Digital Enablement with DApps.

Open-source, decentralized applications can transform ECD administrative and funding systems, changing how ECD services use and own information, making it possible to build an ecosystem of services to fit the needs of every child.

The need

Early Childhood Development services are provided by individuals, non-profit organisations, governments and businesses with enormous variety in size, form and quality. Managing and monitoring this diverse and disparate sector requires effective and efficient administration systems that are able to track services and children at scale.

Current administration systems are bogged down in bureaucracy – they are mostly paper-based and the process of completing, submitting and checking the required paper work places a massive burden on both ECD service providers and Government officials. These systems are also ineffective in ensuring that resources reach those who need them most, and in generating the data needed to inform decision-making.

Improvements to current administration systems are essential if we are to ensure access to quality services at scale in South Africa.

The innovation

Trustlab is developing Decentralised Applications (DApps) which will re-engineer ECD systems administration. DApps are open-source, decentralized apps, based on Blockchain technology. The product suite being developed by Trustlab, uses this change-making technology to digitize and streamline ECD service administration. The solution uses state-of-the-art encryption technologies to create a tamper-proof record of information on ECD service delivery and payments. A simple mobile interface, called Amply, allows an ECD centre manager to register a digital account for their centre and create a registry of all their staff and the children in their care. Amongst other functions, the platform allows for attendance tracking and reporting to meet donor requirements, and enables the automated release of conditional funds. The development of the platform has been done in consultation with Government in order to ensure that it aligns with the Department of Social Development’s ECD administrative requirements. All personal data is kept private, but the transparent nature of the backend system means that services are always monitored and remain accountable, and all transactions can be digitally processed and tracked through “smart contracts”. This makes it possible to start to build an ecosystem of services around the needs of each child, and to track the child as s/he moves through the system. This innovative technology is scalable and open-platform, with the potential to grow a web of trust that will benefit the most marginalised children and provide greater transparency for government and donors.

Key insights

The Trustlab initiative enables both transparency and personal ownership of information, thereby creating a rich record of information as well as enhancing privacy and trust. This work is inspired by seeing the ever-growing value of big data in increasing transparency in the aid sector. The study of social physics shows how incentives and information flowing through connected networks of people generates powerful social learning and social change. Change making technology puts each individual child at the center of the relationships with early learning providers in a self-empowering way. As their life records grow, they become a valuable source of data that is used to receive and increasingly improve services. There are however multiple challenges, including the unstable nature of the underlying encryption technologies, the challenges with ensuring interoperability with Government systems and the need for a user interface that takes into account the everyday realities of ECD service providers.

The project team

Trustlab is a venture production studio using digital technologies that can grow the web of trust and the personal information economy, applications, artificial intelligence, and digital assets.