The Humanitarian Blockchain is taking on the worst problems facing the world's poor through innovative use of blockchain technology and non-governmental solutions.
Over 2.5 billion people, almost half the world, are unbanked. Undocumented immigration is a global issue, with over 11 million in the United States alone. Many property owners globally have no legal title to their land, and could benefit from land registration. These challenges have traditionally been addressed by governments and NGOs. However, technological innovators and humanitarian activists are pioneering new ways of helping the world's poor through blockchain technology.
Cointelegraph spoke with libertarian journalist Julio Alejandro, founder of the Humanitarian Blockchain, about using blockchain technology to find non-governmental solutions to global humanitarian crises.
The first startup to solve global problems using Blockchain technology
Cointelegraph: How would you describe the Humanitarian Blockchain project (in one sentence)?
Julio Alejandro: The Humanitarian Blockchain (HB) is the first project that solves social global problems using Blockchain technology. I founded it in February 2016 as a start-up at Google Campus London. It aims to become a hub that could match blockchain software developers/IT people with local activists in developing countries to use their technology to solve non-traditional problems, most of them relating to human rights violations, lack of representative democracy, and land registration.
CT: What are the different elements of the project?
JA: So we divide it into a project, case-based, system and an administrative, market one. On the first one we have 12 cases in 10 countries. Half of them have achieved their goals or significant milestones and half of them are on going or could be labeled as brainstorming utopia because no one is executing them.
They involve registering lands on the blockchain through BitNation in 28 Ashanti Ghanaian communities, providing Bitcoin debit Visa cards to Syrian refugees, creating blockchain IDs to avoid electronic death (which leads to physical disappearance) to journalists, human right defenders, and the political opposition in Colombia, and other projects for sex trafficking in Thailand, incarcerated African-American communities, drug cartel dominated Honduras, and other places in Europe and Africa.
Most or all of the projects have been carried out by BitNation members, HB is a project that works with and in parallel with Bitnation.
- Julio Alejandro, founder of the Humanitarian Blockchain
A way to make a direct impact on humanitarian and political affairs
CT: What prompted its creation?
JA: Good question. Try using any other terms, but in reality, my eternal rage, disappointment, and incapacity to have a direct impact upon humanitarian and political affairs as a journalist.
CT: That sounds like a good motivation. The best technological advancements come as solutions to problems. Problems make us angry, and that motivates us to do better to our fellow humans. Why use blockchain technology to solve these problems?
JA: When I was 22 years old I was already the sub-general director (2nd on the list) of a local newspaper La Jornada San Luis. At 25 years old I became one of the world's youngest Foreign Correspondent in Chicago for La Jornada, was promoted a year after to a US National Foreign Correspondent to Excelsior and now, even as one of the top journalistic and most influential/powerful figures in Mexican journalism, our voice, ideas, and messages, are minimal, almost nonexistent. I'm currently the US & UK Foreign Correspondent for one of the top 5 newspapers and media in Mexico in charge of two of the most important countries in the world. I cannot change anything.
I was introduced to whatever I now know as is Fintech by... Joël Valenzuela, buying beer with Bitcoin at Porcfest.
CT: Yes, I remember that!
JA: Before that I always believed in the schemes of internal redistribution through taxation and international reparations to help “development” and human rights across the globe. As a journalist, they invite me to speak about global and political affairs everywhere. So the first time I went deep, serious, about Fintech was at a university lecture. The whole audience kept asking me about it. So it was the London's elite intellectual audience, whom have never heard of Blockchain/Bitcoin/Ethereum/Smart contracts, etc. that motivated me to do it.
Any conflicts with governments possible?
CT: Blockchain tech is very new and cutting-edge, and can be difficult to get professionals to adopt it. It must be even harder to get the world's impoverished to understand. Have you faced any reluctance from the very people you're trying to help, or do you foresee this as a problem?
JA: Absolutely not. So far, all has been a shining rainbow of applause and motivation.
CT: Many of these services you're seeking to provide may conflict with what governments are tasked with doing (immigration in particular). Do you foresee any conflicts with governments?
JA: Yes and no. Many activists in HB and Bitnation could be called “libertarian socialists.” They want to decrease or eliminate government violence, wars, and corruption/inefficacy of social services but do not endorse egoism, extreme individualism, or lack of a social security net for the poor and the oppress. We all try to take away the power of the state, but we brand (or hide) ourselves through an optimist view of entrepreneurship based in technology and capitalism for humanitarian purposes. We look to collaborate with, not antagonize, governments and authorities. If by providing better, cheaper, faster, and more secure services they get upset, let them be. It might be a result, but not our goal, road, or intention.
The hub for Blockchain software developers who what to help local communities
CT: Where do you see the project going over the next year or so?
JA: HB will grow to be the hub for all the good people in the world. I'm not exaggerating. The reason is simpler: there is no competition or alternative. By good people in the world I mean Blockchain software developers who live in/can help developing local communities to solve their problems. One-year goal: Become the hub for Blockchain altruist global developers.
I think it's important to highlight three things: One, this is the first initiative to use and analyze the Blockchain for political and humanitarian purposes. Two, it reveals the multi polarity of its users: a brown Mexican immigrant with a political and journalistic background now pitching his startup in the London creative industries. And three, this project aims to become a consultancy. The first geopolitical DIY e-governance consultancy focused in ethnic minorities and developing countries. We're not solving white old rich people problems, we're focused on the oppressed, marginalized, the real poor.
In the future we hope to incorporate HB into a corporation under the form of Corporate Social Responsibility or use our expertise for nation-states or International Organisms like the UN, Unesco, IMF, etc.