Blockchain Technology for Limiting the Impact of Pandemic: Challenges and Prospects

Suchismita Swain, Oyekola Peter:

Ramasamy Adimuthu, and Kamalakanta Muduli

Introduction: Background and Driving Forces

Blockchain technology was introduced to the world as the brain behind the invention of the digital currency (Bitcoin). In its fundamental form, it is designed to be a networked record database of all digital events where all the transactions that take place therein are first verified by verified participants within the system, which ensures continuous traceability as well as decentralized security. In this system, each block unit is interconnected and expands or increases proportionally to the number of system participants (Corea, 2019; Crosby et al., 2016). According to the World Economic Forum which was held in 2016, it became clearly evident that information technology would play a major role in the fourth industrial revolution, going by the rapid development of interconnected systems as well as arising opportunities to improve already established systems and operational models (Akter et al., 2019).

This trend is already beginning to manifest given the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the lockdown, measures were imposed in many countries including the shutting down of many facilities and services ranging from schools, places of worships, logistics facilities, etc.; a lot of companies, individuals, and governments have not shifted to operational models to embrace an internet-based service, such that the statistical use of internet-related services since the outbreak has seen an upward trend compared to the normal state prior to the outbreak. This has manifested in the increased use of social media outlets for entertainment, networking, and information sharing; also, there has been an increase in the use of teleconferencing applications such as Zoom, Google Meet, and Google Hangout (Walker et al., 2020). Several studies have already highlighted the application of blockchain technology in a plethora of areas such as healthcare record management, efficient supply chain management, finance, and other related businesses. This migration toward block- chain technology has been made possible due to the fact that it could be applied in solving a lot of specific problems (Hughes et al., 2019). The huge scope of applications of this technology has affected the way some organizations and government organizations work. As of now, despite the adoption by a lot of disconnected start-up businesses, there is yet to be an application of this technology on a large scale, and this is mainly due to intense pushback from the existing systems, despite the benefits that blockchain technology comes with.

In bringing blockchain technology to the context of the current pandemic, there has been an increase in the utilization of information technologies for online classes, meetings, offices, and business operations, etc., with the adoption of these methodologies. It becomes clear that during and after the pandemic, the manner in which many activities are being carried out will definitely not go back to how they were before the pandemic, given the benefits that this new technology comes with. Additionally, given the current state of the pandemic, the threat posed is not unique to the health sector; hence the impact of COVID-19 and the roles of blockchain digital technology are discussed in detail.

The structural architecture of blockchain technology forms a distributed database of a secured crypto algorithm which controls the functionality of each individual block within the link (Hawlitschek et al., 2020) (Figure 9.1).

Traditional and blockchain structural architecture

FIGURE 9.1 Traditional and blockchain structural architecture.

Despite the wide applications of blockchain, there are some known challenges to its implementation in a wider scope of application, such as its scalability and performance when it is fused together with other existing systems, as well as the uncertainty of cultural, regional, legal, and even logistical issues which might arise due to its implementation. Despite these, there has been a positive prospect which has prompted a large portion of corporate organizations to adopt blockchain technology. With their success, the global application of this technology is expected to yield similar significant benefits.

The subsequent sections of this study are as follows: Section 9.2 describes the existing problems associated with the use of blockchain technology; Section 9.3 reviews a plethora of related literatures w'hich highlight the global implementation of blockchain technology across diverse fields; Section 9.4 details the method by which relevant articles and literatures were selected as the benchmark for this study; Section 9.5 discusses the practical applications of blockchain technology in government responses to the current COVID-19 situation by analyzing its implementation in prediction and spread prevention, COVID-19 treatment, and its future prospects and direction; Section 9.6 details the numerous w'ays in which blockchain technology can aid in the economic revival of various sectors after the successful eradication of COVID-19; Section 9.7 also focuses on the challenges of implementation, while Section 9.8 emphasizes the factors encouraging its adoption. Subsequently, Sections

9.9 and 9.10 portray the discussion of results as well as the conclusion of the chapter, together with the future scope.

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