How blockchain can help in fight against COVID-19 in Africa | World Economic Forum
Some suggest the answer to this lies in the demography of the continent – Africa’s median age is 19-20, far lower than the aging populations of Europe and America. Africa’s youth are particularly receptive to new technologies when they can access them. Thus, embracing new technologies and the possibilities of blockchain could help in managing the COVID-19 pandemic and other pandemics that might occur in future, through the enhancement of the public health system with distributed ledger technologies.
At the heart of putting patients first in the healthcare system is making sure that there are no glitches in the exchange of patient information and supplies. The deaths recorded in India due to a lack of ventilators and vaccines in the deadly wave of the COVID-19 pandemic could have been reduced with better health information exchanges, and a health supply chain management aided by decentralised ledgers.
The tiny Baltic country of Estonia shows what is possible. Since 2012, healthcare data and transactions have been securely transmitted through blockchain. Today, most billings, prescriptions and information are digital and mostly built on the blockchain. As such, Estonia was comparatively well prepared when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
In addition to social factors like Africa’s young population and its relatively wealthy travellers, there have been suggestions in some quarters that Africa’s low COVID-19 infection rates are due to an inability to trace properly, causing the under-reporting of infection rates. Blockchain’s decentralised ledger system could provide a better track-and-trace system, where data from multiple sources is aggregated to give greater confidence in the data regarding infection rates. The extant track-and-trace system is, at best, approximately right most of the time; track-and-trace systems built on blockchain would be mostly right most of the time.
Along with saving an estimated 10 million lives worldwide in less than 20 years,through the vaccination of nearly 700 million children, – Gavi has most recently ensured a life-saving vaccine for Ebola.
The Ebola vaccine is the result of years of energy and commitment from Merck; the generosity of Canada’s federal government; leadership by WHO; strong support to test the vaccine from both NGOs such as MSF and the countries affected by the West Africa outbreak; and the rapid response and dedication of the DRC Minister of Health. Without these efforts, it is unlikely this vaccine would be available for several years, if at all.
One of the indirect benefits of blockchain to better public health lies in the financial applications of this technology. Financial innovations using cryptocurrencies allow for digital payments that reduce the need for contact and maintain social distancing appear ready for mass acceptance.
In terms of health, digital payments, including cryptocurrencies, can help in reducing disease contagion by removing physical contact through cash, card and other means of payment that require physical contact. In addition, the ability to conduct transactions in cryptocurrency would reduce the need for congregating in physical premises to receive financial services, for example withdrawing cash from an ATM or from a bank teller.
To conclude, by combining the willingness of Africa’s youthful population to use fourth industrial revolution technologies such as blockchain and cryptocurrencies, and by deploying these in the management of the public health systems, Africa could use blockchain to better manage the present COVID-19 pandemic – and those, unfortunately, to come.
This content was originally published here.