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Blockchain looms in times of Covid-19 pandemic in Malaysia

1st April, 2021

The blockchain technology is in the spotlight in Malaysia very recently, thanks to Covid-19. While Malaysians are starting to get vaccinated, foreign ministers of the country and Singapore are discussing plans for digital vaccine certificates on blockchain technology, in order to allow entry for inoculated travelers from both countries.

If implemented, these two nations will blaze the trail for a wider implementation of ‘vaccine passport’ in ASEAN, where talks about a common digital vaccine certification as a criteria for inter-region travelers have already started since March.

The Health Ministry and the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry here are also using blockchain in a project to trace not only the vaccine, but also dispensation of other medicine, from its manufacturer to the patient recipient.

Pharmaniaga, the government appointed distributor of Covid-19 vaccine, may be just one step away from using blockchain, when it in January partnered with Oracle Corp to automate the vaccine delivery process. Using the Oracle Fusion Cloud Supply Chain Management System, along with the Internet-of-Things, the key goals are the automation of the supply chain process, gain real time shipment insights, improve traceability and secure its logistic and cold chain services. Incidentally, Oracle Corp does provide blockchain solution on cloud.

The various ministries aside, private sector players have also been keeping blockchain within sight. The Malaysian Palm Oil Certification Council is inviting concept papers for the implementation of blockchain in its tracing system, while the Malaysian Palm Oil Council is already in a test project using blockchain to allow traceability in palm oil production and distribution process since last year; HSBC Malaysia announced that it is looking into more commercialization of blockchain in this year; O&G company Serba Dinamik has in 2020 ventured into providing blockchain solution.

The list consists mainly the big players. In this aspect, the country shares a similar pattern with many Western nations, where enthusiasm and adoption for blockchain are largely from big entities or consortium consisting banks, manufacturers and suppliers, energy players and government arms. The difference is, their experimentation with blockchain had started at least three years earlier when Malaysia was just starting to learn about the technology.

While it takes the pandemic to push blockchain into adoption in Malaysia, starting with the government at pilot stage, and a few private sector players, the benefit of traceability and immutable records afforded by blockchain may finally be getting a deserving platform here. But widespread adoption is still a long way to come, especially given that the early adopters in the Western nations are also yet to embrace the technology fully.

Yip Wai Fong

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