Blockchain + epidemic fight: expose data to the sun

Author: Zhang Nan Yang Di

Source: Surging News

These days, questions about the Wuhan Red Cross appear on the Internet.

People questioned the Red Cross, why do n’t they donate so much? Is it not enough to donate, or is it bad to distribute? Although there are reports that Kyushutong assisted the Wuhan Red Society in the management of medical supplies and the efficiency of distribution has improved, how much is the total donation and how many meet the guarantee standards? After the distribution is improved, how is the supply to first-tier hospitals? These figures remain a question mark.

I. Fighting against the pristine state of the information society: we need complete, authentic, and credible information

To gain a complete understanding of the facts, people demand information: complete, authentic. However, the original appearance of massive information can't meet this requirement, and most of the presented states are: fragmentation and uneven credibility. This poses a huge challenge for people to obtain complete facts.

"Fragmentation" means that information and data come from a variety of different channels, and these channels are not organically integrated. They freely contribute to the ocean of information in their favorite ways and expression styles. There is nothing wrong with this, as the original face of the information society is. But when you need to know the full picture of the event, or a relatively complete fragment, the original state information is difficult to directly serve this demand.

Even more dangerous is that people will not give up the need to obtain information because the original information is fragmented. Especially in the face of emergencies, the pervasive collective anxiety in the crowd will exacerbate the thirst for real information, thereby accelerating the speed of integrating fragmented information. When there is a lack of accessible technical tools, people usually take the most primitive way to stitch fragments together.

These are the many rumors we have seen in this outbreak. In order to form a complete understanding of the situation, people spliced ​​up piecemeal public opinion, rumors, and various official channels and news from mainstream media platforms. The splicing cannot be done, and the docking is not orderly. It is inevitable to fill the gap by imagination and guessing. When imagination and speculation can't fill the break in the logical chain, the break is likely to be a breeding ground for panic and rumors.

"Credibility" refers to the degree to which information is trusted. For information that is not credible or that is not authentic, even if it is complete, it may be invalid information, and it may also cause the negative impact of confusion. This is the case when people question the Red Cross. Although the use of Red Cross to receive supplies is theoretically more efficient than the scattered reception of folks, but the Red Cross will face a crisis of trust and these theoretical advantages will be greatly weakened. The logic chain is complete, but credibility has been greatly questioned.

In times of crisis, in addition to being complete and authentic, people's requirements for information also include real-time nature. Crisis situations change rapidly, and static and lagging information obviously cannot satisfy people's grasp of the development trend of the crisis, neither can it effectively serve government decision-making, nor is it easy for the public to know and monitor.

To respond to the epidemic, we need not only data and information from multiple departments, but also information about the entire process; we need not only information about the entire process, but also real-time information. At the same time, it is required that this information can be opened to the public to ensure that the information is complete, real-time, open and transparent.

Answer the initial question, "Why do n’t you donate so much, and Wuhan Hospital is still short?" In fact, you can draw a simple mathematical calculation to draw a conclusion. What is the overall demand of Wuhan hospitals? What is the total amount of donations from various places? How much is the total amount of compliance? Comparing these two simple data, whether the supply exceeds the demand or the supply exceeds the demand is clear at a glance. If there is oversupply in the total amount, but the front-line hospitals are in a hurry at the same time, it means that there is a break in the distribution and distribution of materials. But the necessary data is needed to complete this simple calculation.

Blockchain + Fighting the Epidemic: Taking the Distribution of Material Donation as an Example

In traditional technology toolboxes, it may be difficult to rely primarily on a single technical means to meet all our data and information requirements. Therefore, for a long time, the expectations of deep integration, openness, real-time, and sharing mostly stayed in the beautiful conception stage, until the blockchain technology entered the field of view of public managers.

As a new thing, blockchain technology has appeared in the world for only 11 years. On October 31, 2008, Sattoshi Nakamoto published an article "Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System", which first proposed the concept of using blockchain technology to achieve direct transactions without intermediary cash.

Blockchain technology can have rich application scenarios, and the application methods and specific architectures of different application scenarios are different. The application of blockchain technology in the field of public management is relatively recent, and the application field is constantly expanding. For example, blockchain technology is used in the field of medical insurance to improve the security of medical data storage; used to improve the efficiency of government internal management systems; used in the field of government services, to achieve rapid approval, smart government affairs, etc.

But the changes are inseparable, and these applications all take advantage of the shared, transparent, traceable, tamper-proof, and distributed technical advantages of the blockchain.

First, break the "fragmentation" problem: panoramic data integration. To solve the problem of "fragmentation" of information, the blockchain can effectively realize the entire process and integration of all data, show the full picture of the data, and achieve full traceability.

Taking material donation and distribution as an example, the whole process refers to the entire process of material flow from the donor to the recipient, including the entire process information of logistics, warehousing, distribution, and delivery. At present, effective integration has not been achieved in each link. With the support of blockchain technology, donated materials can be uploaded to the logistics system from the first moment. The flow of materials from the sender to the receiver is similar to the logistics process we are familiar with. The winding information can be very detailed, including not only the item name, weight, sender, recipient, and delivery address, but also detailed information such as product model and quantity.

However, the information held by the logistics company only includes the materials from the sender to the receiver. In a public health emergency, the recipient may not be the recipient, but may be a charity or a social organization. For example, in this epidemic, the Red Cross Society openly accepted donations from all walks of life and then distributed them. Therefore, even if the materials have completed the logistics process and reached the recipient, it does not mean that the materials have reached the recipient.

With the support of blockchain technology, if the recipient is a collection agency, the material information after the completion of the logistics stage will continue to be recorded. The details of the goods entering the collection agency, the time of entry, the time of transfer, the object of transfer, and the process of being sent by the collection agency to the recipient will be recorded.

With the help of the blockchain, materials can be recorded no matter how many steps the material goes from donor to recipient. This will effectively solve the problem of information breakage between different links of material flow information. What link the donated materials are in, whether they are released in time, and where they are stuck are clear. No link will be in the black box.

All sectors refer to all departments involved in material donation and distribution, including logistics, government departments, charities, distribution channels, etc. Sector integration is undoubtedly more important and more difficult. If the data of the departments involved cannot be integrated together, it will inevitably be unable to show the panoramic information of material deployment. The logistics and transportation, the government and the charity are jointly responsible for the distribution, and the distribution channel is responsible for the delivery to the recipient. The most important thing is that the logistics, government departments, charities, and distribution channels here are not only one department, but a large, multi-point, diffuse, including all logistics companies involved in transportation materials, multiple government-related departments, and possibly more Charities, multiple distribution channels. Blockchain technology can realize the simultaneous on-chain data of multiple fields and departments, and realize the panoramic integration of information.

Second, the data is credible, the whole process can be traced, and it cannot be tampered with. In terms of credibility, blockchain technology solves the problem of credit mechanism through multi-party participation. Distributed storage can realize multi-point storage of on-chain data without the problems of single node being breached or tampered, and overall data loss. Based on the data structure in the block, any data in the block is modified, so that the lower layer and the upper layer hash value in this block cannot correspond. In addition, every deletion will generate new data. In other words, any read, write, delete, and retrieve activities on the chain will leave marks. In this sense, blockchain technology can realize the tamper-resistant data of emergency materials flow.

Third, the organization's identity is transparent, data is transparent, and the whole society is open and accessible. All agencies and departments involved in the donation and distribution of materials are on-chain, and their identities are transparent. Information about activities related to the donation and distribution of materials will be on-chain, leaving traces throughout the process. In other words, the information and data of all participants have been open and transparent since the first moment of being uploaded, and cannot be tampered with, and stored at multiple points.

Because the identity of the on-chain institutions is transparent, the main responsibility is clear. Whose data, who's information, who is responsible for the subject. This makes the data source department's cost of destroying the integrity very high, because once the integrity is breached, manipulating the data source is tantamount to self-exposure. This will also force the data source department to be conscious and trustworthy, and to respect the integrity mechanism.

The logistics information, total information, deployment situation, and distribution situation of donated materials are all recorded and made public. It is not something that can be manipulated or tampered by any institution. Therefore, with the help of blockchain technology, any link can be seen in real time on the entire network.

More importantly, with the help of the blockchain, the donated material chain can be opened to the society. Openness is reflected in that anyone can obtain the identity of the user, consult the information on the chain at any time, and truly realize that the data is exposed to the sun and accept the supervision and review of all the public.

Blockchain + Public Health Crisis Management: A Conceptual Technology Framework

According to the classification, blockchain is mainly divided into public chain, private alliance, and alliance chain. The main feature of the public chain is that it is open and anonymous, and anyone can join as a node to obtain read and write permissions to the data on the chain. The bitcoin we know is built on the public chain. The disadvantages of public chains are that they rely on computing power to compete for bookkeeping rights, high energy consumption, low efficiency, anonymity of nodes, non-open and opaque identity, and have become disadvantages in many scenarios of public management. The private chain is not open at all, nor does it meet the need for openness in public management scenarios.

The semi-open nature of the alliance chain is applicable to many scenarios of public management, including some specific scenarios of public health crisis management. The semi-openness of the alliance chain is mainly reflected in the limited number of nodes on the chain and transparent identity, and not any user has read and write permissions.

For material donation and distribution scenarios, there are two ways to deploy a blockchain material chain architecture:

One is to build a special chain, placing all institutions involved in material donation and distribution on the same chain, and deploying multiple nodes within each institution to form an alliance chain. However, this may have the problem of limited use of private chains after the crisis.

Another way is to use the organization type as a unit to build a chain of logistics, government departments, charities, and distribution channels to form a cross-chain network. This may make it easier to organize and collaborate within the chain. After the crisis, each chain can also be used for daily Other sharing scenarios. But cross-chain sharing requires a certain investment to establish a cross-chain data sharing mechanism. The choice of specific models needs more discussion and demonstration.

In terms of user permissions, if it is a chain or a network, the central node can be deployed in government departments to facilitate coordination and coordination. If it is a cross-chain network, you can choose an agency to deploy the central node within each chain. In terms of read and write permissions, the on-chain institutions have read and write rights, and can write their own data related to the organization's donation and distribution on the chain, as well as read the data. The public has the right to read and write, not the right to write, and can read data freely, knowing and supervising the whole process. The permission agreement can be implemented through smart contracts. In this way, not only can the technical advantages of the blockchain be used on the premise of intensive resources, but also the purpose of open data inquiry to the society can be achieved. Whether frequent requests from the public will bring huge pressure to the system and cause system crashes can be effectively solved by deploying access nodes as social access nodes and other related technical means.

Similar applications in this area have been pioneered in China. For example, Chongqing Yuzhong District uses blockchain technology to trace agricultural products, build traceability solutions from farm to table, and make each link transparent and checkable. The technology application concept of applying blockchain technology to track the distribution of donated materials is similar, but the necessary adjustments need to be made according to the specific needs of the applicable scenario.

Fourth, other possible application scenarios for blockchain to help prevent and control the epidemic

Of course, the distribution of material donations is just one example. There are many scenarios where blockchain can help in epidemic prevention and control.

For example, hospital bed management. The total number of beds in each hospital, the number of beds used, the number of empty beds, and hospitals at all levels have read and write rights. The data is processed in accordance with the admission and discharge procedures, and the chain is updated in real time. Major hospitals can also open online queuing channels to upload this data. The public can not only see the empty bed rate of each hospital, but also the queuing situation and timely adjust the strategy for medical treatment. In this way, the dynamic use of beds in all hospitals is integrated on one platform, which not only facilitates the society to grasp information, but also effectively guides patients to seek medical treatment, reduces blind congestion, and reduces the flow rate of suspected cases. It is more convenient for governments at all levels to know the latest situation of the front line in real time.

Another example is material consumption management. The front-line hospitals consume a lot of materials every day, and the management of inventory and consumption is very important to grasp and predict the demand. Recently, many media reports show that the departments of Wuhan First-line Hospital mainly judge the amount of materials needed daily through estimation. The backward statistical methods and the lack of accurate data make it difficult to achieve refined management. With blockchain technology to support material consumption management, you can comprehensively grasp the consumption of materials through the on-chain information such as the arrival of materials into inventory and collection. All hospitals in the region join the alliance chain, which can provide accurate data for decision makers to grasp the global information, which is critical for scheduling and balancing limited supplies and achieving on-demand distribution.

Maybe people will be worried. Under the epidemic situation, the fight against prevention and control has already required a large amount of resource investment. Will it be necessary to set up a large number of human resources to be responsible for the maintenance of the data and the chain? In fact, the blockchain can be docked with the existing system and complete the data on-chain while completing other necessary work.

In the face of the epidemic, everyone hopes to spend as soon as possible to minimize losses. Issues such as outdated statistical methods, data that cannot be updated in a timely manner, and the distribution of materials have not been effective and timely, suggesting that governance requires more powerful technical tools. Of course, each new technology and new method has a specific scope of application. It must not be ignored or exaggerated, nor should it be replaced by technical means to replace deep structural reforms. The best use of technology is to make the best use of it.

(The author Zhang Nandiyang is the dean of the National Development and Strategic Research Institute Qingdao Branch of Renmin University and an associate professor in the School of Public Management)