Blockchain and cryptocurrencies serving against COVID-19

Decentralized technology (including blockchain) is fueling an economy to help people combating fake news, as well as an effective contact tracing system.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many lives, but many industries seemed prepared to act to find proactive solutions. The blockchain industry seemed one of the most prepared, having already created some sort of infrastructure in the last 10 years. Decentralized technology is fueling an economy to help poor people in rural and developing areas, or in areas affected by an economic downturn, to combat fake news, and could be used as an effective contact tracing system that can guarantee privacy and transparency for all parties involved.

Bottom-up resilience

SocialPay by Scrypta

Scrypta Foundation was created with “the aim of supporting and coordinating a dense network of collaborations between developers, companies, professionals, public administrations and users at a global level, all united by a single purpose: a technological revolution through Scrypta Blockchain”. An all-italian team, Scrypta Foundation is developing Scrypta Blockchain, a “digital infrastructure decentralized and permissionless developed for the creation of complete architectures at the service of unlimited projects and use cases”. During the pandemic, Scrypta Foundation developed SocialPay, an open-source project based on the Scrypta Planum sidechain management system that the administration of Vizzini now uses as a platform to distribute food and groceries coupons for the population.

The real thing is, any town could potentially implement the same platform on their own. The steps are fairly simple:

  1. Create a new Scrypta account on web.manent.app. This will be the account holder of the sidechain;
  2. Send an email to info@scrypta.foundation requesting LYRA tokens, that are necessary to start the sidechain (1.001 a least) and to enable accounts for people who will redeem the coupons (0.1 per person)
  3. Go to planum.dev and create a new sidechain filling at least the following attributes:
  4. Name
  5. Ticker (symbol of the token)
  6. Supply
  7. Reissuable: true
  8. Burnable: true
  9. Once the sidechain has been created, the unique sidechain address will be displayed. That can also be viewed by accessing the block explorer having previously logged in.

This is a nice example about how a blockchain can be simplified and made accessible to technicians that don’t necessarily know how to program a new token. Every town has its own sidechain, and can manage a finite but variable supply of virtual money that can, in fact be exchanged between users and merchants. Along with the Admin software to manage the sidechain, a project to enable a POS-like interface and one to generate virtual wallet cards to give citizens are also available. It’s a one-stop solution to help towns act faster to deliver a good service to its citizens.

Combating fake news

In a rising amount of information in everyone’s feed, it’s ever more difficult to trust one news against another.

ANSACheck

  1. When a news is created on ANSA website, a unique identifier is associated on the blockchain;
  2. When the news get edited or updates on ANSA website, a new transaction on the blockchain is created, linked to the respective identifier;
  3. When the news is relayed on one publisher’s website (ANSA provides news to more than 80 publishers), a new record associated with the identifier of that news is created, actually developing a history of the news.

This is an example of a news certified on the blockchain:

{
"id": "2f3c3eb2ef9b86127bf5272ff6ac8c50",
"title": "Sicilia: esame Finanziaria all'Ars riprende domani",
"content_hash": "813f48731d6e4a34098da69bd19c9f9b",
"event": "publication",
"timestamp": "2020-05-01T21:31:10.000Z"
}

The id is the unique identifier cited above; the title is the title of the news; the content_hash is uniquely generated from the content of the news, whilst the event is the type of trigger that created the transaction (published, updated/edited or relayed by a publisher). The timestamp provides data about the date and time of the transaction, of course.

ANSACheck may only be the first (hopefully) tool for limiting the spread of disinformation. It’s only applied to news provided by ANSA, that are about 3.000 daily, but it’s a good start to check what are the benefits of distributing news with the help of a decentralized and transparent platform.

A contact tracing platform?

We’ve seen very different approaches to contact tracing from countries all over the world: in China, it’s mandatory to install an app that displays your current level of exposure to COVID-19 contagion — provided with a color-coded QR code from green (no exposure) to red (most surely exposed). This is a pretty invasive system, but we’ve seen that in Singapore, where a bluetooth-based app was in place, only 12.5% of the population installed the app on their smartphone, limiting the effectiveness of the system by a huge factor. A more complex, yet user-friendly system could be put in place, using current systems and leveraging the decentralization, transparency and anonymity powered by the blockchain.

IdealCOVIDApp

  • Multilingual, to be installed all over the world
  • Privacy focused, using the Exposure Notification Framework API provided by Apple and Google
  • Transparent, using a decentralized ledger technology

The first requirement is pretty simple to achieve. The complexity lies in the integration between the Exposure Notification Framework API (called, from now on, ENF) and the blockchain. Currently, the ENF works by creating a set of unique identifiers per device that are visible to the network for a specified amount of time. If a user gets sick with COVID-19, they need to give consent to the app to propagate this data in order for all the other users in the network to know if they’ve been in close proximity with them. This is how the new Bending Spoon’s Immuni app would work in Italy when it’s released, hopefully, by the end of May. But this system has several flaws: it lacks incentives for users to download the app and to give consent to propagate results for positivity to the virus. Blockchain could, actually, solve those two problems.

First, by creating incentives for people to download the app by creating a token economy inside the app: every user that downloads the app, doesn’t encounter lots of people and gives consent if it’s found positive, can earn tokens that can then redeem in a government-approved marketplace of goods and services. This will in fact tell users that you can earn money if you are careful, and you can even earn money if you don’t, because you earn tokens if you help propagate the data.

Second, every contact made by two people can be recorded on the blockchain that is available for everyone to see but for no one to know which is which. This is technological aspect that incentivizes a change in behavior: if I don’t want to install the app because I feel I’m the only one or that I don’t want to be the first to try it, when I see all the transactions associated with all the contact events, I will be reassured that I’m not alone and that, as I can’t tell which person is associated with a specific address, neither will other people see who am I simply by looking at the address on the blockchain explorer.

These are obviously just two ideas that can help understand how blockchain can help power a decentralized data economy like this. Furthermore, the contact tracing system is way complex, and simply using blockchain would not solve all the problems, of course. But by solving one issue after another, a more comprehensive solution can, hopefully, be found.

You can read the orginal version of this article at Codemotion.com, where you will find more related contents. https://www.codemotion.com/magazine/dev-hub/blockchain-dev/blockchain-and-cryptocurrencies-serving-against-covid-19/