UNICEF, through a joint venture with the International Telecommunication Union, initiated the Giga NFT fundraising experiment that will connect more schools worldwide to the Internet.
UNICEF has led the initiative to tackle the dilemma of limited to no Internet connectivity in undeveloped countries. The organization has done it via an NFT-led funding experiment through its Giga Initiative, which saw the launch of the Giga NFTs.
The Giga NFT funding experiment aims to connect more schools worldwide to the Internet. That’s because while more developed countries sometimes take the ubiquitousness of the Internet for granted because they’ve always had it, studies have shown that some 2.9 billion people still don’t have Internet connectivity.
Giga NFTs Bridge Schools to the Internet
Through data provided by UNICEF, it was discovered that the masses who have never experienced connecting to the Internet are those living in undeveloped countries. Worse, the children remain deprived of Internet connectivity at local schools.
UNICEF has collaborated with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to face this dilemma head-on, leading to Giga’s creation in September 2019. Per UNICEF’s website, Giga is an initiative launched “to connect every school to the Internet and every young person to information, opportunity, and choice.”
Giga’s blockchain product manager, Gerben Kijne, outlined Giga’s “Project Connect” initiative during the Blockchain Expo held in Amsterdam on September 20-21. Kijne also shared that the initiative has already made strides in connecting schools to the Internet in developing countries worldwide.
Giga worked with 14 corporate and non-profit partners to get the project underway. The initial step in Project Connect and the Giga NFTs fundraising experiment was to map several schools’ Internet access in real-time. It was done using machine learning to scan satellite images that would identify schools on an open-source map.
Over 1.1 million schools across 49 countries have already been mapped. Simultaneously, connectivity data for one-third of these schools have been obtained.
After identifying the schools in dire need of Internet accessibility, the next step in Project Connect is creating models for innovative financing. The keyword here is innovative; thus, it’s understandable why UNICEF and ITU tapped into blockchain technology and NFTs for this.
The final part of the process is pledging support to governments contracting for connectivity. The undertaking is part of ITU’s Partner2Connect Coalition, UNICEF’s Reimagine Education initiative, and the UN Secretary-General’s Common Agenda and Roadmap for Digital Cooperation.
Discussing this aspect of the project, Kijne shared Giga’s Patchwork Kingdoms initiative. He implied Giga sought to leverage the rising popularity of NFTs over the past couple of years through the Giga NFTs fundraising experiment, which they first launched in March 2022.
Giga collaborated with Dutch artist Nadieg Bremer to launch Giga NFTs—1,000 procedurally-generated NFTs minted on the Ethereum blockchain. The Giga NFTs were produced using the school data that Giga gathered that represented those with and without Internet accessibility.
The Giga NFTs’ public sale raised 240 ETH in total, which amounted to $700,000 at the time. The proceeds were directly used to start the process of connecting schools to the Internet. Still, Kijne admitted that the value raised was secondary to exploring a different kind of philanthropic fundraising.
“I think NFTs also [provides] a really interesting use case. One of the things that we’re starting to look into is what does philanthropy look like for the next generation of people? Because if you go to UNICEF now and you donate, I don’t even know what you get, probably like a ‘thank you email’ or something,” said Kijne.
Kijne is bullish about Giga NFTs because he believes NFTs, in general, can pull donations in easily. He also highlighted the use of NFTs to track the impact of contributions through the ownership of a particular school’s NFT. Also, because NFTs are blockchain tokens representing ownership of an item, in this case, the artworks based on school data, it is easier to monitor when the raised funds are “cashed in” or used to pay for Internet connectivity.
The Giga NFTs fundraising experiment taught everyone involved valuable lessons. For one, Kijne reflected that it would have helped boost support for the initiative if they had built a community before the project’s launch. However, he was quick to point out that often, opportunistic NFT investors take advantage of such communities in their search for ways to profit from newly launched NFTs.
“I think quite a few people that sort of joined us, they formed one of two camps. We have the people we were aiming for, Giga supporters. Many bought their first NFT ever,” he said. “Then the other group is people who are thinking, ‘Oh, a UNICEF NFT! Let me get on that.’”
Regardless, Project Connect and the Giga NFTs fundraising experiment have proven successful and offer an intriguing use case for NFTs as a means of clear-cut, community-building fundraising.
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