For many people, blockchain tech is invariably tied to the crypto market and primarily serves to power its workings. In reality, however, blockchain is a revolutionary technology that can do far more than act as the backbone of a financial market. Among other things, greater government transparency and the ability to deliver aid to difficult-to-access places are two perks that proponents of blockchain tech frequently cite as reasons to make a wholesome switch from legacy systems.
It is these two issues that have come to prominence in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in China. Syren Johnstone, executive director of the Master in Laws program at the University of Hong Kong, recently wrote a paper outlining how the pandemic should serve as a wake-up call to government officials and urge them to expedite their adoption of blockchain.
Johnstone’s post, published on the Oxford University Faculty of Law Department’s blog, argues that the coronavirus crisis is being aggravated by the difficulty of receiving aid in China. As Johnstone explains, all of the charity donations being sent to help combat the outbreak are currently being funneled through five government-backed organizations.
In 2013, China’s own government stated that private enterprise solutions far outpace centrally-controlled ones, followed by the legalization of non-government charities in 2016. Johnstone concurs, noting that history has time and again shown that centralized solutions often leave much to be desired when it comes to the handling of crises.
Johnstone points out that China has already embraced blockchain on many levels, ranging from companies like Alibaba turning to the tech to improve their workings to Xi Jinping’s open endorsement of the technology. Despite this, the government continues to adhere to outdated methods when it comes to dealing with the latest crisis.
Transparency is a major boon cited by Johnstone, as he believes that donors would feel much more comfortable providing aid through a public ledger that prevents malpractice. In the past, crypto charities were praised for distributing necessities to citizens of countries whose governments have become compromised, such as in the case of Venezuela. While China’s government doesn’t fit that bill, the current epidemic mimics the conditions that make crypto charities shine and begets the question of whether the crisis could be better dealt with by allowing the private sector to help with the outbreak.
Johnstone’s post comes amid a widespread increase in the use of blockchain to bring aid to crisis-stricken or far-off places. The past year has seen a number of smaller crypto charities pop up and make good use of blockchain’s quick transactions, transparency, and freedom from government interference. Furthermore, crypto exchange Binance opened a charity platform in 2018, which has since helped deal with issues such as floods and landslides in Africa and bush fires in Australia. More recently, several branches of the Red Cross have made the move to replace their regular provision methods with a blockchain-powered system to both deliver aid and boost struggling economies.