Developing a framework for designing humanitarian blockchain projects

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Blockchain technology promises to improve the efficiency, transparency, and accountability of humanitarian operations. Yet at the same time, especially the humanitarian context with its characteristic volatility poses unique challenges to any technology. Most prominent are the humanitarian principles that are fundamental to humanitarian operations. These ethical principles are set to protect the most vulnerable populations. Designing blockchain projects in the humanitarian context therefore requires a systematic framework that helps humanitarians make critical choices.

While some design instructions can be found for commercial applications, the humanitarian context requires different design principles and guidelines. To address the lack of a design framework for humanitarian blockchain projects, in this paper, we design and validate guidelines for humanitarian blockchain-projects. We use data from two humanitarian blockchain pilots in Jordan and Kenya to design our framework. Thereafter, we benchmark its applicability and relevance against another pilot in Vanuatu. Our framework highlights the need to consider infrastructure, end-users, ethics, stakeholders, and privacy in contexts, scalability and in/out mechanisms in technology, and knowledge/skills and intellectual property in organisation-related design requirements.