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In 2015, 193 countries under the United Nations (UN) approved the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a global roadmap with several targets to be met by 2030 across different areas, from reducing extreme poverty and avoiding climate change to promoting better education and improving health services. However, finding the backup capital to deliver on those goals has proven to be a challenge. The UN itself estimates a shortfall in funding to the tune of US$ 2.5 trillion per year. Tens of millions of non-profit organizations all over the world share that very reality; working on the front lines trying to solve such problems, they face a growing challenge to raise funds to advance their activities and deliver impact.
Most individuals, investors, and companies are aware that absent sharp improvements in international development, we will see recurrent and growing economic, environmental and social crisis. The ever more present impacts of climate change, the renewed international political tensions, and the growing refugee and migration crisis evidence that. Yet, while everyone understands the magnitude of the problems and the urgency in finding solutions, connecting those with large amounts of funds directly with organisations tackling the SDGs has not been easy. Impact investors, family offices, HNWI, foundations and other similar investors that want financial and social returns, struggle to find projects with global scalability, speed in execution, and real impact. Individuals, from university students to seasoned professionals, struggle to find a way to contribute small amounts and still feel they are helping create change.
The promise that blockchain and other advanced technologies could facilitate those connections and help solve some of the global problems remains elusive. But some projects are starting to show a way forward. Givv, a decentralized cloud computing company, is gaining the attention of blockchain investors and the international development community.
The Givv project
Givv is a leading figure of a movement to combine a for-profit, commercial model with advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and digital tokens to address some of the world’s main problems. The project is working on establishing the ultimate global decentralized cloud computing network but with a very strong social mission.
According to its CEO, Fabio Nehme, Givv’s technology “will aggregate idle capacity from individual computers, package and sell it as cloud computing services globally to organisations in need of data analysis, such as big corporations, gaming firms, 3D rendering groups, and those mining for cryptocurrencies, among others.” But there is an important twist: all revenues earned by the computers will go to non-profits advancing any of the 17 UN-backed SDGs. The individual donating the idle capacity will choose up to 5 non-profits of his or her choice to benefit from the earnings generated by his or her PC. Participation on the platform is free to individuals and non-profit organizations, and Givv will charge a fee from each transaction to cover operating expenses and fund growth.
Nehme adds “we believe, based on cases such as SETI and Folding at Home, which attracted several million cause-minded individuals to donate the idle capacity in their computers to very scientific causes, that individuals, universities and corporations will respond with their computers to the opportunity enabled by Givv: to find a cause that you truly support, anywhere in the world, and to do more for that cause without incurring any extra cost, knowing that you are now a key part of a larger, global movement to create positive change in multiple parts of the world.”
While each computer may generate only up to US$ 10/month in donations, Nehme highlights that there are 1.5 billion computers in the world today idle at least half of the time in any given day. “Even if Givv’s technology is adopted in a modest portion of the PCs worldwide”, he argues, “the scale of our commercial operation will be very large and the volume of funding to the SDGs very substantial.”
But can Givv be competitive as a cloud computing service?
The competitive advantages of decentralized cloud computing technologies are, according to Givv’s CTO Haim Vanunu, very compelling and represent a sustainable long-term differential to centralized cloud computing services. Givv’s decentralized computing will be cheaper, as it is leveraging existing computing infrastructure. It has virtually endless computational capacity to offer as the computing power available in the 1.5 billion PCs around the world is multiple times larger than that of centralized cloud computing firms. Given its decentralized nature, Givv’s network will also be more secure and has far more resilience, being less vulnerable to outages often seen in centralized cloud computing services.
The Role of Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain and Digital Tokens
To deliver on its vision, Givv has developed and integrated a range of advanced technologies. Vanunu explains that Givv’s platform needs to handle automatically and efficiently millions of real-time interactions between computers processing data and its platform, and between its platform and the beneficiary non-profits. To that end, he explains the platform has 4 main layers of technology.
A container software, which will be open source, will process the data in every computer, and AI will allocate and manage, in real time, the several tasks across a global pool of PCs. Blockchain plays a fundamental role as the tool to record and document in real-time the millions of data transfers in the Givv ecosystem. In the absence of the emergence of blockchain technology, Vanunu adds, a platform like Givv would not be feasible.
Lastly, digital tokens will play a dual role: they represent actual (transferable) rights to computational power in Givv’s network, i.e. a real-world service, and also will be the technological tool to efficiently handle financial transfers between a buyer of computational task, the pro-rated allocation of earnings to each computer, and then the transfer of such earnings to the non-profits chosen by each computer owner.
A new standard for blockchain projects?
The company has opted to privately fund the development of the core technology, the launch of a demo application, which occurred in October 2018, and the start of a beta program, which is scheduled for early 2019. The tradable rights to computational capacity in the form of digital tokens would be made available to the general public only after the product (or minimum viable product) is public and tested at length.
According to Nehme and Vanunu, the company opted to focus on developing a real product, that is competitive in its market and in creating a commercial strategy that they believe is sound and executable. In our model, says Nehme, blockchain and tokens are not the starting point or an end in itself, but part of a tool-kit to deliver a superior service that the market and our customer wants.