The Finnish Immigration Service has begun implementing blockchain technologies in order to support and assist refugees, by providing them with pre-paid Mastercards instead of cash, thus bypassing the need for a conventional bank account.
Over the past few years, Finland, as is the case with a multitude of other European nations, has seen a dramatically large influx of refugees and, as such people often lack the ability to confirm their identity, they are unable to establish themselves effectively into residence or employment like the general populus would be able – Without an official identity card, it is near-impossible to gain employment, let alone be able to open a current or checking account.
To simplify the process of confirming the identity of refugees, Finland decided to turn to the use of blockchain technology, like that upon which crypto-currencies are exchanged. Developers at Helsinki start-up, Moni, have created a special prepaid card, named after the company, that is linked to a digital identifier that is stored on the blockchain.
For two years now, the Finnish Immigration Service has been issuing such prepaid Mastercards instead of traditional cash payments to refugees who do not have bank accounts, with each card being valid for two years, and already in use by several thousand people.
With the help of the card, a refugee receives a unique digital identification code that enables them to then seek about gaining an electronic identity card, the possession of which will enormously facilitate the search for gainful employment.
Director of the Finnish Immigration Service, Jouko Salonen, had this to say on the subject, “Most importantly, the Moni card account functions as a bank account. That is to say, it eliminates the principle barrier experienced by refugees. People can use their accounts to buy things, pay bills and even receive direct deposits from employers.”
In addition to this, all transactions are recorded and stored in a public database, supported by a reliable decentralized computer network. Moni, the company itself, provides the Immigration Service with information on the habits of how cardholders may spend their money.
Moni’s technology is built upon one of several public blockchains for its purpose of transferring currency, and will function in the same manner as other digital currencies, with the standard ‘crypto-currency handshake.’ The card itself resembles any other, ordinary debit card, with its holder able to pay for purchases on all Mastercard terminals, or indeed for online purchases.
The MONI card service is also available for beta testers in Finland, with the company planning to launch a card for general consumers across Europe some time in the near-future.
Blockchain technology offers a promising way for opening new opportunities for people who do not have access to modern financial services and, moreover, is based upon a technology that is proven to able to provide safe storage of digital forms of identification.
Even the United Nations has begun to take interest in this arena, with the announcement at a June 2017 summit, that testing of a prototype digital identification system was underway.