6 Ways Blockchain Can Improve Humanitarian and Public Health Efforts
Blockchain Technology Can Potentially Disrupt Our Current Approach to Global Health and Humanitarian Crises
Blockchain technology is currently disrupting countless industries from banking to healthcare to supply-chain management. The next few years will surely mark the rise and fall of businesses within these sectors that either succeed or fail to adapt to the transformative power that blockchain technology can yield. Banking will become more decentralized and secure, healthcare will be more cost-efficient and transparent, and supply-chains will be better optimized and more trackable.
While these areas of potential transformation are a bit more obvious than others, there are some public and private sectors that many often look past when identifying viable blockchain applications. These are problem areas that don’t necessary reap large profits or garner much public attention with regard to new technological developments. One of these oft-overlooked areas of potential blockchain disruption involves global humanitarian and public health efforts.
That’s right. Blockchain tech can be tremendously beneficial to global health and humanitarian crises. It offers increased transparency, unprecedented tracking capabilities, secure and efficient transactions, and countless other auxiliary benefits. All of these things provide much needed developments in the realm of public health and humanitarian services.
6 Areas of Public Health and Humanitarian Concern that Blockchain Can Help With
- Monitoring Food Safety
The recent E-coli outbreak of April 2018 demonstrates larger concerns for our inability to properly track our food from initial source to final consumption. While the CDC and FDA have finally pinpointed a general contamination source as romaine lettuce from Harrison Farms in Yuma, Arizona, the overarching problem has yet to be identified. People across the U.S. continue to fall ill with E-coli infections and these regulatory agencies are still scratching their heads trying to determine the exact point of convergence for where everything went wrong.
This is a common trend when it comes to tracking and tracing the source of foodborne illnesses. And contrary to the popular belief of many consumers, America is actual far behind the curve when it comes to tracking and regulating food sources. With the current industry conditions, a lack of transparency, tracking capability, and unification across multiple nodes in the supply-chain is causing inefficiencies, corruption, and ultimately health risks throughout the entire system.
Blockchain can provide an immutable decentralized ledger where all food products are registered and tracked from cultivation to their final sale and consumption. This essentially means that a permanent and unchangeable digital record book would be kept of every single product and every interaction or exchange involving that product. All members of the food industry, including regulatory agencies such as the FDA and CDC, could have constant, unfettered access to this registry of products and could easily determine points of contamination or corruption along the food industry supply-chain.
This type of blockchain infrastructure is currently being tested in Dubai, which they referenced in their “Predict, Prevent, Protect” conference earlier this year. The idea is simple: use blockchain to precisely track the food products from “farm to fork and everywhere in between”. All food industry participants, regulatory officials, and consumers would be able to access this data at all times to ensure the proper and safe procurement of their foodstuffs. This is a significant step forward in the fight for improved public health and safety.
2. Evaluating Ecological Concerns
Ecological issues can be addressed in a similar fashion to food industry concerns using blockchain. When procurement or sourcing of raw materials can be tracked and monitored in an unchangeable decentralized ledger, it allows businesses to make much easier and more ecologically friendly decisions regarding the “how” and “where” of their product origins. Any businesses, small or large, can choose to use blockchain to pinpoint the lowest cost ecologically suitable alternatives to their current sourcing decisions.
Likewise, consumers can have much more visibility or transparency into the origin of the products that they purchase. They can understand the entire life-cycle of all raw materials that make up their favorite products and can make better-educated purchasing decisions. Manufacturers and retailers can also use blockchain tech to track consumer loyalty and reward customers based on their ecologically friendly purchase history.
3. Solving Unethical Labor Issues and Human Trafficking
Modern day slave labor and other unethical labor issues are common throughout the globe, even in areas of the U.S. The International Labor Organization estimates that roughly 21 million people are victims of forced labor around the world. This isn’t something that can be entirely remedied by blockchain technology, however it can certainly be positively impacted.
Many victims of unethical labor situations are either migrants or refugees. Many more are children. By providing blockchain based identification services to all border patrol services and all corporations hoping hire migrant or refugee workers, we can ostensibly create a transparent network where all of these individuals are given a digital identity and no longer brushed under the rug by regulatory agencies or corrupted greedy businesses. Global policing can force these enterprises to comply with these blockchain ledger networks and therefore significantly reduce the amount of unethical labor cases occurring internationally.
According to the UN, roughly 50% of all children under 5 do not possess a birth certificate and nearly 600 million kids under 14 are also IDless. This creates an enormous opportunity for child labor and other slave labor traffickers to take advantage of the absence of trackable footprints that these individuals lack. Blockchain identification solutions can help to resolve many of these issues while giving temporary or even permanent digital identities to these children and other laborers. This would allow regulatory agencies to monitor and correct any labor disputes or unethical forced labor situations as soon as they are recorded on the blockchain ledger. Of course, this solution is not all-encompassing, but it does offer a viable and relatively easy-to-implement alternative to the current status quo.
4. Tracking and Controlling Gun Ownership
This problem area is actually likely one of the easiest to implement blockchain tech into if it weren’t for the political issues surrounding it. Gun control and ownership could be tracked right down to the bullet if blockchain tech were used in the industry. This could even happen without actually restricting current gun ownership legislation.
We could save thousands of lives, solve countless crimes, and create a safer environment for everyone in the U.S. if we use blockchain technology to regulate the gun industry. And current gun owners could prove their legitimacy instantly and efficiently via the decentralized ledger.
If all gun and ammunition purchases were recorded on a blockchain ledger, along with the purchasers identification and records, all participants in the industry would have complete transparency as to where and how their products were being used. Blockchain tracking tech could even be integrated into each weapon to register data every time a bullet was fired from a barrel. And while some pro-gun activists might be concerned about this level of regulatory transparency, they would actually be able to have more freedom of ownership so long as they abided by government legislation. More transparency inherently leads to less need for restriction and control.
5. Refugee Identification and Aid Procurement
According to Article 6 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.’ Unfortunately, at least 500,000,000+ individuals do not have government regulated identification across the globe. Many of these individuals are refugees from disorganized or untenable government jurisdictions hoping to find solace in a new territory. Most face bureaucratic and logistical issues that the average corporation would have trouble reconciling. And many thousands of these individuals are left stranded without a recognizable identity and without any viable solution to their problems.
Blockchain can help this issue in two ways:
- By creating virtual identities for these individuals that are unchangeable and live on a decentralized blockchain ledger.
- By providing complete transparency into the ways in which donor funds or other government issued reliefs are distributed to specific individuals in need.
The virtual ID’s can help governments identify and register individuals in a timely and efficient manner. The transparency can open up more individual donations that will be directly relegated to these individuals and will no longer be placed under the auspice of frequently corruptible humanitarian organizations.
One company, under the name Humanitarian Blockchain is claiming to be the world’s first “DIY e-governance consultancy project” hoping to tackle these issues. The goal of this organization is to create digital identities, provide decentralized funding solutions, and to endow traditionally disenfranchised individuals with some form of indelible government recognition.
Another project called ID2020, which is a collaboration between Alliance and Microsoft, is hoping to help the more than 1.1 billion individuals globally that are unable to provide government issued identification for themselves. The aims of ID2020 are similar to Humanitarian Blockchain, in that they are attempting to register these individuals via a decentralized blockchain ledger to minimize corruption, harm, and other inefficiencies.
Still, the biggest boon that blockchain can provide to refugee relief programs around the globe actually involves trackable donation efforts. According to the World Food Program, its blockchain program “Building Blocks” is currently enabling 10,000 refugees to pay for their food by blockchain recorded computations. This is a stark contrast from the typical middle-man efforts that involve complex bureaucracies and logistical complications that inevitably lead to food waste, inefficient use of funding, and ultimately the inability to actually help those in need.
These efforts resemble similar improvements occurring in Finland with MONI. This organization is working with the Finnish government to develop prepaid debit cards that are automatically filled with funds via donations from abroad using blockchain facilitated transactions. This helps refugees get aide more efficiently and also works to re-incorporate them into society as they become immediately responsible for their own financial affairs in a very positive and uplifting way.
All of these blockchain integrations work to cut out the inefficient and corrupt middle-men that frequently wreak havoc on global humanitarian aid. By distributing identifications and funds directly to individuals in need using unchangeable decentralized ledgers, these organizations can ultimately rework the humanitarian supply-chain to be more streamlined and less corruptible. This provides more refugees and migrants with better assistance in an increasingly immediate and incorruptible system.
6. Natural Disaster Relief
Natural disasters are one of the most universally recognizable problems that civilizations are forced to face. From hurricanes to tsunamis to earthquakes, these forces of nature are often unpredictable, critically devastating, and can disrupt or displace millions of lives within mere moments. While blockchain might be useful for disaster prevention at some point, it currently resides in the portion of new tech that can be more optimally used for recovery and relief from these events.
Decentralized blockchain ledgers could easily help disaster relief organizations track and trace all donations, shipments of physical or monetary aid, and other transactions along their unique supply-chains. Refugees or rescues from these disasters could be immediately registered on the blockchain and instantly recognized by distant family members worried about their whereabouts. And reconstruction efforts would be optimized to create lower costs, more output, and the faster rebuilding of communities in need.
In the end, blockchain is not just a technology helping financial gurus make millions with short term trades or seemingly illegitimate ventures. This is a type of technology that can help optimize supply-chains and networks in ways that benefit organizations and individuals to foster better humanitarian efforts and create optimized financial outcomes. Blockchain is the next piece of the internet puzzle. It’s going to help millions, perhaps billions of lives. We just need to give it a proper chance.