How blockchain could ‘reclaim human dignity and authority’ in the digital world

25 Jun 2019

Niall Dennehy, co-founder and COO, Aid:Tech. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

Aid:Tech’s Niall Dennehy on how cutting through the hype of blockchain can lead to possibilities that directly affect people’s lives.

Aid:Tech has quickly risen to become one of Ireland’s most talked about blockchain start-ups. Since featuring a few years ago on, the start-up has gone international and is working with organisations such as the UN and Red Cross.

Speaking on stage at Inspirefest 2019, the company’s co-founder and COO, Niall Dennehy, explained that unlike many companies caught up in the hype around blockchain, Aid:Tech’s platform was designed to provide greater transparency to donations made to aid organisations through the people of the world.

It’s estimated that trillions of dollars in donations are lost every year because of fraud and corruption, largely as a result of almost zero transparency over where the money or goods go. As for Aid:Tech’s platform, Dennehy highlighted an example in 2015 when it used digital identity to enable aid to be sent to Syrian refugees in a refugee camp over blockchain, with products that were traceable from donor to end goal.

“We believe that digital identity – and specifically decentralised digital identity – is the key to enabling inclusion,” he said. Dennehy added that the company’s own goals are aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and, in particular, Goal 16. This aims to provide a legal identity – or self-sovereign identity – to everybody in the world by the year 2030 at birth.

Importance of identity

“We believe that if you give people an identity you’re including them, and we believe that digital identity should match physical identity,” Dennehy told the audience. “You’ve got a physical self, you’re here, you exist today. Why not have the same thing in the digital world and you completely own that? Why is it a big problem?”

The estimated 2.4bn people globally who do not have a self-sovereign identity are excluded from welfare, aid, healthcare and donations, in many cases.

“With self-sovereign identity, the premise really is that you should control your identity in regards to your relationships and the interactions with other people, organisations and different things around the web. It’s going to be fundamentally a game-changer,” he added.

The company recently launched a platform called TraceDonate, which connects organisations with donors and beneficiaries. It allows donors to give funds to individuals groups and/or appeals that are created and managed by governments, NGOs and charities. Through this, Aid:Tech is working with the Red Cross in Dublin and India to digitise TB-testing kits for those who need it most.

“We’re sending them over borders and we’re enabling people to obtain the TB kits, and you as a donor get an alert to tell you where your donation was spent by whom, for what and how much,” he explained.

Inspirefest is Silicon Republic’s international event celebrating the point where science, technology and the arts collide. Ultra Early Bird tickets for Inspirefest 2020 are available now.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic