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Oxfam Trials Aid Distribution With DAI, Future Use ‘Highly Likely’

Oxfam issued tap-and-pay cards loaded with $50 worth of DAI to 200 Vanuatu citizens to use via Sempo’s payment platform, following six weeks of direct consultation with villagers.

Throughout May 2019, United Kingdom-based nonprofit organization Oxfam International executed a month-long trial that saw MakerDAO’s DAI stablecoin distributed as a means of exchange among citizens of Vanuatu. The Oxfam initiative, named UnBlocked Cash, was conducted in partnership with MakerDAO, ConsenSys and Australian tech startup Sempo. The Australian government also supported the program.

Tsunamis, cyclones and volcanic eruptions comprise a constant concern for the citizens of Vanuatu, with WorldRiskReport describing it as the world’s most at-risk nation to natural disaster for five consecutive years. The month-long program saw 200 residents of the Vanuatu villages of Pango and Mele Maat issued tap-and-pay cards loaded with roughly 4,000 Vanuatu vatu (approximately $50) worth of MakerDao’s DAI stablecoin.

Related: From Clean Water Supply to Rebuilding Notre Dame: Crypto and Blockchain in Charity

Local vendors who agreed to participate in UnBlocked Cash were provided with Android smartphones with an app facilitating the processing of DAI payments. The vendors were also able to convert DAI into fiat currency through Sempo‘s cryptocurrency exchange or any other platform, if desired. In total, 34 vendors participated in UnBlocked Cash, including local stores and schools.

Approximately 2,000 transactions were recorded during the pilot. Due to privacy concerns, an individual’s purchases were not tracked. However, the program recorded the general category of purchases — such as “medicine,” “food” or “bills.” During May, 5% of all new DAI addresses were created by the citizens of Vanuatu.

Cash trumps in-kind provisions

According to Australian media outlet Micky, contemporary research indicates that providing aid in the form of a liquid means of exchange is significantly more effective than giving in-kind support, such as food and other basic provisions. 

The publication approximates that roughly “70 percent of Syrian refugees have been forced to sell in-kind donations for cash so they can buy the items that actually need to suit their personal circumstances.” The provision of cash also serves to encourage local economic activity.

Sandra Uwantege Hart, the head of Oxfam’s Pacific Cash & Livelihoods in Vanuatu, told Cointelegraph that “Oxfam was already managing a portfolio of activities designed to scale cash transfers as a means of delivering disaster assistance across the Pacific region” as early as 2017. She continued:

“Typically, cash transfers are much more efficient than providing goods as a form of aid relief, but they are also slow to set up and often bogged down by lengthy financial reconciliation processes and slow monitoring and reporting, which is often difficult for donors to verify. We saw the potential for higher transparency, rapid analytics and automated transaction tracking typical of blockchain solutions as a vehicle to improve and accelerate our cash transfer programs and ultimately make them more responsive to people’s needs.”

According to Hart, it took Oxfam “a while to find the right tech provider to get this solution off the ground before settling on Sempo through an RFP process. Sempo stood out from the pack as one of the only tech providers who fully understood both sides of the equation we were trying to solve — how cash transfers work, and how to design blockchain solutions in a local context-adapted way to make them work for the people who need them the most.”

Sempo’s platform operates offline

Speaking to Cointelegraph, Sempo’s Melanie Hardman described that the platform’s mission is to solve the challenges encountered by both vendors and customers who seek to conduct trade in periods of crisis. Hardman said:

“Our platform consists of: an app used by vendors as a ‘point of sale’ platform, an e-voucher or ‘tap and go’ card which hold a balance of funds and is used by recipients to make purchases, and a dashboard managed by the Oxfam team, where they can enroll and approve program participants, disburse funds and monitor transactions.”

The platform is able to continue operating offline by “cryptographically recording recipient’s balances on tap-to-pay smart cards, which are then synced at a later point.” The platform also does not require recipients to have access to a mobile phone and does not require users to undergo Know Your Customer (KYC) identification checks, which Hardman described as “critical,” given that many people living in the developing world lack identity documentation. 

In late 2018, Sempo used its platform to deliver cash aid to refugees based in the Greek city of Athens, Iraqi Kurdistan, as well as Beirut and Akkar in Lebanon. According to Sempo, the programs saw the “creation of a digital credit transfer platform that is easy for both vendors and recipients to use, regardless of literacy and existing levels of financial inclusion.” The company also noted that it was able to increase the transparency of the program by leveraging distributed ledger technology.

Stablecoin issuance as cash aid

Sempo’s Nick Williams told Cointelegraph that MakerDAO and Sempo developed a process for UnBlocked Cash that distributed DAI-backed digital vouchers, which were redeemable for fiat currency, to Vanuatu citizens. 

“Dai was used as collateral for a special e-voucher, which means that vendors can be reimbursed by anyone who meets the regulatory requirements of the Vanuatu Government. This gives the platform capacity for much lower cost overheads, as well as creating the foundations for open financial ecosystems in the communities that need them.”

Greg DiPrisco, head of business development for the Maker Foundation, told Cointelegraph that “Sempo was convinced that Dai was the best solution for their needs and thus went through the proper channels to ensure that they could use it in the pilot.” DiPrisco described the initiative as “a testament to the power of a decentralized stablecoin to empower disenfranchised populations.”

Sempo’s Hardman stated that the company was selected by Oxfam to provide its cash transfer platform technology for the Unblocked Cash pilot following year-long discussions between the two entities regarding “the potential to revolutionize the cash transfer space using blockchain.” Hardman continued:

“Sempo was invited to put forward a proposal by Oxfam as part of their RFP process. This involved Sempo presenting an initial presentation on our work to date, and then developing and submitting a proposal, which we did in partnership with ConsenSys.”

Claudio Lisco, strategic initiatives lead at ConsenSys, told Cointelegraph that the company was engaged by Oxfam alongside Sempo “to assess the time, cost and quality of digital cash based transfer programs” after the nonprofit became aware that ConsenSys had built a financial inclusion platform in conjunction with the Union Bank of the Philippines, titled Project i2i. Lisco stated: 

“ConsenSys aided in the initial design of the pilot, provided blockchain advisory and communications support, and evaluated the pilot to make recommendations for future utilization and scaling potential. We were on the ground during the pilot, to document and collect data insights, and conducted interviews and filming. We are now producing the debrief report, video case study, and advising on future developments and how iterations of the cash transfer program can be scaled.”

Pilot program seen as success

While Sempo and ConsenSys will meet with Oxfam during the final week of June to discuss the pilot’s findings — and whether there is potential to employ the program at scale in Vanuatu and other regions — representatives of the entities involved indicate that the program was seen as a success. 

Oxfam’s Hart stated that Oxfam’s previous cash assistance programs in Vanuatu involved a setup process that “took between 30 minutes and an hour of long lines and verifying paper lists.” According to Sempo’s Hardman: 

“Within the pilot, enrolment times were reduced between communities from 5.4 minutes to 3.6 minutes, demonstrating significant time savings when compared with other cash transfer modalities, where recipients may have to attend a registration session, return at another time to verify their identity, and then travel to collect a cheque.”

Hart concluded that there were significant gains in the speed with which Oxfam was able to pay vendors, emphasizing meaningful participation on the part of many small, community-level merchants, who rarely take part in assistance programs due to typically being unable to wait weeks to be paid. Hart explained:

“Now, with weekly payments, virtually all vendors in this trial were small scale and community based, and located within walking distance for most recipients — this means that we are enabling small-scale community economic recovery that is more inclusive and better adapted to people’s purchasing habits.”

Pilot program produces “unprecedented” transparency

Transparency has long comprised a fundamental value proposition put forward by cryptocurrency, with the UnBlocked Cash pilot demonstrating the advantages digital currencies offer over opaque means for distributing public finance. Hardman stated that the initiative “provided high levels of transparency for Oxfam and their donor, the Australian Government, as administrators were able to see transaction data in real time both on the Sempo dashboard, and the public blockchain.” 

Related: Young Africa Looks to Crypto for Payment

Hardman also reported that Vanuatu community members indicated that Sempo’s platform would be the preferred modality of aid issuance in future disaster scenarios, attributing such to the greater ease of use afforded to recipients when compared with other forms of cash aid. However, she also noted, on reflection, that Sempo would like to see the platform’s offline data reporting functionality strengthened in order to improve monitoring.

ConsenSys’ Lisco described the program as showcasing the unique value propositions of cryptocurrency technology, concluding that Sempo’s platform offered significant efficiency advantages over cash, checks and other traditional methods for distributing financial aid. He continued: 

“The pilot demonstrated that direct donations (without any intermediaries or administration) are possible utilizing Ethereum-based stablecoins. This method of transfer was also significantly cheaper for small donations. For instance, bank transfers to Vanuatu from Australia cost approximately $20 AUD. An Ethereum transaction, by contrast, averages less than 10 cents in AUD.“

Oxfam “highly likely” to continuing using stablecoins to distribute aid

Moving forward, Hart indicated that Oxfam is currently in the process of compiling reports aimed at showcasing the UnBlocked Cash initiative, and that it will “seek out the resources to be able to plan longer-term, and look at how we scale up this innovation in the Pacific, and elsewhere.” 

Joshua Hallwright, Oxfam Australia’s humanitarian lead, told Cointelegraph that it is “highly likely that Oxfam will use stablecoins or other distributed ledger technologies to provide cash aid in disaster responses in the future, either in Vanuatu or elsewhere.”

Hallwright noted that “Oxfam is exploring the use of distributed ledger technologies because of their potential to change power dynamics and address inequities,” adding: 

“As DLTs become ever more present in society, Oxfam is engaging in their development and impact in line with our goals of eliminating poverty and reducing inequalities. Oxfam is currently piloting six different uses of DLTs, globally, and sees these pilots as producing important insights that will shape future DLT applications in crisis responses and more broadly in emerging economies.”

The program showcases the potential of cryptocurrencies to facilitate far greater efficiency in the provision of resources, especially within the developing world and in response to crisis formulation. It is also good to hear that more such trials may take place, which could lead to a wide-scale adoption of crypto in the disaster relief sector.

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BitMEX Operator Firm Donates to MIT to Conduct Crypto, Bitcoin-Related Research

HDR Global Trading Limited has donated to the MIT Digital Currency Initiatives to conduct cryptocurrency-related research.

The owner and operator of cryptocurrency exchange BitMEX has donated to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to conduct cryptocurrency-related research, according to an announcement published on May 28.

HDR Global Trading Limited has made a donation to the MIT Digital Currency Initiative (DCI), the objective of which is to conduct the research necessary to support the development of digital currency and blockchain technology. Specifically, the funds will be allocated to support Bitcoin Core developers Wladimir van der Laan and Cory Fields.

Commenting on the sponsorship, Sam Reed, CTO of HDR Global Trading and co-founder of BitMEX, said that the “donation into research and development is about ensuring that the network is more robust. A stronger Bitcoin network will be beneficial to all, and we are very excited to be able to aid in its progress.”

As reported earlier today, BitMEX co-founder Ben Delo, joined over 200 other billionaires by pledging to donate the majority of his wealth to charitable causes. In his pledge, Delo wrote that he will use his fortune to “safeguard future generations and protect the long-term prospects of humanity.” Delo will direct his wealth to “navigate the challenges and opportunities posed by new technologies in the upcoming century.”

In April, HDR Global Trading Limited partnered with United States-based professional trading infrastructure firm Trading Technologies International (TT) to open up its products to crypto derivatives traders. TT traders thus will be able to trade on BitMEX and will gain access to its crypto products, which include the bitcoin-based XBTUSD Perpetual Swap.

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I Tried to Get People to Give Away Bitcoin – And They Did

Some of bitcoin’s earliest adopters have made a fortune holding onto the coins, and Connie Gallippi wanted to give them a way to help other people. Turns out bitcoiners are quite the philanthropists too.

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French Gov’t Minister Open to Enabling Crypto Donations for Notre Dame

France’s Minister of State for the Digital Sector says he is open to cooperating with crypto exchanges to enable crypto donations for the reconstruction of the Notre Dame cathedral.

France’s Minister of State for the Digital Sector, Cédric O, has said he is open to cooperating with cryptocurrency platforms to enable crypto donations for the reconstruction of the Notre Dame cathedral. The news was reported by Bloomberg on April 17.

The medieval cathedral suffered a blaze on April 15 that nearly destroyed the world-renowned landmark. Within just two days, donations for the monument’s reconstruction are reportedly approaching 900 million euros (over $1 billion).

Cédric O — whose ministry works under the aegis of France’s Minister of Economy and Finance, Bruno Le Maire — noted that the government’s newly-launched website for Notre Dame donations was created extremely quickly and does not as of yet support contributions in cryptocurrencies.

The official site currently links to four approved organizations that are collecting donations for the reconstruction, but Cédric O stressed the government is “open to discussing with others” to help drive the fundraising efforts.

The minister said the same conditions would apply to crypto donations as those for fiat currencies — organizations must not charge commissions, data should be collected for tax deductions and the funds should ultimately be routed via one of the four approved organizations.

As Cointelegraph has reported, on April 15, BlockShow, an international blockchain event powered by Cointelegraph, launched its own campaign to raise cryptocurrency for the cathedral’s reconstruction.

Major global crypto exchange Binance also launched its own crypto donation program to support reconstruction of the cathedral this week, as reported. The new donation channel is hosted on Binance’s charity platform, which was launched as an initiative of the The Blockchain Charity Foundation (BCF).

Earlier this week, Bruno Le Maire affirmed that blockchain technology is a priority for his country’s government. He highlighted the crypto and blockchain regulatory progress heralded by the PACTE Act, which was passed by the French National Assembly earlier this month.

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Binance Responds to Notre Dame Tragedy by Launching Crypto Donation Channel

Responding to President Emmanuel Macron’s call for donations, Binance launched its crypto donation program “Rebuild Notre Dame”

Major global crypto exchange Binance has launched a crypto donation program to support the reconstruction of the Notre Dame cathedral, the firm tweeted on April 16.

Binance has initiated a donation program “Rebuild Notre-Dame,” calling the crypto community to support their campaign to restore the medieval cathedral that suffered “colossal damages” from a major fire that nearly destroyed the landmark on April 15.

In the post accompanying the new crypto-fundraising channel, Binance stated that the recent event was a “great moment of loss for culture, arts, and history shared by all humankind.”

The exchange launched the new donation channel on its charity platform initiated by the company’s social project The Blockchain Charity Foundation (BCF).

At press time, the campaign has amassed 28 donations in bitcoin (BTC), ethereum (ETH), and Binance’s internal token Binance coin (BNB), totally accounting to 1.46 bitcoin, which is worth about $7,577 at press time.

Binance, the world’s third largest crypto exchange by daily trade volume to date, introduced its blockchain-powered donation platform within BCF in October 2018. The major crypto exchange has already launched a number of crypto-powered donation campaigns, including a recent campaign to support students in schools across Rwanda, Kenya and Ethiopia.

On April 15, BlockShow, an international blockchain event powered by Cointelegraph, launched another campaign to raise cryptocurrency for the Notre Dame cathedral reconstruction.

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BlockShow Launches Crypto Fundraising Campaign for Notre Dame Reconstruction

BlockShow, an international blockchain event powered by Cointelegraph, has started a campaign to raise crypto for the Notre Dame cathedral reconstruction.

BlockShow, an international blockchain event powered by Cointelegraph, has started a campaign to raise cryptocurrency for the Notre Dame cathedral reconstruction. The news was announced on BlockShow’s official Twitter account on April 16.

In the tweet, the team behind BlockShow revealed that it has initiated a fundraising campaign for the Notre Dame reconstruction following the devastating fire that engulfed the cathedral yesterday, April 15.

The BlockShow team posted two digital currency wallet addresses where everyone interested can transfer donations in both bitcoin (BTC) and ethereum (ETH), as well as a link to the Foundations Du Patrimoine, which is raising donations in fiat currencies.

National Public Radio (NPR) has reported about several other international campaigns raising funds for the cathedral rebuilding, including GoFundMe and La Fondation Avenir du Patrimoine à Paris. Per NPR, hundreds of millions of dollars have already been contributed by some of France’s wealthiest names, including the Bettencourt Meyers family, Bernard Arnault and François Pinault.

News about the Notre Dame fire has drawn the attention of dozens of the world’s most prominent individuals. Former president of the United States Barack Obama tweeted:

“Notre Dame is one of the world’s great treasures, and we’re thinking of the people of France in your time of grief. It’s in our nature to mourn when we see history lost — but it’s also in our nature to rebuild for tomorrow, as strong as we can.”

President of the European Council Donald Tusk said:

“I’d like to say words of comfort and solidarity with the French nation, also as citizen of Gdańsk, 90% destroyed and burnt, later rebuilt. You will also rebuild your cathedral! From Strasbourg, French capital of the EU, I call on all 28 States to take part in this task.”

Cryptocurrencies and blockchain have been gradually entering the charity sector, purportedly providing more transparency and trust to the industry. Recently, U.S. crypto payment processor BitPay and the non-profit and charitable organization that operates Wikipedia, the Wikimedia Foundation, partnered to accept crypto donations.

Last December, a Dublin-headquartered startup dubbed AID:Tech teamed up with the Irish Red Cross to use blockchain technology in a new app that improves transparency for charitable donations.

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Freedom of Press Foundation Starts Accepting Crypto, Sees $550K Donation on First Day

Nonprofit organization the Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) began accepting cryptocurrency donations June 18, opening its doors to Bitcoin and four altcoins.

FPF, which formed in 2012, aims to support and protect free speech in the media, as well as campaign through whistleblower projects and raise awareness of threats to media publications.

“Your support enables us to protect journalists and whistleblowers worldwide, and will help further projects like SecureDrop, the US Press Freedom Tracker, and the archival of threatened news outlets,” the donations page explains.

FPF lists addresses for five cryptocurrencies – Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin and ZCash – while officials say they will also consider donations in using other coins.

The move appeared to receive a warm reception in some circles, with decentralized message routing network Mainframe donating 1000 ETH ($542,000) to the FPF.

“Public advocacy becomes that much more powerful when coupled with innovation and better choices. Both organizations plan to work towards the mutually beneficial goal of tipping the scales in favor of the fight for freedom of information,” Mainframe wrote in a blog post explaining the impetus behind its decision.