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A unique experiment is revealing how the power of blockchain technology can help drive down corruption and improve the lives of refugees.

The blockchain experiment in question is the brainchild of the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP), the largest hunger-focused humanitarian organization of its kind.

The program is based on the same blockchain technology that powers Ethereum, one of the world’s biggest and best-known cryptocurrencies, but it is not about making money. Instead, this UN experiment is about helping underserved populations, in this case, the refugees living in a Jordanian camp.

Appropriately dubbed Building Blocks, the program began in early 2017, and it has already helped with the fair distribution of food throughout the camp. In just a short time, the Building Blocks program has already helped to improve the lives of more than 100,000 refugees, and in time the WFP hopes to expand the program to cover all 500,000 refugees living in Jordan.

The success of the program – as well as already helping people – but it could eventually enhance the visibility of blockchain technology as well. For many people, blockchain technology is synonymous with cryptocurrency, a form of payment some still view unfavourably.

If the early success of the Jordanian refugee camp is any indication, the benefits of blockchain could soon stretch far beyond the cryptocurrency market, improving the lives of men and women who would never dream of investing in Bitcoin or paying for dinner with Ethereum.

The specifics of the Jordanian refugee camp are as fascinating as the technology itself, and its early success is a study in the efficiencies this emerging technology makes possible.

Since the United Nations shifted its focus from the direct distribution of food aid to the distribution of cash to refugees, corruption has been a big problem, but the Building Blocks program is helping to stamp out corruption.

The purpose of the cash for food focus is to get food to the people who need it by providing the necessary resources, but until recently the program relied on a network of local banks. At each step along the way, costs were incurred, introducing inefficiencies into the system and providing opportunities for fraud, bribery and corruption.

Thanks in large part to the efficiency and transparency of the blockchain, corruption and associated costs have been reduced by an astonishing 98%. This 98% reduction in fees is important, but even more important is what that reduction represents. Now that the Building Blocks program is in place, 98 cents of every food aid dollar is now reaching the people who need it.

This is just one example of how blockchain technology is already helping people and changing lives. If you think blockchain technology is all about cryptocurrency and transactions on the dark web, you might want to think again.

There is more to the blockchain than Bitcoin and Ethereum, and for refugees in Jordan, this emerging technology is literally putting food on the table.

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