The global pandemic accelerates emerging technologies


Noah Wilbur | Opinions Editor

With COVID-19 disrupting lives in all four corners of the world, individuals in every country are adapting to a new reality of constant uncertainty, coupled with an intense desire to return to some form of normalcy.

From large and small businesses hanging up ‘For Sale’ signs in the wake of decreasing demand, to millions of employees being dismissed from jobs that were once considered protected, we are all familiar with the severe harm that has been inflicted on the global economy.

Business leaders have faced enormous pressure from stockholders, government officials and other stakeholders to prevent an entire collapse of the world economy by weathering the storm by any means necessary.

Companies quickly focused on reducing unnecessary costs and stabilizing cash flows by downsizing workforces, limiting investment in R&D and shifting remaining employees to an entirely online experience.

With a worldwide reduction in spending among firms and individuals, a common fear arose among the business community that capital investment would also diminish, and consequently, lead to the stifling of innovation and growth in emerging industries.

Although most industries will undoubtedly struggle until a vaccine is produced, a silver lining prevails: The pandemic has paved the way for some emerging industries to accelerate growth, as new technology is being deployed in an effort to aid governments in their response to the worldwide health crisis.

In particular, blockchain has emerged as an essential tool for defeating COVID-19 as a result of its ability to empower the swift transmission of verifiable and secure information.

The concept of blockchain is confusing and unknown for the majority of people. Nevertheless, in the most basic sense, blockchain is a distributed, decentralized and “tamper-proof” ledger that attaches “blocks” (of information) into a “chain” (public database).

The crucial point to understand is that this technology enhances privacy because information in a blockchain can only be appended or viewed by users, rather than modified or removed.

For example, in a traditional database, one holds the capacity to read, write, edit and delete data. Conversely, in blockchain, one can only read and write with existing information restricted from alterations and removal.

For these reasons, blockchain possesses the power to mitigate and provide relief from the damages caused by our invisible enemy: COVID-19.

First, by decentralizing the storage of personal information, blockchain can be used to build contact-tracing applications for monitoring those exposed to the virus in real-time while promoting anonymity among users.

In addition, a complex research network built upon blockchain infrastructure would allow governments and organizations to collect, share and access data necessary to tracking the movement of the virus and discovering relevant trends.

The applicability of this technology in addressing the global pandemic foreshadows blockchain’s future relevance in real-world situations as a tool for accessing and transferring crucial information in a secure manner.

I ultimately believe that blockchain will rise from the ashes and garner widespread adoption across many industries as a necessary technology that can positively impact all levels of society by fostering transparency, dependability and most importantly, security.