Boa Vista (Municipality, Brazil) announces blockchain pilot with SZC to deploy DID, serving Vulnerable Communities Early Childhood Development Program

International Seminar on Early Childhood was hosted by the Ministry of Citizenship(Brazil) on 12 and 13 March 2019 in Brasilia.

We are proud to announce that Shanzhai City(SZC) will develop decentralized ledger technology solutions for the Municipality of Boa Vista in Brazil to facilitate needs identification in their Early Childhood Development Home-visiting Program.

Dr. Tat Lam, the CEO of SZC, unveiled a technology development and implementation plan at the Seminario Internacional da Primeira Infancia (International Seminar on Early Childhood), which was held on 12th and 13th March, in Brasilia. The seminar was host by Ministry of Citizenship, Pitagora Fundacao, Bernard van Leer Foundation and United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to discuss early childhood as a way to avoid poverty. The First Lady of Brazil, Michelle Bolsonaro; Minister of Citizenship, Dr. Osmar Terra; and Mayor of Boa Vista, Teresa Surita, together with experts from Brazil and the world discussed public care policies with pregnant women and children up to six years of age.

First Lady of Brazil, Michelle Bolsonaro (right) and Minister of Citizenship, Dr. Osmar Terra (middle) attended the International Seminar on Early Childhood. Photo Credit: Mauro Vieira/Flickr.

At the conference, Dr. Lam revealed that SZC will develop a decentralized identification (DID) protocol for vulnerable communities to better interact with social welfare programs, a consortium and permissions-based decentralized ledger for beneficiaries to claim needs, and means to tokenize social welfare services and goods on the Impact Oxygen Chain (iO₂), reducing barriers for field agents (ECD home visitors) to identify need and assign services to end beneficiaries with service-specific tokens.

Dr. Tat Lam presents Impact Measurement with Decentralized Identification Protocol for ECD Program in Boa Vista at the seminar.
Outcome Monitoring and Measurement Panel: Jennifer Jenkins (Doctor of Child Development and Education), Dr. Tam Lam, Marlova Noleto (UNESCO representative in Brazil), Alessandra Schneider (University of Toronto ) and Gisele da Silva (State Co-ordinator of the Better Early Childhood Program). Photo Credit: Clarice Castro/Flickr.

The following is a transcript of Dr. Lam’s presentation. For further reading, please see the project white-paper here.

(This presentation is recorded on Youtube by Ministry of Citizenship. Please click here to watch the whole presentation.)


Good afternoon everyone. My name is Tat Lam. Today I would like to share with you about our partnership with the municipality government of Boa Vista. With the municipality government, we are developing a decentralized database solution for all kinds of impact monitoring activities of early childhood education programs and other social development programs in the city. I wish to share our thoughts about how next-generation technologies can further support social development with proper governance of data privacy to facilitate further sharing of resources. I will use very simple and non-technical language today to explain some fundamental ideas. You can also download a whitepaper about this project or contact me personally.

So the first question is what is “Decentralized Ledger Technology (DLT)”, or commonly called Blockchain. Mary Young (ex-World Banker and current senior advisor of China Development Research Foundation) shared a very good reference yesterday about “Network Principles”. It stresses a few big ideas about how we should work together on one platform. I think it is very relevant to my presentation today.

DLT is a technology allowing consensus making as consortium of multiple organisations or stakeholders to accommodate one common mission. It is a distributed database hosted by nodes for immutability and audibility of using and sharing data. The coding of the protocol level technology is usually open-source for transparency and allowing others to develop applications on that. Lastly, all data on blockchain are encrypted for privacy and self-sovereignty.

I believe some of you may have used Google Doc before. It is an online software that a team of people can work together on one document. Imagine the document is a database. Everyone is sharing one database and keep adding data to it. No one is allowed to make changes, or all changes are tracked. Lastly, imagine when all information is encrypted, so you need to ask for permission from other users to see their writings, even though you have a copy of that in your document.

Hope my analogy of Google Doc helps you to understand more about the big idea of it. But you may still ask why ‘Blockchain’? Here is a scenario that I put the Google Doc analogy on a real case. In ECD program, we involve multiple stakeholders, including children, guardians, home visitors, NGOs, universities and government entities.

Everyone plays a different role in the database through contributing different layers of their personal information. This is what we call an identification system. With this system, in the database, it is not just a pile of data, but an organised database about who is contributing data, who is using whose data, who is publishing new data about others.

However, what we are dealing with may be very vulnerable communities. This means that they may not have the capacity to protect themselves digitally. Moreover, from a more ethical perspective, we have the obligation to protect people’s digital privacy once they are contributing to the social development programs through contributing their digital assets. Therefore, we need to encrypt the database — hiding identities unless the owners feel safe to reveal it to trustworthy partners. But more importantly, without revealing identities, needs and impacts should be public and transparent.

Therefore, we can create a system that keeping transparency of all the dynamic impact generation, and at the same time protecting people’s privacy, especially for those with sensitive identities, such as refugee.

I do not need to spend time to explain how successful Boa Vista is in terms of piloting all kinds of innovative programs about early childhood education. In the next one year, we will pilot a consortium blockchain solution to host impact measurement data and develop decentralized applications on the blockchain to facilitate home visiting, impact monitoring, need identification and validation, and follow-up services delivery.

These are the three key issues that we wish to improve:

  • (1) There is a massively fragmented data. Through integrating the database, there will be good chance for more analysis.
  • (2) In our fieldwork with Boa Vista government officials and the local NGOs teammates, we discussed the desire to create more immediate and timely need identification and reporting from home visitors to the government.
  • (3) Lastly, I think this may be a problem in all kinds of programs in the world, it is about how to incentive participation from the end-beneficiaries for impact measurement. So this leads the next topic about giving self-sovereign unique IDs to all users in the program.

When we develop IDs for users on blockchain system, we call it decentralized ID or DID. Registering a DID is like opening a bank account. Your bank account links to your money and asset in the bank and the bank cannot change the amount of money belonging to you. Moreover, the bank will go through a due diligence process to make sure you are a real person and etc. Same as in the decentralized system of ECD, everyone will have an account belonging to them, and no one can change the data (or digital asset) belonging to them. There will be also a registration process to make sure everyone is the system is legitimate.

Usually everyone can access their own data in the database. But when one needs to access other people data. There will be a KYC process to validate the identity of the person, the he either needs to get consent from the data contributor or get approval from senior authorities. The more power one owns to access to data, the more complicated validation process is needed to prove the identity. Our team is working very hard of developing this data governance protocol to protect rights of all users. For next step, we will include all the insights from local government for the pilot scale through workshops.

This is a general understanding about how to create different levels of identity validation and for different users, so they can access different layers of the data. It is a granular permission mechanism, to allow flexibility of execution at the field. You can see for the higher KYC levels, users can have more power in the system, but they need to be proved by seniorer level of authority.

When the data infrastructure is settled, we can start to build applications interacting with the decentralized database. There will include all kinds of frontline engagement tools, such as end-beneficiary applications, home visitor application, data management and browser system to check all kinds of data collected from the field, as well as performance data on the decentralized ledger of token transactions.

If needed, we can work with metric experts to digitize existing metrics on the decentralized application. This is a case of digitizing progression-out-of-poverty index or PPI from Grameen Foundation with visual recognition and machine learning tools. But we can also work with any expert to adapt research methodology on the platform.

The last part of my presentation will go beyond measurement, and it will be about responding needs from the frontline. There is a technical term called “zero-knowledge-proof’. Imagine you are sick, and you go to see doctor. They doctor will give you a prescription. You take the prescription to a pharmacy to get medicine. The pharmacist does not need to know what is your medical record, but when he sees your doctor prescription, he will give you the medicines. The concept is the same. We will encrypt beneficiaries’ need details, general needs are validated by home visitors, and government then allocate services to respond to the need without knowing too much detail about it. This mechanism will protect sensitive record of end-beneficiaries, but still receiving help from a network of NGOs or government service providers. More importantly, it builds trust between end-beneficiaries and government.

In order to track the flows of services, in the future all services will become digital vouchers within the system dedicating to specific DIDs. Therefore, the system is able to track not only the home visiting performance, but also the service delivery quality.

To conclude, our goal is to create a digital solution allowing sharing of data and at the same time protecting everyone’s data privacy. It will automate all performance tracking, enhancing outcome measurement when integrating metrics with experts, and accumulate bigger amount of data for long term impact measurement.

After next year, we will scale this consortium blockchain from Boa Vista to other cities in Brazil. If you wish to read the full working white paper about this project, please scan here or contact me directly.

Shanzhai City Holdings

Written by

Empowering the Bottom Billion With Data Technology for Social Finance. Website: https://www.shanzhai.city/

Shanzhai CIty & iO2 Foundation

Building a decentralized social finance data infrastructure with impact oracles from grassroots communities

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