Situated in Central Asia along the Silk Road, an ancient network of trading routes connecting the far reaches of China, East Africa and Southern Europe, Kyrgyzstan endures both tropically hot and dry polar climates. Despite its historical prominence in one of history’s most abundant regions, the country recently ranked as the second poorest in Central Asia, with over 31 percent of the population living below the poverty line. In addition to a celebration of rich traditions, the country’s long history and deep roots have manifested themselves in some political unrest, particularly some violent riots in 2010.
In short, Kyrgyzstan appears both fertile for cultural and intellectual exchange, yet plagued by some inequalities that may make it difficult for its citizens to fully participate in the increasingly interconnected world. That may be why it’s seen by UNICEF as an ideal candidate for increased internet expansion through its Project Connect.
The initiative is UNICEF’s branch for mapping school connectivity around the world and narrowing the digital divide between those children who have access to the internet and those who don’t. It has already mapped the internet connectivity for more than 150,000 schools around the world and found that around half of the 1,560 schools in Kyrgyzstan either have no internet connectivity or can’t provide data on their status.
UNICEF is working with the country’s government to change this. Right now, that means additional mapping and accounting, but later this year, Project Connect expects to begin exploring how blockchains might help.
“You can easily see where the blockchain layers would come in,” Chris Fabian, lead personnel with UNICEF Ventures, told CoinDesk. “If you want to pay as a donor — government or company — for a whole section of the country to come online, wouldn’t your rather do that in a way that is authentic and real and accountable as opposed to just sending money somewhere and hoping two years later that something happens?”
In addition to allowing donors to track where their money goes in a verifiable way, it appears that Project Connect wants to leverage blockchain technology for monitoring the quality of internet in schools and other facilities around the world.
And perhaps Project Connect will one day make even greater use of a blockchain to provide internet connectivity. A long-standing pipe dream for enthusiasts of decentralization has been the potential for a community of users to host internet services on their own independent machines, as opposed to the large, centralized entities that currently host them. Maybe regions like Kyrgyzstan will accelerate the adoption of blockchain-based internet hosting, with the help of organizations like Project Connect that want to provide them with the same connectivity many of us take for granted.