Blockchain Technology for the Covid-19 Passport Puzzle

Finding vaccination for COVID 19 is just one mountain the world has to climb. The distribution of the vaccine to more than 7 billion people is another hurdle the world has to tackle. The World Health Organization is exploring the possibility of using blockchain technology to tackle this issue.

The WHO is teaming up with Estonia, the European Union state that helped give birth to Skype and where citizens use the internet to vote in elections, to create digital vaccination certificates proving international passengers have had a coronavirus shot and helping to distribute vaccines to priority groups first. The certificates, to be tested in a pilot project, will be based on the blockchain technology that underlies electronic currencies like Bitcoin.

Cybersecurity firm Guardtime, which was founded in Estonia and is headquartered in Switzerland, will lead the 12-week pilot by enrolling “pathfinder” countries to test how well the solution can be scaled globally, including in poorer regions, according to Ain Aaviksoo, head of the company’s unit in Tallinn.

“Most other blockchain solutions are lab-projects, but it’s a challenge to scale them to billions of people,” Aaviksoo said. “What we’re offering to the WHO is speed. The solution has been tested by the U.S. government, telecoms companies, and others in terms of onboarding a massive number of parties and the stability of the system.”

Aaviksoo estimates Guardtime’s lead over rivals on implementation speed to be at least a year. The WHO isn’t doubtful about “certificates” in general but about what’s being certified,” Aaviksoo said. “When a vaccine has been cleared for the market, it should be effective so it makes sense to certify vaccination as a fact and set rules based on it.”


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