As coronavirus cases spiked to over 300K new cases per day in India, the co-founder of Layer 2 solution Polygon, Sandeep Nailwal, tweeted on April 24 that he “can’t take this sitting down anymore,” and started the India Covid Crypto Relief Fund, which has raised over $3M as of April 27.
The donated funds span across ten blockchains, including Ethereum, Bitcoin, Tron, and Binance Chain. The Relief Fund has attracted donations from major crypto players like Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin and ex-Coinbase CTO, Balajis Srinivasan, who is a proponent of crypto adoption in the country.
New Ways to Give
The initiative sparked snowballing donations, with the likes of Eric Meltzer of investment group InBlockchain, donating $100K of Bitcoin. His post which said “fuck sitting on our hands when Satoshi gave us a way to help out from anywhere on earth!” has been retweeted more than 2K times.
The speed at which donations were collected underlines both the ease of making blockchain transfers, and the confidence a transparent and auditable network inspires in the context of donations.
For example, the Relief Fund’s $2.2M Ethereum address is easily monitorable, meaning donations would be hard to fake, and use of the funds will be somewhat public, though at some point they will be converted to Indian rupees, which will be harder to track.
The blockchain’s transparency also allows individuals to signal their support. Tron founder Justin Sun was able to publicly verify his 2M Tron donation as going to the provided Relief Fund address.
Adding to the crypto-enabled trust is the fact that the funds are controlled by a multi-sig wallet, another security capability enabled by blockchain-based innovation.
NFT artists also started auctions on the same day the learned about the COVID relief efforts with creators like Visual Value’s Jack Butcher selling one of his trademark visualizations for 3 ETH on the Foundation marketplace.
Not All On-Chain
At some point, blockchains meet the physical world, as well as regulations.
In order to be immediately useful, the donated crypto must be converted for goods and services. This requires fiat off-ramps and an extraordinary amount of organization on the ground to increase ventilator supply, deploy Oxygen concentrators, and get vaccines administered. Vendors of these goods don’t yet have crypto addresses to make the relief process even more verifiable.
Plus Nailwal reported that regulations make it so “it’s not easy to give money, even for social causes.”
Still, the India Covid Crypto Relief Fund initiative underlines how quickly borderless value can assemble in times of need and may serve as another example of the positive elements of a technology culture which is so often cast as a greedy one.