The World Health Organization (WHO) has partnered with a major blockchain technology firm and several tech firms to introduce a distributed ledger technology (DLT) platform for sharing data on the COVID-19 pandemic. Major tech firms, including IBM, Oracle, and Microsoft, have partnered with the enterprise blockchain platform Hacera and WHO to create the MiPasa platform. Other partners include national health institutions such as the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention of the US, the European Union, and China. The Hong Kong Department of Health, China’s National Health Commission, and the Canadian Government will also contribute towards the project. The early detection platform is built on top of Hyperledger Fabric. It will assist in the detection of COVID-19 carriers and infection hotspots.
Reasons why the World Health Organization turned to blockchain
The WHO turned to blockchain because it offers fully private information sharing between individuals, state authorities, and health institutions. Unlike other technologies, blockchain is also safe from manipulation. According to WHO, the platform will offer a verifiable information gateway accessible to health institutions and the public. Accessibility is another factor that informed WHO into selecting the blockchain technology. The new platform will offer public data analytics, including statistics and machine learning.
Apart from the WHO, other entities have shown interest in the blockchain technology for other purposes. The United Arab Emirates government Ministry of Community Development (MOCD) has implemented a distributed ledger platform for the verification of official documents.
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The Chinese government deployed a DLT blockchain technology to track the spread of the virus, medical records, charity donations, and the distribution of medical supplies.
Rights groups and journalists are also using blockchain technology to bypass government censorship. Recently, a Chinese journalist used Ethereum (ETH) to circumvent government censorship on COVID-19 and publish an interview with a doctor working in the coronavirus epicenter, Wuhan.
Similarly, experts have suggested that blockchain technology is the most efficient method of distributing the United States’ COVID-19 stimulus package. Some are urging the government to launch a DLT-based digital dollar.
Most governments, including the US, are afraid of blockchain technology. The technology faces impossible regulations and restrictions by the feds discouraging its use in the cryptocurrency world from becoming widespread. With the governments finding the blockchain technology useful in other areas, they might be convinced of its importance.
The operation of the MiPasa distributed ledger platform
The MiPasa blockchain platform will aggregate various data sources into a single source. This will allow public health officials and other entities to analyze and verify the information.
According to HACERA founder Jonathan Levi, some of the sources include the WHO, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), John Hopkins University, among other sources.
Levi noted that there was not enough data to make informed decisions at the moment. One of the proposed solutions is to encourage infected people to privately self-report by entering data on the system. The project would then use the data to create an infection map. On a public level, such a map would help other people to know whether they are close to someone with the disease. For health authorities, the map would help them prioritize testing depending on the rate of infection.
When the platform accumulates the necessary data, it will attract various researchers to apply statistics and machine learning to create useful analytics.
The progress of the MiPasa project
HACERA founder noted that there was very little time, probably a matter of weeks, to implement the project. However, IBM blockchain CTO, Gari Singh, said that all the partners he had spoken to had agreed to kickstart the project. Additionally, they had started brainstorming ideas on how to collect, provide, and use the verified data on the coronavirus pandemic.
IBM has also conducted the call for code initiative, welcoming other developers in the creation of tools to assist in containing the spread of the disease. Singh said developers can start off with simple drive-through applications for testing. IBM blockchain CTO noted that they did not want to force blockchain into the project. Still, they needed the technology to guarantee the integrity of the data.