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Blockchain Emerges as Useful Tool in Fight Against Coronavirus

As countries fight what the World Health Organization is now calling a global pandemic, blockchain technology is finding a place in a number of efforts to assist individuals, institutions and businesses around the world.

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The COVID-19 coronavirus has impacted countries, communities and individuals in countless ways, from school closures to health-care insurance issues. As governments scramble to address these problems, different solutions based on blockchain technologies have sprung up to help deal with the worldwide health crisis. 

Company Odem is providing free access to its blockchain education and credentialing platform to educational institutions that have closed their doors due to the coronavirus. Odem’s platform, which is designed to fit existing learning management systems and curricula, allows educators to “issue digital certificates of completion and achievement” as they teach classes online. 

“We are able to track students' activity working remotely so that when students go back to school, the institutions are able to track what they've accomplished and register that on the blockchain and even bring it back into their traditional accreditation systems,” Odem COO Johanna Maaghul told the online publication Cointelegraph.

To date, institutions in Italy, Ireland, Germany and Egypt have communicated their interest in the platform. Oral Roberts University, located in Tulsa, Okla., has been considering a number of blockchain-enabled tools. ORU CIO Michael Mathews said his university selected Odem’s solution based on how well it integrated with the institution’s learning systems, Cointelegraph reported.  

On the health-care front, Xiang Hu Bao, a blockchain-based mutual aid platform in China that provides money to individuals for medical needs, added coronavirus to its list of critical conditions eligible for payout. Ant Financial, a payment processor and financial services company, owns Xiang Hu Bao. 

“Xiang Hu Bao has been able to process claims and make payouts to participants quicker, due to the decentralized, trust-free nature of blockchain technology,” a Beijing-based Ant Financial spokesman told South China Morning Post. “Claim applicants can submit their supporting documents as evidence while investigation firms can get immediate access to them on the blockchain. All parties involved can see the entire process.” 

In another health-care use case, Blue Cross (Asia-Pacific) Insurance in Hong Kong has utilized its blockchain platform to reduce the amount of paperwork involved in health services, also according to South China Morning Post

“Our blockchain-backed claims service has played a key role during the outbreak of the coronavirus by totally eliminating the paper process and the need for back-and-forth documents delivery to clinics,” Blue Cross Managing Director Patrick Wan said in the report. “This really helps to mitigate the risk of infection from face-to-face contact.” 

To keep tabs on how the coronavirus is spreading, Atlanta-based software company Acoer has crafted a dashboard that tracks infections, deaths and recoveries occurring across the world in real time. In addition to providing a map and figures based on publicly available health data, this blockchain-enabled tracker features a section that captures recent tweets about coronavirus cases, which distinguishes the tool from the Johns Hopkins University map.

Acoer CEO Jim Nasr told Cointelegraph that U.S. public officials and representatives from other countries have expressed interest in the dashboard, whose blockchain component prevents information from being manipulated outside of the public eye.  

To help businesses facing economic fallout from the coronavirus, China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange is fast-tracking loans through a “cross-border, pilot blockchain finance platform,” according to CNBC

“[T]he negative effects of previous pain points such as lack of trust in business, verification inefficiency, lack of information sharing and difficulty of timely supervision have been further amplified [due to the coronavirus],” said Henry Ma, CIO of private bank WeBank. “The cross-border, financial blockchain services platform can play a bigger role, and help medium and small-sized enterprises improve the efficiency and convenience of getting export trade financing and other financial credit support.”

Editor's note: The number of Oral Roberts University courses being added to the Odem platform was adjusted from a previous estimate.

Jed Pressgrove has been a writer and editor for about 15 years. He received a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in sociology from Mississippi State University.