The Atrium: UN blockchain solutions under one roof

by Gustav Strömfelt

The Atrium has been established by the United Nations Innovation Network (UNIN), in collaboration with the WFP Innovation Accelerator, UNICEF Innovation and UNDP Innovation. The Atrium’s goal is to help staff members from across the United Nations (UN) system to learn about and apply blockchain technology in their roles and for their organization’s needs.

A starting point for resources

We designed The Atrium as a list of learning resources curated for UN staff, where newcomers to blockchain can cut their teeth, learn its fundamentals and start applying their knowledge. After having worked with blockchain technology for multiple years, we noticed that the most significant barriers to innovation were a lack of knowledge about blockchain and what it can do and few safe environments for experimentation, sharing and learning to take place between UN agencies. That’s why we’ve created to projects page to showcase the various projects currently being worked on, or in production, around the UN. A forum also provides an area where questions and ideas can be fielded to instigate conversation about blockchain, the various projects, or other things going on where the UN and blockchain commingle.

Transparency creates security

Blockchain can help us generate transparency and security when moving data or any store of value between multiple participants in a system. An example of this is our Blocks for Transport initiative, which is currently being supported in Ethiopia and Djibouti where we are endeavouring to simplify the process of signing shipping documents. Shipping documentation is a process that is currently conducted using paper forms, which are regularly misplaced, lost or misunderstood. By digitising the process and recording the authorities on blockchain, we can reduce the 10 to 12 days it takes for food to get from the port in Djibouti through the Ethiopian supply corridor, down to 3–5 days; more than 50 percent reduction in the current processing time.

Sharing for collaboration

Blocks for Transport is only one of the projects that will be shared on The Atrium, of which there will be many more, as UN innovators contribute their blockchain projects. The Atrium’s goal is to help reduce the cost of innovating on blockchain through learning and sharing. With agencies sharing their projects, collaborating on learning materials and developing new ideas, we can reduce the replication of ideas between organizations and the boundaries to collaboration, while we increase the transparency and efficiency of our humanitarian and development operations.

Going far, together

The Atrium is an internal work space for UN innovators in blockchain. For those outside the UN, follow the Atrium partner organizations in the UN Innovation Network (UNIN) to find out what they’re doing with blockchain. For those already working within the UN and interested in blockchain, sign up now. We’re looking forward to seeing you in The Atrium.

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