Opinion Using Blockchain as a way of Strengthening Disaster Relief

Using Blockchain as a way of Strengthening Disaster Relief

December 29, 2018

Disaster relief is a process that is regularly far from the minds of many individuals in the world when speaking about an average person. The same is true for any social status or geographical location, being that not many plan or foresee disaster coming, even in many regions that are prone to natural and man-made large-scale events of this kind. Often, this is related to the low presence of government services on local, state or national levels.

The mindset of individuals often follows this trajectory and ends up being individually unprepared for an emergency situation. Essentially, it is a case of overall low preparedness for any type of unforeseen circumstance. This, in turn, means that when something does occur, the ability of both institutions and individuals or groups of people are applying small to do anything about it.

However, now a piece of blockchain technology is begin development that could possibly change that for the better without asking for gigantic investments. With the use of blockchain networks, disaster relief in any part of the world could be substantially improved and possibly even change the magnitude of impact for even the worst possible catastrophic scenarios that could occur.

US Department of Defense Initiative

Recently, the debate about the use of blockchain in the context of disasters was started by the US Department of Defense (DOD). Its representatives stated that the blockchain technology possesses a huge potential to help in the process of improving the efforts of disaster relief.

More precisely, the Defense Logistics Agency and its division called the Troop Support held a meeting in December in Philadelphia to assess how blockchain could have helped in previous such scenarios. The situation that had been discussed was the assistance to Puerto Rico after the 207 Hurricane Marina and the Troop Support CPI (Continuous Process Improvement) office hosted the meeting.

Elijah Londo, a management analyst of CPI stated that the potential is gigantic and very versatile. According to him, many experts right now believe that it would be able to transform the process of a transaction of data in the same way the internet changed how basic communication took place. Currently, the US forces employ a process of centralized logistic tracking that employs a singular management system.

This makes it hard for the involved parties to make sure that their data is synced and that they are creating their logistic plans and calculations using the most up-to-date information from the field or other points of interest. With blockchain tech, the same involved agency could track data and improve the chain of supply by responding to the changes it sees in any of its logistical nodes.

The Streamlining of the Process

According to another official, the ability of blockchain to speed up all elements of the relief effort could be crucial for cutting down the time that takes for any form of aid to arrive. The same time is the difference between many people’s survival and the chance of the same continuing over a prolonged period of time. Blockchain could be used to track data, starting with raw materials and going all the way to in-country transport, followed by international shipping. In this regard, blockchain is no stranger for other companies as well.

These include Maersk, the shipping and transport giant that has already started a partnership with the IBM logistics environment sector to create a supply chain platform that would be using blockchain tech for its procedures. However, all included parties are quick to underline that they are only starting to explore this possibility without acknowledging they are ready to build prototypes or do any other direct or practical application of blockchain.

This is a regular narrative that has been going on for years now, in which the big government bodies are ready to explain their interest in blockchain tech, even state they are enthusiastic about it but reveal or provide no actual info on when a direct result of that interest could come about. In this regard, non-national cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are light years ahead as fully-functional networks that have been up and operational for almost a decade (as BTC is).

The Case of US Agencies

There is plenty of examples of the mentioned mentality and approach to block chain in the US. The country is one of the hotbeds of tech adoption with things like social media, esports and many other digital-native industries taking off among the first. The government, however, does not follow this pattern.

There, numerous government agencies are somehow involved in the blockchain project and research. In December the Department of Homeland Security announced it was searching for ways to improve its ability to prevent the widespread use of fake ID through the use of blockchain solutions.

It took a step further by offering $800,000 grants to companies that could assist them in this venture. US Navy innovation team also showed interest in researching blockchain tech that would be used to add security to the navy’s manufacturing systems.

Disaster Relief through Blockchain

Essentially, the space that is available for improvement in this domain is that of the information flow and its speed and effectiveness. The moment a disaster strikes, the information chains break down and the efforts become much more complicated and substantially less effective. This is usually seen in the idea of aid arriving from many corners to stricken areas, but the same end up waiting in warehouses and not being properly distributed.

As the goods and direct relief efforts are not targeted to the proper areas, the people in those areas start to suffer. But, the problem with the DOD initiative, like with many other similar ones is the fact that they are still planned and conceived as isolated blockchains that might or might not be able to synch with other similar networks.

If a US disaster relief blockchain can communicate with that of other nations, especially those hit by the disasters, its purpose is achieved and it will save lives. This is something similar to the UN project on using digital currencies to distribute aid. Otherwise, this is only one more case where blockchain would increase internal effective which would, in turn, include no effect on the actual disaster relief process on the ground.