Months after publishing a “blockchain call” to startups that could benefit humanity, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has invested in six blockchain startups.
In January 2018, UNICEF called for early-stage technology startups that were registered in one of UNICEF’s programme countries. It received over 100 applications from 50 different countries. The organization already has 20 other technology companies in its Innovation Fund, from “data science and machine learning, to virtual reality, to drones.”
The new investments, says the UNICEF release, form part of a wider blockchain strategy for the humanitarian agency.
“Using smart-contracts for organizational efficiencies, creating distributed decision-making processes, and working to build knowledge and understanding of distributed ledger technology both in the United Nations and in the countries where UNICEF works.”
Announced today, the UNICEF Innovation Fund will invest up to $100,000 USD in Atix Labs, Onesmart, Prescrypto, Statwig, Utopixar, and W3 Engineers.
Blockchain Solutions to be Delivered in 2019
Two of the blockchain startups are headquartered in Mexico.
All the startups must now deliver the open-source prototypes of their blockchain applications within the next 12 months.
Atix Labs, based in Argentina, is building a platform for other small to medium-sized businesses to access funding in a way that offers traceability as to how the funds are used.
Two of the startups are based in Mexico. Onesmart is developing an application to ensure the delivery of state-provided social services, addressing the issue of the misuse of social funds in emerging markets. The second in Mexico, Prescrypto, will improve the availability of electronic prescriptions by building a platform for patient medical histories.
India-based Statwig is creating a blockchain solution for the supply-chain management of vaccines to improve the efficiency of vaccine delivery. In neighboring Bangladesh, W3 Engineers are hoping to connect migrant and refugee communities with an offline mobile networking platform that doesn’t need a sim card or stable internet connection.
Utopixar, based in Tunisia, will build a social tool for decision-making and the transfer of value which will be used by communities and other organisations.
Chris Fabian, Principal Adviser at 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.”
The Fund chooses to invest in companies when its financing and technical support in areas of “vulnerable” populations can help technology “grow and mature in the most fair and equitable way possible.”
UNICEF’s Innovation Fund will also provide product and growth assistance as well as access to its network of experts and partners. In addition to its own seed-stage investment, it will assist the startups with their second-round investment garnering. If the technologies developed are successful there is further opportunity to apply them in the 190 countries covered by UNICEF.