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Amply, a pioneering tech start-up is leveraging blockchain technology to revolutionize early childhood development in South Africa. UNICEF-backed Amply is an application on the ixo blockchain protocol, which is building a global shared ledger for impact data.
Amply enables early childhood development (ECD) centers to record and verify pre-school attendance claims that are then exchanged for subsidies from the government of South Africa, bringing greater transparency and accountability to the funding process. The ixo blockchain is a global project based in Switzerland that is building the technology rails for the impact investment space, to scale impact measurement and enable the creation of digital assets called Impact Tokens that are backed by verified impact data.
The Amply system gives every child a globally portable digital identity that proves who they are, records their educational history and allows them to receive the benefits they are entitled. The digital identity protocol – designed to store a child’s digital identity and personal information privately and in a way they or their parents can control – is already transforming the way children are registered for pre-school education in South Africa. Since the pilot began in 2016, more than 61,000 digital attendance records have been created across 85 ECD centers in South Africa, primarily in the Western Cape.
As part of a pilot project, Amply has developed a mobile application that allows teachers to collect attendance data in a verifiable claim format, which is a standardised template that makes data interoperable across datastores, breaking down information silos between multiple stakeholders. The verified attendance claim is tokenised as a digital asset, which the ECD centers may exchange for government subsidy grant funding.
Importantly, the digital data Amply captures has metadata (time and date of collection, location, etc) and is uniquely marked with a mathematical proof that authenticates the claim comes from a specific origin. This enables the data to have built in “error checking” – so that it is easy for an external authority to check its validity, without necessarily knowing what the data itself contains. The mathematical proof associated with each verified attendance claims is akin to a digital – and more tamper resistant – version of a wax-stamped envelope, in the same way that the “seal” of the kingdom guarantees the authenticity and provenance of the contents, without revealing the content.
Today, teachers and officials use an unverifiable paper-based system. When these centers wish to claim subsidies for the services they provide, they must submit lengthy attendance reports to the Department of Social Development. From the government’s perspective, auditing of attendance reports is an expensive and lengthy process. Importantly, stakeholders such as the government, ECD centers, NGOs and other organisations are not able to leverage the information in these analog reports to create analytics and program optimisations.
With Amply’s global data ledger, these stakeholders now have access to useful information about how and where services are being delivered, which will help schools, government agencies, NGOs and other organizations to better plan and allocate resources. Amply has increased trust in the funding mechanism, which increases funding available to more children who need it, while saving administration time and costs.
The Amply pilot project is backed by grants from the UNICEF Innovation Fund and Innovation Edge, a South African social impact investment fund backed by Omidyar Network and UBS Optimus Foundation.
Amply began with a focus on education, but there is exciting potential for applications that address access to healthcare, government subsidies, food, and many other goods and services. Data collected through Amply has long-term potential to improve the quality and consistency of services provided to all South Africans.
The future looks bright for the project: Amply is eyeing expansion across more schools in South Africa, in a bid to help the 3.5+ million that are not currently receiving pre-school education.