- Using Blockchain and QR Codes governments can authenticate health records.
- Leading is the Hong Kong government which is currently observing CommonPass to enable easy access to vaccination certificates and test rests.
The emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic financially broke down many sectors, especially the aviation industry. The imposition of travel bans, though, helped slow down the spread of the virus, heavily affected entrepreneurs whose businesses demand them to travel across the globe.
The UN World Tourism Organization reported that 2020 was the worst year in tourism history. International tourist arrival dropped by 1 billion, financially equivalent to a $1.3 trillion loss in business. Hong Kong, which was one of the worst affected countries, suffered a 94 percent fall in tourist arrival from 2018. Only 3.4 million visitors were recorded.
Things are, however, changing with the introduction of the Covid-19 vaccine. In most countries, travellers are now required to have a valid Covid-19 vaccine passport before entry. It has been observed that malicious actors are capable of creating fake covid-19 test results or even medical records that can pass the verification. For this reason, authorities in Hong Kong are exploring cryptographic technologies such as blockchain and digital signatures to authenticate, secure and privatize health records.
Dimitris Papadopoulos, assistant professor at the Computer Science and Engineering Department of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology explained that a digital vaccine passport can guarantee validity regardless of the form it comes in. Local regulators will be able to issue digital certificates to hospitals, vaccination centres, and testing labs when the digital vaccine passport uses cryptographic signatures.
Also, there will be a corresponding secret cryptographic key on each certificate to enable digital health records produced by the authorized health institutions to be signed.
Hong Kong exploring the possible cryptographic technologies
Individuals travelling with digital health records will have the validity of their documents checked at various checkpoints that have a list of authorized health institutions.
The same digital signature technology that has long been used to protect our online banking transactions can be used to ensure the records in a digital vaccine passport are tamper-proof.
The Hong Kong government is working to adopt a digital vaccine passport solution called CommonPass, developed by The Commons Project. It will allow access to vaccinations and test results from local providers. Another example of the use of blockchain and QR Codes is the Medoxie Covid-19 Digital Health Passport, also called Covid-19 vaccine wallet developed by the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), and Consensys, a US Ethereum blockchain development company. QR Codes in phones make travelling pass easier and safer.
Despite the report that cryptographic technologies make covid-19 vaccine passports private and secured, some experts believe that there will be challenges due to differences in rules for different countries.
Papadopoulos explained that difficulties may arise when an individual is travelling between countries that have different policies and rules regarding the type of digital health vaccine passport required.
Jennifer Zhu Scott, executive chairman at The Commons Project agreed.
The reason countries had to shut down was due to the same problem – there is no trust nor Covid-related data interoperability between countries.