Inside the Jordan refugee camp that runs on blockchain
By Russ Jusskalian
A few times a month, Bassam pushes a shopping cart through the aisles of a grocery store stocked with bags of rice, a small selection of fresh vegetables, and other staples. Today he’s wearing a black sweater tucked into denim jeans, which are themselves tucked into calf-high boots caked in mud. The Tazweed Supermarket, where he’s shopping, is on the periphery of a 75,000-person refugee camp in the semi-arid Jordanian steppe, six and a half miles from the Syrian border.
At the checkout counter, a cashier tallies the total, but Bassam doesn’t pay with cash or a credit card. Instead he lifts his head to a black box and gazes into the mirror and camera at its center. A moment later, an image of Bassam’s eye flashes on the cashier’s screen. Bassam collects his receipt—which reads “EyePay” and “World Food Programme Building Blocks” across the top—and walks out into the noonday chaos of the Zaatari refugee camp.
Though Bassam may not know it, his visit to the supermarket involves one of the first uses of blockchain for humanitarian aid. By letting a machine scan his iris, he confirmed his identity on a traditional United Nations database, queried a family account kept on a variant of the Ethereum blockchain by the World Food Programme (WFP), and settled his bill without opening his wallet.
Photo courtesy of Danor Shtruzman.