UNICEF – the United Nations Emergency Children’s Emergency Fund – has announced that it has invested in six blockchain startups, having narrowed the list down from hundreds of applicants. The organization deliberated over applications spanning some 50 countries, but eventually chose just a handful to add to its innovation fund, which already supports 20 technology companies.
Several months ago, the United Nations issued a call for blockchain businesses that could identify and meet a particular humanitarian need to come forward and apply. Of the 100+ applications, just six have now been chosen to benefit from the fund. The organization published a press release on December 10th, identifying the six as,
- Atix Labs (Argentina) is looking into creating a tracking system for funds that have been taken on as investments by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The impact will also be measured.
- Onesmart (first of two firms in Mexico) has a stated aim of investigating the misappropriation of certain economies’ funds and gauging the impact on education and public services.
- Prescrypto (Mexico) is looking at streamlining patient histories and electronic prescriptions, thus allowing for better healthcare by taking a preventative approach.
- Statwig (India) is paying attention to vaccinations, using blockchain technology as a way to improve the process and ensure that delivery is efficient and timely.
- Utopixar (Tunisia) is working on a tool that will bring communities and organizations to the same table for more meaningful discussions.
- W3 Engineers (Bangladesh) will focus on connectivity by using an offline mobile networking platform with no SIM cards or Internet.
Meanwhile, Chris Fabian, the principal adviser to UNICEF Innovation, said,
“Blockchain technology is still at an early stage – and there is a great deal of experimentation, failure, and learning ahead of us as we see how, and where, we can use this technology to create a better world. That’s exactly the stage when UNICEF Innovation Fund invests: when our financing, technical support, and focus on vulnerable populations can help a technology grow and mature in the most fair and equitable way possible.”
As part of the terms of these new collaborations, UNICEF will offer their help with technology and products, providing access to its own network of contacts. At the same time, the companies that have won investments will be looking towards a deadline of 12 months to present a case for second-round funding. Should these companies prove successful in developing a sound technology, they will have access to all 190 countries covered by UNICEF.
The UNICEF investments come after a 12-month period that has seen blockchain thrust into the mainstream limelight. Indeed, several of the issues that these startups are tackling – such as supply chain efficiency – are already massively disruptive to industries that will no doubt benefit from a shake-up.