Millions infected and thousands dead—welcome to the new normal of the twenty-first century caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 has affected all continents of the globe except Antarctica. No social media feeds, discussions, and phone conversations are complete without a reference to this mayhem. Governments, health agencies, enterprises, and others are using different types of emerging technologies to fight COVID-19, including patient monitoring, low-cost testing kit development, and tracing the outbreak. We have identified that blockchain can be an enabler to help both government institutions and enterprises in several aspects. In this PoV, we analyze the potential of blockchain to fight COVID-19, including several examples of how it has already helped us fight this pandemic. This can be helpful for government institutions and enterprises to adopt some of the use-cases as per their needs.
Blockchain is getting real—the adoption of blockchain is increasing rapidly
HFS has been covering the blockchain landscape since 2016, and we have observed the steady progression of blockchain applications from the banking and financial services domain to insurance, supply chain, and citizen services (such as voting, notary, and digital identity). Also, we have observed that the total number of blockchain engagements increased significantly in 2019 over 2018, as described in Exhibit 1.
Exhibit 1: The enterprise blockchain service market experienced a massive surge in 2019
Source: HFS Research, n=13 Service provider
These engagements streamline several aspects of enterprise functionalities and government initiatives, such as data management (such as data recording and data sharing), smart city deployment, remote asset monitoring, e-procurement, compliance management (such as auditing and GDPR), lending, and settlements.
With this diverse spread of blockchain technology across domains and functionalities, enterprises and government institutions are in a good position with both technology and domain understanding to leverage blockchain applications against COVID-19.
Leading authorities like WHO found the relevance of blockchain in the fight against COVID-19
Enterprise leaders (IBM, Oracle, Microsoft) and other international and national authorities have begun to explore blockchain solutions. Examples include
Blockchain has set the context for how we will fight a pandemic in future
The sudden emergence and rapid spread of COVID-19 across the globe has made us rethink how we can be prepared and avoid such a situation in the future. We realized that this extraordinary situation should be dealt with extraordinary measures by exiting the shadow of traditional measures. We need to apply emerging technologies methodically to handle this type of public health emergency. Blockchain technology has increasingly been mentioned as a tool to assist with various aspects of containing the outbreak.
Exhibit 2: Examples of how blockchain can be used to fight the COVID-19 pandemic
Source: HFS Research 2020
The Bottom Line: Embrace the blockchain applications and think out of the box to fight the COVID-19 outbreak.
Of course, blockchain won’t prevent the emergence of new pandemics, but it can create the first line of defense through a network of connected devices whose only purpose is to remain vigilant during disease outbreaks. It can help to decelerate pandemics by enabling early detection, fast-tracking drug trials, and assisting with treatment management. It’s time to deploy blockchain applications for the current outbreak and prioritize leveraging it for future emergencies.
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