UNICEF Starts Initiative to Accept Cryptocurrency Donations

UNICEF announced a Cryptocurrency Fund that will receive contributions in cryptocurrency and grant out in the same digital currency, this being a first for United Nations organizations.

Unicef’s new Cryptocurrency Fund is the most recent effort by aid organisations to try to incorporate digital currencies into their operating model. Cryptocurrencies have the potential to transform charitable giving and increase financial transparency.

This new type of decentralized value transfers offers non-profit organisations the advantage of avoiding extra transaction costs and middlemen that are usually required to move large amounts of money overseas quickly. While these features are useful in a wide array of industries, it would appear that UNICEF is willing to apply the new technology.

Christopher Fabian, principal advisor at UNICEF Innovation, stated the initiative would prepare the organization for the future while also maintaining existing donor systems.

“We see this as a piece of learning that we need to go through to prepare for the next decade,” he said.

The UNICEF Cryptocurrency Fund is a new pilot developed to allow the agency to accept cryptocurrencies, which initially includes Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH). For aid and charity organizations, cryptocurrencies make tracking donations easier, and have the potential to allow donors to see how their money is used.

The organization already started receiving cryptocurrency donations following the launch of the fund, with the first one coming from the Ethereum Foundation itself. The Foundation donated 1 BTC and 10,000 ETH.

“The Ethereum Foundation is excited to demonstrate the power of what Ethereum and blockchain technology can do for communities around the world. Together with UNICEF, we’re taking action with the Cryptofund to improve access to basic needs, rights, and resources,” said Aya Miyaguchi, Executive Director of the Ethereum Foundation.

Furthermore, the new initiative is already discussed with agencies from four nations, including UNICEF USA, UNICEF Australia, UNICEF New Zealand, and UNICEF France.

The importance of aid organizations like UN around the world is growing for an array of countries. As a dispenser of aid, the acceptance of cryptocurrency will certainly be helpful in becoming more transparent and attract more contributions.

Alongside UNICEF’s work with blockchain technology, the UN secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, also published a strategic plan which shows how the UN might become a leader in solving world problems through the use of new technologies. Part of the plan includes the creation of affordable access to financial infrastructure and digital networks for every adult in the world by 2030.

Morningstar to Build Evaluation System Underpinned by Blockchain Technology

Financial services Morningstar Credit Ratings has announced plans to implement an evaluation system for debt securities issued as tokens on a blockchain, aiming to make the emerging asset class more credible for investors.

According to the report, the new rating system for rating bonds will be implemented directly on the Ethereum blockchain and eventually on other blockchains as well by using a technology called an oracle. Oracles move trusted data, like a Morningstar rating for instance, onto a blockchain in a secure way that ensures the rating isn’t doctored, allowing it to be used as a term in a smart contract.

The oracle relies on third-party providers to convert business debt into tokens similar to Bitcoin. The securitized tokens are then dispersed to investors via a smart contract, with the terms of the investment, the public addresses of the investors and the Morningstar rating all operating on the blockchain.

The new evaluation system is set to give publicly available ratings of one to five stars to crypto assets, whilst the company’s premium custom service will utilize its internal modeling to help clients evaluate and assess given investments. The company further added that the public ratings could be launched later this year. Their premium service, on the other hand, will be made available by the end of 2020.

Chief Operating Officer at Morningstar Credit Ratings, Michael Brawer, has stated in an interview that this evaluation system could allow and facilitate the shift of the $117 trillion debt securities industry to a decentralized financial network.

Seeing as the industry is overseen and governed by custodians and trustees, the availability of an evaluation system that allows customers to assess investments and make decisions based on that, could enable billions of dollars investment to enter the crypto space as the new rating services can make the new asset class more credible.

Brawer further stated:

“We’re looking to see how we can also provide credit opinions, whether it’s a credit rating or different types of credit data and credit analytics that accompany those debt instruments, and we’re also looking to provide our services on a blockchain.”

Brawer explained that the company had seen the demand for rating services within the crypto space when it was approached by a range of investors who issue and securitize debt securities, including small business loans and home equities on blockchain.

“The objective would ultimately be to allow investors in a digital debt security to be able to run an independent, third-party model and see the results of that model on the blockchain,” says Brawer.

According to the report, Morningstar’s rating services covers both government and corporate bonds,whilst its blockchain products are still limited to structured debt instruments.

The company offers both security and convenience through their services, and investors can directly connect lenders and borrowers, as well as eliminate custodians and trustees in a transaction and saving as much as 500 basis points in fees.

At the moment, due to the stringent regulatory framework imposed by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the company could end up having to change their blockchain methodology.

Meanwhile, there are a few potential candidates who would partner with Morningstar to launch the product, which includes fintech startup Figure, alternative investment company Cadence and DeFi platform Polymath.

Ethereum Classic Successfully Completes Hard Fork Upgrade

The team behind Ethereum Classic (ETC) has successfully activated the Atlantis hard fork upgrade which brings additional functionality and compatibility with Ethereum (ETH).

With the hard fork completed at block 8,772,000, all software users are required to upgrade their clients in order to continue using the main chain.

Afri Schoedon coordinated the upgrade process and congratulated everyone involved for a job well done.

“And we are on Atlantis. Congratulations, everyone,” said Afri Schoedon during a public dev call.

This hard fork was implemented to improve security, add opcodes, precompiled contracts and zk-SNARKs, as well as introduce compatibility with the Ethereum blockchain, making it easier to collaborate between the blockchains.

Ethereum Classic was itself a fork of Ethereum following the DAO hack, which at the time split the community. While the projects remain separate, they still share many of the same goals.

While ETC Labs worked together with Chainsafe System and ETC Cooperative to go through with the hard fork, Atlantis was well-received and backed by the whole community.

Data shows that over 60 percent of nodes and over 75 percent of hashing power had confirmed the upgrade. Following the hard fork announcement, ETC has received support from an array of industry players, including major cryptocurrency exchanges.

ETC Lab’s president Terry Culver also stated that Atlantis is a step forward for collaboration with Ethereum. Many of Atlantis’ Ethereum Improvement Proposals (EIP) have been on Ethereum for some time. With the improved compatibility, the two platforms can now benefit from a cross-over collaboration.

“The hard fork clearly shows we are committed to compatibly and working with ethereum,” Culver said. “What we would like to do is find ways to make the two chains support one another.”

The team behind Ethereum Classic said they are not finished and they will continue to strive to make improvements to the blockchain with upcoming upgrades Agharta and Atzlan. The results of Atlantis fork are set to be reviewed along with ETC’s future at the ETC Summit, scheduled for the beginning of October.

CasperLabs Raises $14 Million to Work on Scalability with Zamfir as a Researcher

Blockchain startup CasperLabs announced it has raised $14.5 million in a series A funding round, which was led by Terren Piezer, an International financier and chairman of Los Angeles-based investment company, Acuitas Group Holdings.

According to the news published on September 10th, CasperLabs is an open-source blockchain that seeks to achieve scale without sacrificing decentralization and has recently raised $14.5 million in a Series A round. CasperLabs stated that the new funds will be used for product development and hiring of new engineers.

The startup launched in February with Ethereum Foundation researcher Vlad Zamfir acting as lead consensus protocol architect. The platform is said to remove barriers that prevent mainstream blockchain adoption and is powered by the first implementation of Zamfir’s CBC Casper proof-of-stake protocol.

Currently, it is working to solve the trilemma of scale, decentralization and security  as well as building a developer-friendly platform to build and operate decentralized apps (dApps), based on a version of proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus protocol – specifically Zamfir’s Correct-by-Construction (CBC) Casper PoS.

Mrinal Manohar co-founder and CEO of CasperLabs’ parent firm ADAPtive Holdings has shared his has stated that several technical updates are to be expected in the coming months. He further noted that they welcome any and all feedback via their open source code repository on Github.

Medha Parlikar, CTO of CasperLabs said that the company will be investing in their core technical team, as well as important initiatives including ecosystem support, usability and experience, and more.

“We have been working hard to build the first concrete protocol implementation of CBC-Casper that is provably live and safe. The CBC-Casper whitepaper doesn’t define the complete protocol, so we’re excited to share some big news on this topic soon,” concluded Parlikar.

The funding round was led by financier Terren Peizer, dubbed the “Zelig of Wall Street”, through his personal holding company – Acuitas Group Holdings. Piezer has a long track record in the investment banking world having worked at Goldman Sachs, First Boston, Drexel and more.

Peizer said he had been following and studying the blockchain space since its early days and had been waiting for a company that could build the strength and decentralized aspects of a public chain with the speed, security, and scalability of a next-gen platform.

He further added:

“Scalability of a product and company is the leading driver of value creation. Consistently, the most proficiently scalable company becomes the industry leader.”

Other investors who took part in the funding round include Arrington XRP Capital, Consensus Capital, Axiom Holdings Group, Digital Strategies, MW Partners, Blockchange Ventures, Hashkey Capital, and Distributed Global.

Deloitte Launches Blockchain-In-A-Box Platform

Deloitte, one of the “Big Four” auditing and consulting firms, has announced the launch of a new mobile blockchain-based platform designed to help businesses showcase their blockchain solutions to clients.

According to a press release, the consulting giant has revealed the launch of the Blockchain in a Box (BIAB) platform – the mobile, self-contained technology platform which has been designed to provide intuitive, tangible blockchain demonstrations and experimentations.

The new platform is designed to host blockchain-based solutions across four small-form-factor compute nodes and three video displays, which can be linked to external services such as traditional cloud technologies and storage.

Secure Digital (SD) cards can be used with each of the compute nodes to allow companies to quickly demonstrate and share demo solutions tailored to specific client needs. The approach provides developers with a tool for creating and sharing dapps with a minimal amount of hardware.

Linda Pawczuk, principal at Deloitte Consulting and U.S. blockchain lead, has commented on the product launch and stated that the solution has been developed in response to growing client interest in understanding blockchain capabilities in live interactions.

She further added:

“What’s often misunderstood about blockchain is that it is an entirety of a technology solution – when in reality, it’s a technology component that enables larger business applications and approaches. Our mobile demonstration is practical, tactical and most importantly, tangible to clients.”

The company revealed that the solution has already been showcased to a number of clients as well as the broader blockchain and emerging technology community at multiple conferences, including Consensus 2019.

Chih-Wei Yi, principal at Deloitte & Touche, said that “each time we have used the BIAB to facilitate exploration, the reaction is that of curiosity and excitement where the audience leaves with a deeper understanding of blockchain and how the use cases are implemented.”

In May, the consulting giant released its 2019 Global Blockchain Survey, which found that businesses still struggle with where to get started when it comes to developing proofs-of-concept that capitalize on the unique features of distributed ledger technology.

According to the survey, only 23% of the firms polled deployed a blockchain component to their businesses in 2019, compared to 34% the previous year. However, 53% of those polled agreed that blockchain will be critically important to their organization—a 10% rise over the previous year.

Meanwhile, Deloitte has been investing in blockchain over the past year, and the company’s efforts can be seen with a number of partnerships. Most recently, Deloitte has joined hands with IDEO CoLab, Amazon, Fidelity and several other corporations to develop a blockchain targeted business accelerator called Startup Studio.

The program will provide workshops to blockchain startups to help them strengthen a variety of skills, including product design, law and engineering, smart contract development, and finance and hiring, amongst others.

In addition to that, in May Deloitte partnered with three Irish banks develop a blockchain credentialing platform. The project aims to enable banks to have a single view of all their employees’ qualifications and learning where the employees keep control of the data in their own software wallets. The company developed the Ethereum-based tool using its dedicated EMEA Blockchain Lab.