There is a considerable interest in how blockchain technology can be used to manage personal data – the so-called "self-sufficient ID" – but, to date, there are precious few examples of how exactly it could work.
At TechCrunch Disruption in Berlin in the Startup Battlefield phase, Gravity Earth provided information on how the blockchain can be used to help refugees access financial services and other resources to improve their living standards.
The Nairobi startup was founded by Johannes Ebert, Laurent Salat and Paul Langlois-Meurinne. It has developed a platform that allows a person's digital data to be securely stored on its decentralized platform. This is a lot of technical terminology and basically translates into helping to digitize data that can be used by NGOs working in refugee camps with about 80,000 people. In the case of Gravity Earth, it is close to its first deployment in a refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya.
The launch will see the Gravity Earth solution used to monitor the daily presence in three camp schools and the student's academic performance. This will be based on biometric data, with teachers able to upload performance and test data via a web app.
Going forward, Ebert said that the startup will work closely with NGOs to track other data and indicators that can be used to positively affect the lives of residents in the field.
"Everyone in the camps is basically an unknown person, so every known information about them is very valuable," explained Ebert. "It could be monitoring the presence at school, or the basic identity such as age, the number of children at home, the languages spoken, etc."
Collecting data can be difficult, but the Gravity Earth platform allows third parties to provide and validate user data. Validators are incentivized with bonuses such as mobile freetime and lotteries.
"Trust is built and identity is validated through the community, so being able to capture the statements made by, for example, a village chief is very interesting," Ebert said. "How is this person connected in the network? How many people have validated them, etc.?"
The goal is to connect the platform to third parties, such as financial services platforms, to allow users to access banking, financial and other services in the future. This requires a certain amount of learning on both sides, with users educated to guarantee third party access to their data.
Gravity Earth has so far raised undeclared funds, and in 2019 there are plans to increase capital VC. However, Ebert claimed that the company is not going to handle an ICO.
"We are not considering an ICO and we do not issue any tokens," he explained. "For us, the focus is on the product – the front end – because there are so many things to understand, how do we guide the adoption and keep our users engaged?"
The company is already considering expansion opportunities focused on Africa.
"We will consider the new projects once there will be a critical number of users on the platform and we will have rich data profiles for users," explained Ebert. "The thing we would like to pass is access to financial services for refugees, which we also see as a way to monetize and demonstrate our business model."