In a world run on data collection, George Orwell might have cringed. But Nairobi-based startup Gravity Earth believes it can safely harness data to improve the lives of refugees through the much-touted concept of "self-sovereign ID."
Gravity Earth’s newest venture is proper blockchain – personal, digital data stored securely on a decentralized platform. In the realm of refugee assistance, where most refugees have no official way of proving their identity, collecting accurate data on individuals looms large as both an existential problem and an everyday challenge.
The founders are betting their platform can solve the core issues of data collection, and believe that close partnerships with NGOs will allow the startup to expand their services even further.
The first application of the startup’s putative solution will be rolled out in a refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya. To showcase its abilities, the product will be utilized by three different schools in the camp. The students' academic performance, biometric data, and attendance, among other things, will be stored on the blockchain and validated by teachers.
To solve the issue of accumulating accurate data from third parties, the startup plans to incentivize validators with bonuses such as lotteries and free mobile airtime. The more data that is accumulated by third-party validators, the more robust the identity proof of each participating refugee.
At TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin, Gravity Earth co-founder Johannes Ebert evidenced the potential of his platform: "Everyone in the camps is basically an unknown person, so every piece of information about them gains a lot of value."
This incremental value-add, it is believed, will assist in facilitating financial services and other resources to those groups of people that are normally off the grid. It is this end-goal that Gravity Earth is endeavoring to reach – start first with educational data, and move to banking and other financial services usually out of reach for refugees.
The company is already planning further expansion efforts across the African continent. It has raised undisclosed seed money and is looking for venture capital next year. Interestingly enough, this blockchain startup is avoiding an ICO.
"We’re not considering an ICO and we don’t issue any tokens. For us, the focus is really on the product."
Thirty-four years on, and the name of the Big Brother game is altruism.