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AID:Tech, Finalist in EC Award, Uses Blockchain to Help Refugees

Reading Time: 3 minutes by on October 4, 2016 Business, News, Tech
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AID:Tech, a startup company that uses blockchain technology, is tackling the intensifying refugee crisis in Europe through a transparent platform, which is guaranteed to help the poorest receive aid efficiently. For their creative innovation, AID:Tech have successfully progressed into the finals of the European Commission Social Innovation Competition as well as gaining endorsement from the two largest aid organizations in the world.   

The Irish startup recently displayed its platform and announced its ambitions at Techstars London Demo Day 2016, where AID:Tech CEO, Joseph Thompson, stated:

“$1.1 trillion is stolen from developing economies because of fraud, corruption and the absolute lack of transparency. Governments of the aid organisation have never really solved this. I am proud to say, we are solving it today.”


The European Commission Social Innovation Competition had a total entry of 1,095 applicants and their main aim is to help refugees during this crisis. AID:Tech’s innovative offering was among ten finalists, announced September 29, selected by the European Commission panel. AID:Tech’s entry was titled “Financial Democratisation for Refugees and Migrants.”

AID:Tech is addressing this issue with blockchain technology, developing an intelligent voucher scheme along with digital identity for refugees, which allows access to a range of crucial information such as electronic cash, social welfare payments, as well as dental and health care records.

What are the benefits of this scheme? This unique system enables refugees to prove their identity effortlessly without the asylum process holding them back through registering with a smart card; the card provides information such as what language the individual speaks, social service entitlements and who their family members are. Government employees can then easily provide assistance to streamline the asylum process. Furthermore, the smart card is similar to a mobile bank account, empowering refugees to make purchases at participating stores.  

In December 2015, AID:Tech trialled their blockchain solution in Lebanon dispersing intelligent vouchers to 500 Syrian migrants. Within a couple hours of the trial, they experienced numerous instances of attempted fraud at the refugee camp. However, all twenty fraudulent vouchers that were created failed at point-of-sale.

Along with eliminating fraud, every transaction was monitored in real time, providing transparency to Red Cross and the vendor. Therefore, every cent of international aid is accounted for, as elaborated by Thompson,

“You cannot defraud mathematics, what you witness there was ground breaking. The first time ever international aid was delivered with blockchain technology and every single cent of that was accounted for.”

The CEO of AID:Tech explains that the system acts as a digital, financial fingerprint for refugees allowing the receipt of aid via a QR code or Bluetooth connection, “For the beneficiaries, we create a digital identity, this means they can get social services and aid sent to them directly, so no more fraud, no more theft, and no more nonsense. We give them a financial fingerprint.”

With AID:Tech as one of the finalists, they have the opportunity to pitch their project to the European Commission panel, in order to compete for three prizes of €50,000. The final awards ceremony will be held in Brussels on October 27.  

The blockchain startup has been recognised by two of the world’s largest aid organizations, the International Federation of the Red Cross and United Nations Development Programme. In collaboration with AID:Tech, these organizations are rolling out projects on the blockchain and will see the startup initiate projects in Haiti, France, Serbia, Malawi, and Pakistan. These countries, taken together, distribute $41 billion in aid transfers every year and AID:Tech’s blockchain innovation has the potential to save these governments 25 percent, equating to a $300 million revenue stream.

As part of their collaboration, Red Cross have requested AID:Tech to participate in the 1 billion coalition for resilience, an initiative to improve the lives of 1 billion people by 2025. Furthermore, the startup has begun working with the United Nations Development Programme to create a proof of concept enabling cheaper remittances via the blockchain.

In the near future, we will see AID:Tech’s blockchain innovation applied to a variety of humanitarian issues, something that is desperately needed.

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