Exploring blockchain applications for children

Blockchain image
UNICEF Office of Innovation

Blockchain technologies are introducing new systems of trust and exchange on which users can send value directly from one party to another without the need for intermediaries.

Blockchain systems have no central points of control, are powered by the internet, and are governed by computer code normally referred to as smart contracts. Digital currencies (e.g bitcoin) are famous applications of blockchain technologies, nevertheless, these technologies have promises that go beyond currencies or financial transactions.

UNICEF Innovation Ventures team explores these technologies, with the potential to impact children. The team sees blockchain technology as having benefits in 3 main ways: 1) new ways of donating money 2) creating better transparency in internal processes, and 3) leveraging tokenisation to reduce friction in transactions, as well as create new opportunities.

To understand the technical, social, ethical, and legal challenges of utilizing blockchain technologies in our complex and interconnected world — the team is exploring this space with open eyes on practical experimentations of cryptocurrencies, smart contracts, digital scarcity, digital collectibles and various types of tokens.

Children walk home after school at the Minawao refugee camp.
Children walk home after school at the Minawao refugee camp in Northern Cameroon

We’re working on integrating blockchain technology and supporting programmatic applications in several areas.

  • Investing in open-source blockchain projects through our UNICEF Innovation Fund. The Fund is the first financial vehicle of its kind in the UN, and makes $50-100K investments in portfolios of emerging technology. Learn more here.
  • Developing prototypes, for internal processes or addressing development issues. A summary of our approach and past work can be found in this MIT article.  
  • Leading hackathons globally, to enable local communities, and develop open source solutions that continuously build upon one another to address challenges. Read the details of a recent hackathon here.
  • Participating in collaborative cross UN agency sessions and projects, such as the United Nations Innovation Network (UNIN) working together in testing and developing a smart contract prototype for decentralized governance.


Demo of Amply

UNICEF Innovation Fund

Amply. Amply is blockchain enabled platform that the Fund invested in in 2016 and has since graduated from our program. More details can be found here and here.

In the coming weeks, a new cohort of blockchain startups will be announced. Stay tuned for more details.

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Hackathon in Mexico City, 2018


Mexico. UNICEF hosts hackathons in program countries to build and educate communities. On September 22nd and 23rd 2018, UNICEF Ventures and Endeavor, with the support of Blockchain Academy, and Maker hosted a Blockchain Hackathon in Mexico City (“Hackathon Blockchain MX”) hosted a hackathon. The event was held within the facilities of CENTRO University where 100 participants divided in 12 groups had to develop, in a span of 36 hours, decentralized and open applications that help with the international refugee crisis.

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Winners holding a check at the "Innovating for Children in the Urban World” hackathon

UNICEF Country Offices

Kazakstan is one of UNICEF’s Country Offices’ that is actively in building blockchain knowledge and prototype application. In November 2017, a UNICEF hackathon in Kazakhstan attracted two hundred entrepreneurs and technical experts from Russian-speaking countries in Europe and Central Asia to downtown Astana to explore the potential of the technology to help address some of the most pressing issues affecting children. Find out more here.

Furthermore, Kazakhstan recently sought out a company to help develop and prototype a smart contract on the Ethereum blockchain to tracks transactions between UNICEF and partners, enhancing transparency and efficiency of how UNICEF deals with its implementing partners on the ground. More details here.

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Certifications via Blockchain

UNICEF Ventures is leveraging a public blockchain, Ethereum, to make claims in a transparent and immutable way. In the first phase of the prototype, UNICEF Ventures is issuing certificates confirming the participation of organizations who test in our drone corridors.

Contact us

Please reach out to blockchain [at] unicef [dot] org