Blockchain Technology in Disaster Risk Management: Transforming the Delivery of Emergency Relief
Abstract: Persisting challenges such as corruption and a lack of coordination among humanitarian organisations continuously lead to almost a third of all development assistance not reaching those in need. As various attempts of solving this dilemma have not been successful, an innovative approach is required. Organisations such as the World Food Programme have started to trial the use of blockchain technology as a payment system and alternative tool for distributing cash-based transfers. This study seeks to establish whether blockchain technology is an effective tool for the delivery of emergency relief through a scoping study and interviews with twelve informants from within and outside of the humanitarian field. Consistently, both study formats find that the benefits of blockchain technology can contribute to creating a more effective and efficient humanitarian system. Among these are the decentralisation, traceability and openness of the technology. By simplifying cooperation, increasing transparency and drastically reducing costs, the technology can tackle persisting challenges in the field. Still, drawbacks of blockchain technology necessitate a number of requirements, including internet connectivity, political will and an initial investment, to be in place for a successful implementation. Disasters with small-scale destruction, a connected environment and a long-term presence of aid agencies fulfil these requirements and can therefore potentially benefit from blockchain technology in the future. Blockchain technology will not prove to be a useful tool in every disaster scenario. In humanitarian contexts that meet the criteria the technology promises to help those in need in an efficient and dignified manner.
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