UNICEF, the UN program that provides humanitarian and
developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries, is exploring
fundraising through cryptocurrency mining.
It has issued an appeal to the esport community to use their computing hardware
to mine Ether for UNICEF. Ether is
the cryptocurrency generated on the open-source, public, distributed computing
platform called Ethereum (Ether and Ethereum are sometimes used interchangeably
in popular discourse).
The funds will be used to help Syrian children, who have
in one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises for the past 7 years. According
to the 2017
year-end report from UNICEF, nearly 5.4 million Syrian refugees registered
in the region and nearly half of them are children. Depleted resources, the
high cost of living and restricted livelihood opportunities are making it
difficult for vulnerable families to meet their children’s basic needs. Many
Syrian refugee families are forced to resort to negative coping practices, including
early marriage and child labour. However, the crisis is not receiving enough
support and the financial needs are not being met.
Gamers have computers with powerful graphics cards, which are
also necessary for the resource-intensive activity of cryptocurrency mining. Miners
use the computational power of their hardware to solve complex puzzles and
validate transactions, so that they can be added to the public ledger known as
the blockchain. The miners receive cryptocurrency as reward.
To participate in the operation, the gamers have to install
a mining software (Claymore). They can start and stop mining whenever they want
and generate Ethereum that will go directly to the UNICEF e-wallet.
The participants would be contributing their time, equipment
and electricity. Mining utilises the full power of the graphics card and electricity
consumption is similar to that of playing a new, resource-hungry video game.
Regulators in many countries have issued warnings about
cryptocurrencies in recent months. Concerns have been raised over potential
criminal uses. The acceptance of bitcoin, the cyrptocurrency with the largest
market cap, for payments has
been limited, while its price reached stratospheric heights last year. The
volatility in price has drawn investors but reduced its attractiveness as
medium of exchange. UNICEF also mentions the volatility of crypto-currencies on
its project FAQ page, but says that this initiative’s focus is to create an
opportunity to give for those who cannot give or have never had the opportunity
to do so.
Last month, the UNICEF Innovation Fund announced
that it is looking to invest in companies developing software solutions on open
blockchain. Software solutions could be related to smart contracts, data
analysis, crypto-tokens or crypto-currency mining. The examples given included
the use of crypto tokens to incentivise or support behaviour that benefits
humanity and the creation of passive distributed mining networks to create investment
funding opportunities for the UNICEF Venture Fund. Blockchain-based smart
contracts could also enable a transparent donation and fund-utilisation mechanism.