Development 2.0: Innovating cash deliveries with the Bitcoin Blockchain


In the recent years, we are seeing an increased focus on delivering cash via vouchers, mobile money or cash-in-hand as part of development and humanitarian projects.

Imagine a case like this: An earthquake has just happened, and there’s an urgent need to clear debris and rubble, as well as manage waste. Locals are employed on short notice to be paid by the organization responding to the emergency.

UNDP has extensive experience with such scenarios as part of disaster recovery programmes, including the Typhoon Haiyan response in the Philippines and the Nepal earthquake response.

On a global level, the Cash Learning Partnership (CALP) estimates that approximately $ 1.64 billion has been delivered to 35 million beneficiaries across 917 different cash delivery projects worldwide to date.

DFID and ECHO are so far the largest contributors to these type of programmes with WFP, World Vision, ACF, Solidarites International and Oxfam being the biggest implementers.

Science backs up on the effectiveness of cash delivery, too. Numerous studies have shown that it is an effective route to deliver assistance while building sustainable development pathways and creating inclusive financial business ecosystems.

So, what are the drawbacks of present cash delivery systems?

Often times systems to deliver cash have to be quickly implemented in difficult contexts, which means that organisations delivering cash have to take risks in terms of security and effectiveness.

Organisations may have to handle large amounts of cash themselves or they have to utilize external providers (banks, mobile operators etc.) who are usually only operating in one area or a country.

The global development field needs access to an entity or system that is scalable, secure, flexible, cost efficient and sustainable in the long run.

Considering the issues with the present system of cash delivery, my friend Richard Myers and I put together what we think is a rather innovative cash delivery concept, a system which is based on digital currencies such as Bitcoin and the Blockchain.

Our belief is that Blockchain/digital currencies may provide an alternative way of addressing the challenges of the present systems through deploying one or more of the following tools:


  • Digital Currency/Bitcoin paper wallets;


  • SMS based cashless transfer system. And;


  • An overlay SIM card with a digital currency wallet for feature phones


Through deploying these tools, we believe we can create a cash delivery system that is:


  • Scalable (globally deployable, cater for small or large cash volumes)


  • Flexible (can operate in non-network environments)


  • Secure (transactions would be secured and verified on a Blockchain, cash handling would not be required)


  • Cost-efficient (overhead/operational costs would go down as less administration is required)


  • Sustainable (beneficiaries may opt in or out of the digital currency at a time of their convenience)



To accomplish this and bring true innovation to the cash delivery space, we are currently looking for partners to help us out in our endeavor. Please get in touch with us in the comments below, or via email or Twitter if you want to be part of this project!

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