Thoughtful blockchain implementation is key to improving supply chains in a post-COVID world

Containers are seen on a shipping dock, as the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in the Port of Los Angeles, California, U.S., April 16, 2020.  REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson - RC216G9XMK66

Image: REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Linda Lacina
Digital Editor, World Economic Forum
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COVID-19 has shown the vulnerabilities of our supply chains and the opportunity for technologies such as blockchain to boost efficiencies and strengthen trust across a range of stakeholders.

However, as organizations pivot quickly to put these new technologies into place, the crisis has highlighted the need for both speed and clarity in implementations.

This need has long existed in the sector. To this end, the World Economic Forum developed the Blockchain Deployment Toolkit, a first-of-its-kind set of high-level guidelines documenting tested best practices to address the issues that arise in blockchain implementation projects.


What is the World Economic Forum doing about blockchain governance in global supply chains?

The World Economic Forum spent more than a year working with more than 100 organizations and 50 countries across 6 continents. It also dug deep into 40 blockchain use cases ranging from provenance and traceability to automation and streamlined operations.

The toolkit’s 14 different modules represent key success and risk factors for the deployment of a blockchain solution within the supply chain context. Organizations can use the toolkit to support more responsible blockchain deployments, de-risk early adoption, and ensure careful consideration of unintended consequences.

Image: World Economic Forum

Key to this project were real-life blockchain deployments piloting the toolkit. Those pilot projects highlight the important ways processes can make blockchain adoption easier.

Two pilot programs revealed the following benefits:

Objectivity and guidance
Pilot Project #1 with The Abu Dhabi Digital Authority
The challenge: The Abu Dhabi Digital Authority in the United Arab Emirates sought to develop and launch its own blockchain strategy and guidance documentation. This guidance document would be used to support Abu Dhabi government entities in implementing blockchain across the public sector’s digital infrastructure.

Prior to the pilot process, ADDA had faced challenges developing a full set of guidelines for blockchain technology, given the dynamic nature of emerging technologies and the fact they often lack clear best practices to use as benchmarks.

ADDA has been working to develop a government blockchain platform to support a secure “data marketplace,” between Abu Dhabi government entities and other external organizations. Such efforts are in line with the agency’s overall mission to deliver a proactive digital government (one that includes drafting technology policies and strategic plans and initiatives). The efforts support UAE’s federal blockchain strategy, which aims to capitalize on blockchain technology and keep pace with federal plans to conduct 50% of UAE government transactions using blockchain by 2021.

The implementation: The ADDA identified a clear use case for the toolkit and tested it with the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution UAE (C4IR UAE), applying the toolkit questions to drive the development of ADDA’s own guidelines and implementation strategy. The answers resulting from those questions provided important clarity in what the ADDA needed to do (and provide support with) in the implementation phase, explained Dr. Abdulla Al Kendi, Executive Director, ADDA Technologies and Policies Sector.

That guidance helped the ADDA move forward quickly. “The toolkit provided a lot of objectivity to the undertaking reducing the subjectivity in judgements and decisions on designing the consortium,” explained Dr. Al Kendi.

provides tools, resources, and know-how to organizations undertaking blockchain projects
Image: World Economic Forum

Streamlined, structured processes
Pilot Project #2 with Saudi Aramco
The challenge: Saudi Aramco has utilized the newly developed Toolkit to aid in completing two critical use cases in supplier management and credential verification. The first use case identifies a solution to the long and time-consuming process of supplier management, which can be leveraged against wide spectrums of industry challenges. Such challenges are not easily resolved with current technologies such as swift supplier on-boarding and real-time supplier information.

The second use case identifies an adoption strategy for credential verification and assurance of degree authentication. That strategy will greatly reduce verification time and prevent certificate and degree fraud.

The implementation: With the help of the Toolkit’s best practices, Saudi Aramco developed a structured approach creating teams to manage credential verification and degree authentication. This approach sliced the work into manageable pieces and ensured realistic milestones could be set and attained.

In both use cases the toolkit provided Saudi Aramco with a clear checklist to ensure all areas and aspects are covered during the planning and implementation.

"As organizations pivot quickly to put new technologies into place, the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the need for both speed and clarity in blockchain implementations."

Looking ahead
The role supply chains play has never been more critical. The Toolkit’s many resources can streamline blockchain implementation efforts for a diverse range of supply chains and their stakeholders ensuring continued resilience.

While not part of the pilots, other projects directly combating the coronavirus crisis will soon be employing the Toolkit’s guidance. Among them is an initiative from enterprise software firm R3. It plans to apply the Toolkit to its proof of concept project leveraging blockchain to complete Pandemic Reinsurance purchases.

Additionally, the C4IR UAE will also look to scale the toolkit with federal government entities. By scaling the toolkit to a wider audience, the Centre hopes to further the 2021 Federal Blockchain Strategy and support entities in reassessing their supply chains post COVID-19.

Speed and clarity in blockchain implementation, always important, will be all the more critical during the immediate future as organizations tackle the health crisis. The Toolkit’s guidance will be essential as entities look to develop applications and networks for data sharing, given the security and transparency blockchain provides, says Mariam Al Muhairi, C4IR UAE.

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