Throughout this crisis, there have been many mistakes made and many things done right. An option that could have easily curtailed many of the immediate issues that arose from the COVID-19 pandemic is using technology as a means of spreading information and corresponding sensitive data. There are many sides to this argument, and naturally, technology has been applied since. However, we have come to understand that blockchain technology could have played a huge role in solving this issue faster.
Integrally, blockchain technology has many of the key components that are sought after during a time of crisis: quick upload of data with the instant ability to share it, immutable information storage, and privacy that keeps sensitive data out of the wrong hands. These factors could have given scientists and governments the world round the necessary insights to this crisis that were needed in the first stages of the coronavirus’ growth. The first factor that could have been most beneficial is surely the capacity to share delicate information safely.
This factor is what we are going to begin our discussion with. Whether this goes for scientists or elected officials, this facet of blockchain technology could be crucial. Since the outbreak’s beginning, we have seen how people react to information that is of a delicate nature, and should that information not be shared in a satisfactory way, it could send shockwaves throughout society as a whole. Firstly, systems should be put in place to share this information in a timely and effective manner between governments. The original issue that caused the spread to be so problematic is that of government suppression. In an ideal world, this information would have been dealt with in a far more pragmatic way. That being said, governments should adopt widespread use of the blockchain for information exchange for these exact reasons. With the security of the data upload — unchangeable and secure from hacking attempts — governments of the world can prepare themselves and communicate internationally with little concern.
On the other side of this argument, scientists and researchers should have opened portals of communication to share research information including: virus trends, data concerning number of cases reported for rate of spread, and ultimately ongoing development of cures. This final point is of particular importance as we have already seen that pharmaceutical companies have shown great interest in acquiring the cure for the purposes of profit. This is a worldwide pandemic, and any cure needs to be spread as quickly as the disease itself is.
Immutability is another core function of blockchain technology and is an extremely important part of developing cures and understanding how the virus works. Science is a study of trial and error, and having data which has been proven not to work universally is still important and noteworthy. Data uploaded on-chain will show its true development in a collaborative way over time. This way, scientists will always be able to go back and understand how something has been developed as well as what worked and did not. Moreover, things that do work which are uploaded onto the chain are unchangeable in their original state. This means that issues of measurements, dosages or ingredients will not vary on any particular block from the original effective method for the cure.
Some of the great success stories of this crisis, those countries that managed to flatten the curve effectively, were those that managed to act quickly and effectively. Those countries include places like Taiwan and South Korea that had virtually all of their population tested and effectively quarantined. Blockchain technology can help make this process easier and simpler through supply chain management. This process connects all of the dots and helps us understand data collected and uploaded. A practical example of this would be to have testing centers apply their data on-chain to show statistically where the most cases have been found and what possible routes are involved in the spread. Through supply chain management, we can follow the data back to its root and effectively deal with this issue. Through public blockchains, people will also be able to see and understand the data more clearly. They would be able to see how they are realistically affected by the disease, how many cases exist in their area, how quickly it is spreading, and ‘safer’ areas where work or other types of social engagement can proceed as normal.
All of this can be applied in so many other ways as well: from law enforcement understanding where and when curfew is necessary; techniques and approaches that doctors can use when tackling this issue on a daily basis; and economists who can make more clear predictions as to when the economy will bounce back. However, in considering blockchain technology to help ease the strain of this huge issue, a system that can deal with vast quantities of data quickly is needed, something that few chains can offer today.
This crisis has taken the world by surprise and it seems that nobody was quite ready for it. Blockchain technology can be a solution in communicating and effectively confronting this issue better. It may not be a cure, but it can be an essential tool in dealing with the problem.
Many of us are now in a state of panic over this virus. It is a part of our everyday lives, but just because we are enroute to finding a cure for this problem does not mean there won’t be others. When that does happen, we need to be ready to mobilize and tackle it better in a more unified way.