Sierra Leone’s president Julius Maada Bio announced a new initiative to create a national, blockchain-based credit bureau. The announcement took place at the 73rd Session of the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) Thursday, September 27.
The president presented the project as being poised to “radically transform” the country’s financial inclusion landscape. The initiative is reportedly the result of a partnership between technology non-profit Kiva, the U.N. Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), and the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP).
At its center is a distributed ledger (DLT) system, dubbed ‘Kiva Protocol,’ that has been designed to create a secure, national digital identification system for citizens.
The new system is intended to tackle two major barriers that many citizens face when they attempt to access financial services – these being a lack of both formal identification and a verifiable credit history. As the press release outlines:
“Currently, unbanked people cannot leverage financial transactions from the ‘informal economy,’ such as credit with a local shopkeeper, to build their credit history. The Kiva Protocol will capture a wide range of financial transactions … to help people access the financial services they need, including loans for businesses, education or basic medical services.”
Using a blockchain system will further ensure that the country’s citizens retain “secure and complete ownership of their personal data and information,” as it offers a distributed alternative to storing individuals’ identity data in proprietary, centralized data silos.
Xavier Michon, Deputy Executive Secretary of UNCDF, is quoted as saying that the new system “could serve as a model for both developing and developed nations in the future,” and will represent one of the most advanced and secure credit bureaus in existence.
Prior to this project, Kiva claims to have already crowdfunded over $1.2 billion in loans for people across more than 80 countries, and is reportedly currently working to build a blockchain-based system to record these transactions.
For its part, the U.N. has long been exploring multiple – largely humanitarian – use cases for blockchain, beginning with its use of the Ethereum blockchain to transfer coupons based on cryptocurrencies to refugees in Syria.
Earlier this month, Cointelegraph reported that the blockchain lending and borrowing platform Celsius Network will be managing the Sustainable Development Goals Impact Fund (SDG Impact Fund) within the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals initiative.