The COVID-19 outbreak, like all other black swan incidents before it, exposed systemic vulnerabilities across a wide range of industries and operations. With the information age rapidly approaching, this particular event highlighted the critical importance of data management and highlighted disruptions in the status quo of data management systems.
In terms of the global response to the pandemic, the consequences of ineffective data management range from exacerbating shortages to unnecessarily long drug development periods, with the end result being the loss of multiple lives. On the one hand, there are many opportunities for those using next generation data management solutions and the benefits will be enormous.
The EU’s attempt to address the shortage of personal protective equipment or personal protective equipment in the midst of the epidemic is a useful starting point for understanding the importance of data management in the context of COVID-19.
In early April, as the virus quickly spread across Europe, the lack of personal protective equipment became apparent. But in the complex world of global supply chains, before we can even attempt to oversupply, the first step must be collecting data. Who is currently producing personal protective equipment? Why couldn’t they have done better? What materials do they need? Where are the bottlenecks?
The EU has seriously attempted to answer these questions, but all it can do is send opinion polls by email to European companies that manufacture personal protective equipment for medical use. Of course, this will never be effective, at least for the current pandemic. This is because even if all of the surveyed suppliers respond immediately to the survey, the data will be collected at best within a week. Then, of course, most of the data will be out of date as suppliers will reduce their shares due to growing demand.
Also, what about supplier suppliers? What about all the nodes that make up the global PPE supply chain? In addition to providing the full real-time transparency required for the PPE supply chain, the most the EU could hope for in this study was a snapshot of the top surface layer.
So why not get a global view of healthcare supply chains (or any supply chain for that matter)? The answer is twofold: first, outdated communication systems prevent participants in the supply chain from exchanging data safely and efficiently; Second, because many members have no incentive to join such a system.
Both problems can be solved, albeit in different ways, with blockchain-backed decentralization.
People familiar with blockchain-based communication systems know that there is a viable solution to the first problem (secure and efficient data exchange). Blockchain-based distributed communication network overcomes the technical barriers associated with legacy communication systems in supply chains while addressing security concerns.
Instead of exchanging data with each node in the chain separately, as in traditional centralized systems, blockchain technology allows participants to exchange data “all at once” with all other participants using a decentralized ledger. This means that supply chains can overcome the current (limiting) one-up-one-down communication model, where each participant sees only one step (for the supplier) and one step (for the buyer) in the chain.
In addition, modern and authorized blockchain networks provide the necessary accuracy and read / write access to ensure: 1) Only trusted nodes can add to the ledger; AND 2) Commercial confidential information can be protected as needed.
The second and more complex problem that prevents the emergence of global visibility in supply chains is the lack of incentives to attract all participants to the network. This is difficult because it is necessary not only to overcome the inertia of the status quo, but also to pay attention to the energy inhibitors present in the game. Inertia here refers to investments in and use of older systems, which means that any proposed solution must provide enough added value for the participants to try to accept it.
In terms of disincentives, the problem is that extractive industry suppliers are usually reluctant to disclose their business, pricing and procurement information to clients at the end, as this would in many cases deprive them of commercial advantages.
What we end up with is a kind of tragedy from the life of society. Basically, we want everyone involved to share information, such as how much they can produce, the quality of their inputs and outputs, and the current state of all supplies at all levels of the chain.