This is how blockchain can help fight pandemics

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Victoria Masterson, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • Blockchain is used to record information in a way that makes it difficult or impossible to change, cheat or hack.
  • It could be used to create a Trusted COVID-19 Essential Supplies Repository of safe and certified products.
  • OriginTrail – a data authentication platform for global supply chains – proposed the idea on UpLink, the World Economic Forum’s crowdsourcing platform for innovations.

Weaknesses in how medical equipment is procured have been exposed and exacerbated by COVID-19. When the pandemic took hold, demand for supplies such as personal protective equipment soared – along with the number of suppliers.

How can buyers of these products know they are sourcing safe and certified equipment from trusted companies? According to OriginTrail – a data sharing platform for global supply chains – blockchain is the answer.

The technology allows information to be recorded in a way that makes it difficult or impossible to change, cheat or hack – and is increasingly being used to validate the authenticity of data.

Blockchain PPE healthcare COVID-19 coronavirus
OriginTrail is a data sharing platform that uses blockchain to validate data and allow users to access it securely. Image: OriginTrail

Buying with confidence

Working with BSI – the United Kingdom’s standards body – OriginTrail proposes developing a ‘Trusted COVID-19 Essential Supplies Repository.’

“By growing the decentralised Trusted COVID-19 Essential Supplies Repository, we seek to positively impact over 100,000 organisations (governments, hospitals, humanitarian organisations/NGOs) and over 100,000,000 people receiving treatment using reliable equipment,” OriginTrail says on UpLink, the World Economic Forum’s crowdsourcing platform for innovations.

Based in Ljubljana, Slovenia, OriginTrail started out developing traceability tools for the food industry in 2011 and has been using blockchain to ensure data integrity since 2016. BSI uses blockchain to verify the authenticity of claims and certifications and has been working with OriginTrail’s developers since 2019.

External datasets from BSI would be used in the COVID supplies repository to show the types of business standards and certifications that are issued and valid.

“This helps eliminate false claims and misleading medical equipment supplier profiles,” OriginTrail says.

Crowdsourcing to beat COVID

The company’s repository – known as a ‘Trusted Explorer for Medical Device Certificates’ (TEMEC) – is one of more than 100 solutions proposed in response to UpLink’s COVID Challenges 2020 initiative.

This called for “technologies, innovations and solutions that will help us increase our collective readiness to respond to future crises, prevent infection, and allow for early detection of COVID-related infections.”

The COVID Challenges were launched in collaboration with the World Health Organization, Goldman Sachs Foundation, 500 Startups, Top Tier Impact, Impact Africa Network, Village Capital, and the Global Education & Leadership Foundation. coronavirus, health, COVID19, pandemic

What is the World Economic Forum doing to manage emerging risks from COVID-19?

The first global pandemic in more than 100 years, COVID-19 has spread throughout the world at an unprecedented speed. At the time of writing, 4.5 million cases have been confirmed and more than 300,000 people have died due to the virus.

As countries seek to recover, some of the more long-term economic, business, environmental, societal and technological challenges and opportunities are just beginning to become visible.

To help all stakeholders – communities, governments, businesses and individuals understand the emerging risks and follow-on effects generated by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with Marsh and McLennan and Zurich Insurance Group, has launched its COVID-19 Risks Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and its Implications – a companion for decision-makers, building on the Forum’s annual Global Risks Report.

Companies are invited to join the Forum’s work to help manage the identified emerging risks of COVID-19 across industries to shape a better future. Read the full COVID-19 Risks Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and its Implications report here, and our impact story with further information.

UpLink was launched at Davos 2020 to crowdsource innovations to address the world’s most pressing challenges.

The platform hopes to accelerate the delivery of the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include achieving good health and wellbeing for all, no poverty and zero hunger by 2030.

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