EU coronavirus blockchain taskforce

EU scrambles coronavirus blockchain taskforce

The European Union-founded International Association for Trusted Blockchain Applications seeks to speed the solution to ‘a humanitarian crisis of cruel proportions’

A new European Union taskforce has been scrambled to quickly activate blockchain solutions that tackle challenges associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

EU coronavirus blockchain taskforce
The enemy (Photo: CDC)

The International Association for Trusted Blockchain Applications (INATBA) has teamed up with academics and the European Commission for the global initiative, which aims to solve “governmental, social and commercial” issues.

An industry-wide intelligence effort will identify and catalog all of the blockchain solutions currently in development—tracking their state of readiness and monitoring whether additional work is needed to make them ready for the market.

University College London’s Center for Blockchain Technologies is one of INATBA’s partners. Its executive director, Paolo Tasca, said: “What’s happening in Europe is a humanitarian crisis of cruel proportions that represent a critical threat to the health and wellbeing of our community. This emergency urges all of us to collaborate to provide innovative solutions to the challenges and needs posed by this pandemic.”

Cornering COVID-19

It’s understandable why INATBA, which was established by the European Union last year, has assembled this coronavirus taskforce with such urgency.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is rising at an alarming rate. According to Johns Hopkins University, there are now more than 2.4 million cases and 165,000 deaths worldwide. More than 40,000 of those who have lost their lives were from the U.S., the country with the highest number of infections. Europe has also been hard hit, with 23,660 deaths in Italy, 20,453 in Spain, 19,718 in France, and 16,060 in the United Kingdom. Although some of these countries have managed to flatten the curve and slow the spread of the virus, fatalities are continuing to be reported at an alarming pace by Britain and America.

INATBA’s announcement didn’t specify how it hopes blockchain solutions will be able to help during this unprecedented health crisis. But, as coronavirus is going to be a concern for some time, the belief is that this technology will prove itself invaluable as we try to adjust to a post-lockdown world.

Contact tracing is likely to have a starring role in any effort to return to normal. This would alert people who have come into close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus. Blockchain could help ensure that this data is immutable and kept safe—and this technology may offer a compelling alternative to the joint efforts of Google and Apple, amid concerns about the privacy standards of the various tracking apps being created.

It’s also hoped blockchain could reduce fragmentation in the healthcare industry, ensuring that data related to COVID-19 can be shared more easily between hospitals in a secure way.

Blockchain boom

There are a variety of other ways that blockchain technology is already being used or investigated as a fix for problems created by coronavirus. 

Second only to the U.S. in terms of coronavirus fatalities is Italy, where fake stories have been widely shared on social media under the branding of one of the country’s best-known news agencies. That has prompted ANSA to to launch a blockchain-based system that lets readers verify the authenticity of its journalism.

The World Economic Forum has also argued that the disruption brought about by the coronavirus crisis has proven that blockchain is needed to solve “a key technology problem” in making supply chains more visible and resilient.

Some blockchain-based projects have already launched. One of them, Save Your Business, is attempting to mitigate the economic impact of COVID-19 for companies who have been forced to close their doors. It enables consumers to purchase vouchers for meals out, haircuts and trips to the zoo that can be redeemed once things are back to normal.

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Connor Sephton is a journalist with an interest in cryptocurrencies, personal finance, and financial inclusion—as well as the challenges the crypto industry faces in achieving mainstream adoption. He owns cryptocurrencies.