobile industry add value to this initiative?

Use case 1: Blockchain and Self-Sovereign Digital Identity

This case discusses the BanQu App. It explains how digital identity is created for the unbanked and banked through the blockchain software. Please watch the short video below that explain this use case.

Video credit: BanQu

In the second video, Gravity also explains how they use blockchains to create digital identity, watch the self explanatory video below

Video credit: Gravity

Use case 2: Blockchain and International Aid Delivery

One of the challenges of international development is distributing and tracking funds to ensure they reach the intended beneficiaries. This gap in tracing funds from the donor and the beneficiary, makes it impossible to measure the efficiency and effectiveness of aid and by extension its impact.

In this use case, Disberse explains how they use the blockchain solution in the aid fund management in Swaziland. In early 2017, Disberse implemented a pilot for tracking funds from the UK to Swaziland in support of a girl’s education project. 

Image credit: Disberse

There are some challenges encountered in the implementation but however their business model is stable and they are exploring the possibility of integrating with mobile money services.

Use case 3: Blockchain and Humanitarian Cash Payments

Conflict and wars have displaced many communities and increased the number of refugees. In the past years the World Food Programme (WFP) and also the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have used cash transfers to provide assistance to displaced communities.

In the WFP’s case there are some challenges, for example handling large sums of money and also the issue of accountability and privacy of the recipient data and information. WFP has also adopted the blockchain solution, and this assures privacy of recipients.

Image credit: GSMA,2017

Read more about the WFP’s Jordan use case here

In conclusion these projects are still at an implementation phase, however very interesting results are already visible. This report, a first of its kind, has provided a very good compendium for those already thinking of implementing blockchains in developmental work.

We are keen to know more of your blockchain project within agriculture and rural development. Let us know if you are already working on a blockchain based technology projects.

This blog is based on the report by GSMA, 2017. Blockchain for Development: Emerging Opportunities for Mobile, Identity and Aid. GSM Association

Other sources consulted:-

  1. Wilson, Matthew.2018.Blockchain for Development: Emerging Opportunities for Mobile, Identity and Aid 
  2. WFP Building Blocks
  3. Disberse: The Future of Aid is here
  4. Nakamoto, S. (2009). ‘Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System’ 
  5. Tapscott, D and Tapschott, A. (2016). Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin is Changing Money, Business and the World. Penguin Publishing Group


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