Zlto to expand after Google funding

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Zlto has created employment opportunities for over 25 000 South African youth.
Zlto has created employment opportunities for over 25 000 South African youth.

Cape Town-based social non-governmental organisation, Reconstructed Living Labs (RLabs), plans a national roll out of its blockchain platform, Zlto, after receiving R3.4 million from the Google Impact Challenge last year.

The Google Impact Challenge seeks to invest in start-ups that use tech to tackle societal issues.

RLabs is a community-based skills development organisation that seeks to address youth unemployment by offering work opportunities through its blockchain start-up, Zlto Digital Platform.

Founded by a group of RLabs staff and graduates, the mobile platform is aimed at rewarding young people in digital currency, for social community work done.

After being selected as one of four winners of the South African leg of the Google Impact Challenge, the social impact start-up says it plans to fight youth unemployment in the Eastern Cape, Kwazulu-Natal and Gauteng.

"Our mission is to get young people throughout SA to be involved in their communities as a stepping stone towards employment. Volunteer work can range from cleaning up the environment, to painting a dilapidated public building, or assisting in an orphanage," says Allan van der Meulen, co-founder of Zlto.

"When an individual has done some community work, they are required to take before and after pictures as proof, and the work experience gained is recorded in a blockchain ledger, making it transparent and easy to verify."

The Zlto system works hand-in-hand with in-house 'validators' who go out to inspect the work at respective locations and monitor the validity of the tasks conducted. The platform uses smart contracts to decentralise the verification of work done by the young people.

After validation, the 'Zlto exchange' feature converts the conducted work into 'Zlto' digital currency, which gets added to the individual's virtual wallet where they can check their work, balance and rewards.

While RLabs has networks throughout the country, Zlto currently operates only in Cape Town.

The start-up has partnered with local retailers such as Shoprite, to enable users to redeem their rewards in exchange for goods.

Africa expansion plans

Zlto launched in 2014 and its mobile platform was introduced in 2016. It has offered employment opportunities to over 25 000 registered young people, impacting around 900 000 local beneficiaries through the employment gained, according to Van der Meulen.

"The Google Impact Challenge grant will largely be used to drive expansion into the three regions, ensuring more youth from low-income communities can access opportunities to develop an asset of work as well as leverage incentives for their positive behaviour.

"In order to achieve this, we are expanding our vendor service offering and mobilising local champions through the existing RLabs networks and on-board youth organisations that currently work in those regions who could use Zlto for increasing and tracking positive impact."

Van der Meulen adds that after establishing itself in the three provinces, Zlto aims to further expand throughout the African continent, through its existing RLabs networks in Southern and Eastern Africa.

"The platform aims to strengthen and expand partnerships in the African region, by tackling unemployment in lower income communities in Southern and Eastern Africa. We are also used by a UK-based NGO and we hope to establish more partnerships there."

Zlto makes its profit by offering its services to businesses or non-profit organisations that want to increase and track their positive behaviour and social impact.

"Our clients are able to access real-time data, curated stores, micro-jobbing and decentralised validation through the blockchain smart contracts," concludes Van der Meulen.

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