- The COVID-19 crisis revealed a general lack of connectivity and data exchange integrated into our global supply chains.
- Future resilience will depend on building transparent, interoperable and connective networks.
When it became clear that many of us would be working from home soon, the majority took a quick look at the configuration of their home office and decided that it needed to be upgraded. This resulted in an unexpected rush and increase in online orders for desks, chairs, lamps and computer equipment. But the spike was so sudden that it unsurprisingly surprised suppliers, large and small, unprepared, off guard and revealed gaping holes in their ability to track purchases from one end of their chains to the other supply. Some customers, who haven’t spent a lot of money renovating their home office, are still waiting to do so, without the comfort of being able to see where their orders are, or when they can expect to receive them.
Of course, no one could have predicted the unprecedented upheaval caused by the new pandemic of coronavirus (COVID-19) which has disrupted and disrupted the economies and ecosystems of the planet, but COVID-19 has put the supply chains on your knees. And if it would be easy to point the finger at companies facing consumers who are caught off guard, what is important now is to restart and rebuild the global trading network by putting into practice the hard lessons that we are learning by force now. .
What has become very clear in the past three months is a general lack of connectivity and data exchange built into our global supply chains. Quite staggering considering the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) and the Internet of Things (IoT) days that we are experiencing. The fact that we can track our Uber driver but not the shipment placed three weeks ago in a department store within 16 km of our home is surprising, humiliating and needs to be addressed.
The World Economic Forum has produced a toolkit on the responsible deployment of the blockchain in global supply chains. The first-ever blockchain deployment toolkit provides information from over 100 experts and provides key guidance on topics such as risk, consortium training, security, and ecosystem collaboration.
The toolkit is provided by the Forum Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), which shapes the development and deployment of new technologies and provides a space for global cooperation to create understanding and policies that accelerate positive impact of these technologies for the individual and society. Accelerating the economic rebound after COVID-19 thanks to 4IR technologies such as blockchain is today an important task for the 4IR center.
If there were lingering doubts about the value of blockchain platforms for improving the transparency of companies that depend on the seamless integration of disparate networks, COVID-19 has erased almost all of them. We must view this health care crisis as a vital learning curve that can show us how to build transparent, interoperable and connective networks.
We have on hand fully scalable tools and technologies to connect every element ever produced to the Internet of Things, each with a unique digital identity. Do not hesitate to speed up this process.
Blockchain supports efforts around the world to fight the virus. This technology helps us ship pharmaceutical drugs to regions of the world hit by the COVID-19 epidemic. It improves the efficiency of movement permits granted to residents in the near future of controlled social movement.
Closer to home, it shakes up savings. It facilitates cash flow management for start-ups and ensures timely payments for their products and pilots. It even helps consumers track their home office chair to improve their quality of life in locked-out conditions.
The “visibility, traceability and interoperability” of blockchain platforms to strengthen, better connect and improve the resilience of supply chains will also be essential to start the recovery in the world beyond the COVID-19 crisis.
Getting there won’t be easy. Indeed, research conducted by the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution UAE (C4IR UAE), in collaboration with Accelliance, before the publication of a white paper at Davos 2020, analyzed the main challenges and success factors of a deployment wider of the blockchain.
“We cannot afford to continue operating in the dark.”
—Mariam Obaid Al Muhairi, project manager at the Dubai Future Foundation
More than 100 blockchain stakeholders from more than 60 public and private sector entities in the United Arab Emirates, who shared their lessons and ideas on blockchain deployment, said that an adaptive supply chain requires full and voluntary membership of all stakeholders, clear regulations, implications for companies and an educational awareness process at the start of the project. The lack of these is one of the biggest obstacles to implementing blockchain at a more comprehensive level, according to the research.
In response to these challenges, the World Economic Forum, in association with its international blockchain community, including C4IR UAE, co-developed the Redesigning Trust: Blockchain Deployment Toolkit, with a focus on the supply chain. The toolkit is designed to guide an individual and their organization through the development and deployment of a new blockchain solution. The toolkit provides tools, resources and know-how for organizations undertaking blockchain projects. “The goal of the toolkit is to help decision-makers effectively deploy blockchain technology in their respective entities,” said Nadia Hewett, project manager for blockchain and digital currency at the World Economic Forum.
The toolkit, before its release, was tested with several entities around the world, including the Abu Dhabi Digital Authority in the United Arab Emirates to support their blockchain infrastructure development strategy. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is an important contributor to this toolkit made up of leaders from governments, businesses, start-ups, academic institutions, civil society, international organizations and experts from the whole world.
As detailed in the UAE C4IR white paper “Inclusive Blockchain Deployment: Case Studies and Lessons from the United Arab Emirates”, the common challenges identified in the sectors remain linked to operational and regulatory issues, as opposed to technical factors. The challenge is not to identify the right blockchain technology for the specific need, but to provide the support structure around it – a challenge we see clearly in today’s COVID-19 world. And, with more than four trillion consumer products manufactured and shipped worldwide each year, we cannot afford to continue operating in the dark when it comes to keeping track of these products, especially when some of these products could save lives.
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