The internet's pervasiveness is often taken for granted in developed countries. However, approximately 2.9 billion people still do not have access to the World Wide Web.
According to UNICEF data, most of this internet-less population lives in developing countries, and children remain disadvantaged by a lack of internet connectivity in local schools.
Through a joint venture with the International Telecommunication Union, a UNICEF-led effort is addressing this conflict in a novel way, resulting in the creation of Giga in 2019.
At the Blockchain Expo in Amsterdam, Gerben Kijne, Giga's blockchain product manager, described the company's Project Connect initiative. Giga has made significant progress in connecting schools in developing countries worldwide to the internet.
The first step in this procedure was to use Project Connect to map schools and their connectivity. Giga scans satellite images using machine learning to identify them on an open-source map. It has identified over 1.1 million schools in 49 countries so far, with connectivity data for one-third of these.
After identifying a large number of schools that required internet access, the next step was to devise a novel raising money initiative that drew on the worlds of blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and nonfungible tokens.
Giga collaborated with Dutch artist Nadieh Bremer to release 1000 procedurally generated NFTs on the Ethereum blockchain. The digital assets were created using Giga's school data to portray students with and without internet access.
The NFT public sale raised approximately 240 Ether (ETH) worth $700,000, all of which goes straight to integrating schools to the internet. Kijne admitted that the amount raised was secondary to investigating a new type of philanthropic fundraising.
Kijne believes that it can provide a more direct link to offerings, emphasizing their use in tracking the impact of donations through ownership of a specific school's NFT and monitoring when donations received are "cashed in" to pay for network connectivity.
The funding initiative yielded numerous lessons. As Kijne noted, building a community before the launch may have helped improve support. Community members play a role, as seen in the NFT space, but opportunistic investors are always visible and searching for a chance to benefit from new launches.
Despite this, the project has been deemed a success, and it offers an enticing use case for blockchain-based NFTs as a transparent, community-building fundraising method. The public sale in March 2022 raised $550,000 in three hours. Secondary sales on OpenSea contributed an additional 20% of the funds raised.
Do you think that UNICEF will be able to continue building blockchain-based NFTs that can help more countries lacking network access? Let us know your thoughts by sharing this article on social media.