Unicef has recently launched a pilot project called Unicef’s Game Chaingers, which recruits gamers to use the processing power of their computers to mine cryptocurrency Ether, to aid Syrian children. It is still in its infancy, and has currently raised a little more than £1500. The project is part of wider efforts by Unicef and other UN agencies to utilise blockchain technology to change how aid organisations raise money and increase financial transparency. One such scheme was put in place by the World Food Programme(WFP) who used Ethereum to deliver $1.4m in food vouchers, via iris recognition scanners in camp supermarkets, to around 10,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan.
If this was implemented on a larger scale this could result in dramatic savings from no longer having to pay financial service firms, and reducing the amount of money lost to corruption which accounts for around 30% of UN aid budgets.
However, depending on how the electricity is generated, mining cryptocurrency can be particularly detrimental to the environment. A single transaction consumes approximately 100 kWh, the equivalent of running a light bulb for three months. Does the benefits of mining cryptocurrency for aid outweigh the negative environmental impact? Is there a more sustainable solution that appeases both sides?