For Contact Tracing That Preserves Privacy, Focus on Incentives

Stephanie Hurder, a CoinDesk columnist, is a founding economist at Prysm Group, an economic advisory focused on the implementation of emerging technologies, and an academic contributor to the World Economic Forum. She has a PhD in Business Economics from Harvard.  

“I’ve read the plans to reopen the economy. They’re scary.”

That’s how Vox journalist Ezra Klein titled his piece reviewing four plans to transition the U.S. economy out of COVID-19 lockdown. Discussing the Herculean societal shifts required to implement contact tracing, which include requiring almost every American to download a geo-tracking app to their phone, he writes: “The technological and political obstacles are massive…Who is trusted enough, in this country in this moment, to shape this?” 

Countries planning for the end of COVID-19 lockdowns face a host of daunting technological, government and public health challenges. One of these challenges is implementing a contact tracing system that doesn’t double as a dystopian surveillance tool. But there are more. How can governments quickly, credibly and transparently distribute government assistance to individuals, especially the unbanked? How can companies enable adaptive supply chains for high-demand goods such as PPE and ventilators, including the potential for 3D printed goods? How can data be shared across independent organizations and entities, such as hospital groups, states and cities, that don’t normally collaborate? The list goes on and on.

See also: Stephanie Hurder – How Blockchain Tech Can Make Coronavirus Relief More Effective

As an economist advising permissionless and enterprise blockchain projects, I spend as much time explaining why DLT is not useful as why it is useful. What is stunning to me about the list of challenges above is how many of them DLT could help to solve.  

DLT has an opportunity to add tremendous value to the United States at this time of huge societal and economic upheaval. To see why,…

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