Department for International Development
Delivering humanitarian aid at pace with blockchain
The UK Department for International Development (DFID) leads the UK's work to end extreme poverty. In times of crisis, DFID provides support to non-governmental organisations providing essentials such as clean water, medicines, clothing and bedding to thousands of people. However, when distributing humanitarian goods around the world, DFID has little visibility into where the goods go throughout the supply chain and making sure they’re received by the final recipient is unclear and not guaranteed. We helped DFID explore how blockchain technology can increase accountability and make the supply more transparent to ensure people in need get vital supplies.
- Identified the challenges facing those providing and delivering aid
- Conducted rapid-response scenarios to explore the benefits of using blockchain in supply chains.
Ensuring humanitarian aid reaches those in need
DFID’s goal is to promote sustainable development and eliminate world poverty. Providing humanitarian aid to people in need is core to the departments’ purpose. However, ensuring the aid it supplies to humanitarian groups reaches those who need it quickly and efficiently is a major challenge. The long supply lines and number of partner agencies involved can make it difficult to trace what has happened to products in the chain.
DFID called on our support to explore how innovative digital technologies can make the supply chain more transparent and effective.
Uncovering opportunities for improvement
Our diverse team, including experts in IT delivery, transformation, business design and product, design and engineering with a special focus on supply chains, blockchain and automation, worked closely with DFID to understand the challenges facing those providing and delivering aid. Together we analysed the logistics and listened to experienced people in the supply chain team to understand current pain points and opportunities for improvement. We developed a comprehensive list of challenges, which included a lack of visibility into the end-to-end supply chain, high logistics costs, inaccurate information and high risks of corruption and fraud. We matched these to the potential benefits of different technologies and soon discovered that blockchain could be a powerful tool to harness.
The technology could be used to allow real-time status tracking of supplies in the chain, allow for transparency for knowing the state and location of a supply, and embed smart contracting to automate inefficient processes. Our team provided technical insight into the various blockchain options and how to tackle common concerns like integration, scalability and transfer rates.
Transforming the distribution of aid
Having developed robust insights, we used rapid-response scenarios as examples with the DFID team to discuss how blockchain might have helped in past incidents. We also helped DFID run pilot programmes to prove that blockchain can work in a stable set up. For instance, if you’ve got lamps or tents in a warehouse, you can track them by adding scannable tags to each device to ensure it gets to its destination.
Through this work, we’re helping DFID explore how they could leverage blockchain to create a positive human future. We’ve uncovered how the technology can benefit everyone in the supply chain, to give more transparency and trust that the aid reaches those in need, fast. DFID have now taken this pilot idea forward, developing and testing it in the real-world which could transform the way aid distribution in supply chains operate.