UnBlocked Cash: Piloting accelerated cash transfer delivery in Vanuatu, Research Report (October 2019)

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By Björn Rust

Executive Summary

Overview of project and findings

During the UnBlocked Cash pilot, Oxfam in partnership with Sempo and ConsenSys distributed 966,443 Vanuatu Vatu (VUV) or 11,896.91 Australian Dollars (AUD) to 187 heads of households and 29 vendors, which was estimated to have directly benefited some 1,209 individuals in two urban communities in one of the world’s most at-risk countries.

Over the course of a month, Oxfam and its partners were able to successfully deliver a first-of-its-kind Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) based solution employing the Dai (DAI) stablecoin. Additionally, the system piloted in Vanuatu saw the successful deployment of a novel near-field communication (NFC) card, which in tandem with a ‘side-channel’ developed by Sempo, allowed the system to cope with poor internet connectivity while ensuring double-spends were impossible despite offline transactions.

Oxfam set out to determine whether DLTs can reduce the cost and transaction time of cash and voucher assistance (CVA), while improving transparency, security, and overall user experience (UX) within the urban context of Port Vila, Republic of Vanuatu.

With the support of Sempo, the UnBlocked Cash pilot has shown modest cost-savings and significant time-savings related to operational activities. Onboarding recipients to the platform was reduced to an average of 3.6 minutes per individual compared to over an hour during the Ambae volcano response in 2018. Additionally, the tested system eliminated slow identity (ID) verifications and reduced dependency on post offices or banks to deposit cheques.

However, there is little evidence that the direct time and cost of financial transaction between programme stakeholder accounts has been reduced. This is due to the reliance on existing financial service providers (FSPs) for foreign exchange and cashing-out vendors in this particular implementation. In contrast, the indirect time and cost appear to have fallen due to the efficacy gains promoted by the Sempo platform. Fortunately, the unexpected challenges with the existing FSP in Vanuatu created an opportunity to test a more communityintegrated hub-and-spoke cash-out mechanism via the ‘Super Vendor’ model.

The quality of the tested solution, which encompassed transparency, security, and user experience indicators, was found to be extremely high. Recipient and vendor feedback alike indicates an overwhelming preference for assistance of this type.