If you need more proof that digital currencies are sweeping the global stage, look no further than the United Nations itself. The U.N. has launched a method of distributing funds to thousands of Jordanian refugees via Ethereum, the popular cryptocurrency that has recently been making headlines for its increased prominence in the financial industry.
Just how will the U.N. make use of Ethereum and blockchain technology to assist in providing aid to these people in need? The project involves the distribution of unique "coupons" which will stand in for Jordanian dinars, the local currency. Of course, the recipients will then need to be able to cash those coupons, and given the scarcity of smartphones and digital wallets among the population in question, that is where the project will get really interesting.
Cashing Via Eye Scan?
The final component of the project, the step in which Jordanian recipients of U.N.coupons cash those coupons and exchange them for paper money, will be possible thanks to new technology by IrisGuard, a startup out of London. This company has developed new eye-scanning hardware that will be used to verify the identity of the recipients who currently receive traditional aid. Because there are roughly 500,000 people in this category, the technology will need to be efficient as well as accurate. IrisGuard has repurposed its technology to aid in the distribution of coupons in this new project.
The coupons will not actually be exchanged for paper money in most cases. Rather, cashiers at approved shops will use another new bit of technology, co-created by the U.N. Innovation Accelerator and Ethereum technology developer Parity Technologies, as well as blockchain-focused firm Datarella. This last bit of technology will redeem and track the balance on the coupons when the recipients use them to check out at those stores.
While this project is beginning in Jordan, the intention all along has been to expand it outwards from there. In conjunction with the UN's global World Food Program, the project's designers intend to expand it to approximately 80 countries. The initial launch will serve approximately 10,000 people in Jordan before expanding to 100,000 by August. The project developers are prepared for snags and have anticipated several contingency plans to ensure that aid distribution is not disrupted should the technology run into problems. Nonetheless, this seems to suggest a powerful new application of digital currency that is, critically, not dependent upon the user having access to smartphones, computers, and similar technology.
At the same time, the U.N. Office for Project Services is reportedly launching a similar cryptocurrency-based project as well, according to CoinDesk. It seems that the applications of this new technology are just beginning to be realized.