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Binance Charity’s Reflections from Binance’s Blockchain Week

2022-04-08

As we reflect on Binance Blockchain Week which came to a close this time last week, we’re reminded that underneath the glitz and glamor often associated with the crypto world, blockchain technology must work for people. We feel even more inspired coming out of the event, which highlighted the tremendous strides being made to ensure this game-changing tech is used to drive powerful solutions for the social sector. 

There was a packed schedule of talks discussing the past, present, and future of blockchain with speakers from a diverse range of industries. Binance Charity also had the opportunity to host two panel discussions on blockchain and its role in the social sector. 

“In terms of social responsibility, the blockchain has a lot of key properties. Censorship resistance, immutability, and permissionless – these properties are critical when it comes to social responsibility.”- Antonio Saaranen, CSO at QTUM 

Here are our top takeaways from an energizing week: 

Blockchain Technology Must Work for People

What do we mean by this? We want to see blockchain working for the masses, not the few. This can only happen by harnessing the technology to solve real-world problems and using it as a tool to connect those who want to help directly with those in need of it. The use cases of crypto as a multifaceted solution, not just a fundraising tool, are becoming increasingly evident. We’ve been seeing this unfold in response to the crisis in Ukraine.  

Many of the panelists highlighted the idea that implementing blockchain technology into new solutions will take a certain level of creativity, especially when it comes to including local communities. Kyriacos Koupparis, Head of Frontier Innovations at the United Nations World Food Programme's Innovation Accelerator, expressed the importance of creating open-loop systems, where local communities can actually spend their received crypto donations in their marketplaces.

“While the transparency and efficiency of blockchain technology are definitely important in lowering the cost of doing business and enabling the support that NGOs provide across the world, there's also a lot of people-building systems that need to happen. For example, at the World Food Programme, we work with local markets and retailers to ensure that the people we serve and who receive the cash actually have a marketplace and a place to go and purchase whatever needs they see for their own families.”

We’ve been working on projects such as this since 2019 when we launched the “Humanity First Token”  to improve the living conditions of the refugees who fled from South Sudan to Uganda.  We opened wallet accounts for the refugees to directly receive tokens that they could exchange for food, solar panels, and other essential items at local vendors, who had also been onboarded as part of the project. The vendors would redeem the tokens they received at Binance Uganda exchange. Despite the projects’ success, more work still needs to be done to make this a scalable project. 

Innovation

We’re proud of merging the technology and charity sectors, working to replace inefficient and outdated processes with revamped or redefined alternatives. We believe blockchain plays an important role in paving the way for pioneering new, more accessible, and more stable systems that can be implemented across the social sector. 

This year, we’re making innovation one of our key priorities. We’re partnering with top academic institutions such as UC Berkeley to run innovation hubs with the brightest young minds. Be sure to watch this space! 

Diversity 

The need for diversification is deeply rooted across the booming tech industry. Not only do we need to see diversity being championed in terms of individuals rising through the ranks of blockchain leadership, we also need to see current developers being more aware of the diverse regions in which their technology could eventually be implicated.

Panelists like Michelle Chivunga, Founder and CEO of Global Policy House, and Chuta Chimezie, Founder of Blockchain Nigeria User Group, both spoke about their own projects that are working to bring more developers from regions like Nigeria, Zambia, and Rwanda. Chivunga, in particular, cited a need to create welcoming spaces for different types of blockchain enthusiasts. 

“In the beginning, it was difficult to not see people that looked like me in the blockchain space. I wanted to see a lot more women, especially women of color, so this is why I want to encourage more women to get into the tech sector and the blockchain sector because it’s certainly the future. I think it’s very important that we start to encourage more women and more ‘outsiders’, and we make it easier for them to become a part of things.”

In a post-panel interview, Chimezie called for his home country of Nigeria to develop more local talent so that young developers and digital entrepreneurs will foster greater communities at home as opposed to seeking work abroad. “There’s so much talent in Nigeria,” he said, “But due to a lack of regulation, young people find it easier to take their start-ups and skills abroad. I’m optimistic that by working together with regulators, we can make Nigeria a hub.” 

Sustainability Must be a Priority 

To be truly successful, the crypto industry must be sustainable for both people and our planet. This concern for sustainability was highlighted by Antonio Saaranen of Qtum, a foundation who is now a part of the Crypto Climate Accord, a private sector-led initiative for the entire crypto community focused on sustainability in the blockchain industry. 

We recognize the role industries need to play in protecting the planet, and will continue to explore and innovate to find ways to minimize our own impact on the environment, as well as work toward a greener crypto industry. 

Our Planet, Our Legacy is one of our core focus pillars which has a dedicated fund to support environmental projects. This includes the Tree Millions Alliance, which was launched in September 2021. This ambitious project aims to plant 10 million trees globally to help reforestation efforts and uses NFTs to make the process fully accountable and transparent. 

The initiative now has more than 25 alliance members across the crypto industry and has already planted 350,000 trees in 27 countries worldwide. 

Education Underpins Success 

There has been significant cross-industry progress in realizing the potential of blockchain within the social sector. For example, the uptake in stablecoin as a viable tool for charity - just this week we announced USA for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency has accepted its first stablecoin crypto donation as part of our Ukraine efforts, joining the likes of UNICEF, CARE, Mercy Corps and UC Berkeley. 

More and more major NGOs and IGOs are now turning to stablecoin to provide crypto-based cash assistance to people in need as it provides a more transparent, faster and lower-cost solution to other remittance alternatives. 

Of course, some barriers still exist such as accessibility to smartphones and the Internet, so we’re working with partners to find solutions to these barriers. This includes donating stablecoin directly to the NGO to then allocate to people in need, or by setting up community crypto wallets. 

Our vision is to end all forms of inequality, achieve financial inclusion, and advance sustainable development with the help of blockchain technology. To us, the most important step to achieving this is to improve accessibility to high-quality blockchain education.

All our panelists agreed a lack of financial literacy and difficult onboarding processes are some of the main hindering factors to greater cryptocurrency adoption. By creating culturally-adapted learning materials — something we at Binance Charity also hope to improve on in the coming year — more people can access the cryptocurrency ecosystem and benefit from the possibilities showcased at this year’s event. 

Find out more about Binance Charity’s projects here.