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Cryptocurrency might be the key to providing better relief post-disaster.
Oxfam, ConsenSys (which funds Decrypt), and humanitarian platform Sempo teamed up to provide a stablecoin for citizens of Vanuata, a tiny island in the Pacific Ocean. Known as the “Unblocked Cash Transfer Pilot,” the aim was to provide people in disaster stricken parts of the world with money they can use.
Vanuata has been described as one of the world’s most at-risk country for natural disasters, which is compounded by the country’s lack of widespread banking facilities and internet coverage, making it a suitable testbed for the funding platform.
The program, which was backed by the Australian government, elected to use the stablecoin DAI as its primary means of providing citizens with access to money over fiat. Sempo, which provided the technology, initially used a centralized database to record payments but changed this to make the platform less reliant on one company.
DAI is an algorithmic stablecoin pegged 1:1 with the U.S. dollar and backed by cryptocurrency that people “lock up” for periods of time. DAI uses a novel incentive mechanism to manage the supply and demand, keeping its value close to the U.S. dollar.
In Vanuata, Oxfam provided e-vouchers to citizens that contained a QR code, which could be scanned to make payments. The benefit of this system—and using DAI in particular—was that the cards can be refilled automatically, without being physically accessed. It also meant citizens weren’t carrying cash, which made them susceptible to thieves. In this new system, all the charity has to do is send DAI to the list of blockchain addresses and they will be topped up.
Sempo found that the onboarding process was straightforward too. While setting up the platform for vendors required know-your-customer documents and took about 20 minutes, getting recipients on board took less than four minutes.
The project onboarded 111 recipients over the course of the trail, handing out 530,000 Vatu, worth $470, with the recipients making 500 transactions.