Blockchain explained

Helping empower refugees with blockchain and process automation

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refugee childrenToday, technology plays a key role in all aspects of life. It connects like-minded communities to come together to help them solve common problems. But when certain problems are at such a large scale where they affect the whole world, there is a need to have a platform that can quickly onboard interested parties across the globe and enable them to work together to find a solution.

One such global problem is the refugee crisis. The United Nations and host countries have been working on many refugee needs such as shelter, food, water, sanitation, medical help, education and many others. But this crisis can only be resolved for those effected when they are able become financially independent and live within a country that is in need of their skills. There are many organizations working in silos or with partners to help refugees.

Technology can play a key role in bringing them all to a common platform. This network is essential to quickly find partners and build an ecosystem in which refugees themselves can leverage to upskill and become eligible for jobs and programs that would eventually help make them financially independent.

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Partners working together

This is an idea which uses the power of technologies like blockchain and process automation to help achieve it. The list of partners that could come together on this platform include the United Nations and their subsidiaries, the governments of developed countries, corporate partners, universities and NGOs.

Let’s take a brief overview at how each of these partners would interact. The United Nations would create profiles of verified refugees on the platform while governments who are seeking additional workforce in their industries would have access to offer them jobs. Corporate entities would provide training, sponsorship and further help employ refugees to those qualified to specific jobs. Universities could offer additional academic courses and certifications to help increase skills and education. NGOs could also offer vocational training, language training and cultural awareness programs.

This collaborative platform would also provide a way for refugees to share their experience about what they have learned to help others new to the process. For an in-depth look at the details and requirements for each of these partners, read my article Using blockchain and process automation, and for further information on the different scenarios and interactions, read Scenarios and workflows.

What a solution looks like

The Refugee Empowerment Solution is a blockchain-powered system designed to support the purpose of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). As a leader of the blockchain network, UNHCR would own and manage the entire solution with the ability to bring in their current partners and invite new ones.

They could use any service provider to build and manage the solution, hosted on cloud, on-premises or a combination of both, leveraging containerized platforms and services like Red Hat OpenShift and IBM Cloud Paks. Here are the key components:

Blockchain platform
A blockchain platform provides a trusted and transparent layer to the solution. It helps to maintain the authenticity of the digital identities of refugees and enables accountability of the partners who commit to providing jobs, conduct training in academic courses and provide vocational skills to refugees.

The immutable nature of blockchain also helps in maintaining the authenticity of the certifications issued by training partners to refugees helping job providers find credible certified resources. Here, the partners can maintain their own blockchain instance to be part of the network or can be onboarded on an instance managed by UNHCR.

Process automation
This defines and automates the processes to ensure that timelines of each task are monitored and honored. It can help maintain continuity of processes by running a workflow of tasks and monitoring the completion of each task. The probability of delays where many individuals are involved in a process is higher. The workflow can automatically assign owners for each task and trigger them by sending alerts to the task owners and monitor the status, escalating to higher authorities in the case of delays.

It makes the entire process of finding the right job for a refugee more efficient, reducing errors and ensuring that rules and regulations are followed by collecting all the required approvals and relevant documents.

Web and mobile apps
These provide the interface for all partners to register and join the network. Refugees can also use the applications to view and apply for jobs and avail other services provided for them.

Apps provide an interface which can be used for solution integration with the partner’s enterprise systems. Optionally, the partners can build an independent application to view, create and update the relevant data.

For a complete look at these components, be sure to read my article on Reference architecture.

Technology for good

This is an unprecedented time of unrest and movement of peoples in need, but not the first time we have faced these challenges. It may be, however, the first time we have the right technologies to allow all the right partners to collaborate on solutions. Technology can provide tremendous support to individuals and organizations who work towards uplifting refugee communities.

Building a better world and common network is essential to finding partners quickly and build an ecosystem which refugees can leverage for training to become eligible for jobs that would eventually help them achieve independence for themselves and their families.

Blockchain’s key features of immutability and finality helps all partners work with authentic data. Process automation is key to effectively utilizing these resources. This work has been a collaborative effort, so please feel free to connect with myself or reach out to my fellow solution architects, Ruchika Gupta and Indira Kalagara. Thanks to John Cohn, IBM Fellow and Grace Suh, IBM VP for their support and encouragement.

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Cloud Solution Architect - System Integrators Lab, Member of Academy of Technology

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