Decentralized Human Resource Technology – Use Case: COVID-19 Vaccine Verification – by Dr. Dennis Hill and John Macy
Today’s HR situation is unprecedented, involving a global pandemic, working from anywhere, and tidal immigration regulation changes. Never before has the professional contended with so much change at one time. Immediate concerns facing the entire world can be summarized as (1) safely protecting vulnerable people’s health and (2) reopening the world economy. Both require effective yet simplified solutions addressing “the WHAT” and “the HOW.” A global problem mandates a global solution, leading large enterprises and small businesses alike to face many new challenges in the forthcoming year. HR professionals will require additional and some new resources to aid them in doing so.
A critical matter for employers on the horizon is verifying an existing or potential employee’s vaccination status. In this case, “the WHAT” that needs to be done is available from two international bodies that offer guidance on vaccine prioritization and related data privacy, respectively: The World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Economic Forum (WEF). These organizations foster worldwide collaborative efforts on significant issues, including those related to a COVID-19 response. Historically, both can marshal the private and public sectors to work together to solve global problems. For example, one can see WHO worldwide eradicating diseases like smallpox and on the ground in places like Port au Prince Haiti during the devastating earthquake in 2010. Similarly, WEF recently announced a multi-year program, spread across six continents, to promote and expand the scope of the internet of things (IoT), addressing trust, privacy, security, accessibility, and incentives.
The International Association for Human Resource Information Management [IHRIM] and the Consortium for Decentralized Human Resource [Consortium DeHR] are taking up the “the HOW.” One challenge seeks to ensure parity between talent availability and distribution methods of COVID-19 vaccines for a global workforce. Another challenge involves the independent verifiability of vaccination among a mobile, international workforce. In their first article, the authors made a case for an apparent lack of privacy protection when transferring data across borders. The technological answer is decentralized or blockchain technology applied to human resource information and processing, principles promoted by Consortium DeHR.
Blockchain established a new foundation in worldwide commerce for supply chain tracking, smart contracting, and financial transacting. Currently, supply chain tracking employed by major carriers includes monitoring the storage and transportation of COVID-19 vaccines. China’s biopharmaceutical firm Clover has claimed that their two candidate vaccines, announced in December 2020, can be stored at temperatures of 2C to 8C for at least six months, an advantage over the USA-preferred Pfizer vaccine that requires subzero storage. Even Moderna’s vaccine, another USA-preferred option, is understood only to require normal refrigeration temperature. Whichever vaccine is chosen, tracking from production to storage to distribution point is essential in assuring an accord between product delivery and prioritization.
For HR professionals, the blockchain role in vaccine prioritization and distribution based on workforce categories may seem a bit far from daily operations. Still, employee data transfer of verifiable information, such as vaccination records, remains a top concern amid the lack of existing solutions that ensure data ownership and personal privacy.
Vaccination Policy – Human Resource and Healthcare
Equally relevant to both human resources and healthcare, the answer to prioritization incorporating personal data security and verification process integrity is blockchain. This decentralized approach to information offers the right technology now and for the foreseeable future.
In the immediate future, safely re-engaging a global workforce will require a coordinated global HR-centric response. Consequently, implementing a blockchain solution allows HR departments to exercise their governance role for employee data security and ensure any proposed solution’s process and governance integrity. That is where the Consortium DeHR serves an important role, inviting all of the HR associations around the world to gather and address common problems in a post-pandemic or “next normal” era.
WHO has addressed the distribution problem and launched an initiative entitled Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT-Accelerator) with three pillars:
- Diagnostic which deals with funding;
- Therapeutics concerned with developing, manufacturing, procuring, and distributing the vaccine; and
- Vaccine or COVAX focuses on the prioritization of delivery and, specifically, equitable access.
The pillar of most significance to the population-at-large is the third, COVAX. Vaccination delivery and eventual verification by employers, government agencies, and others are a global matter that would essentially require a global workforce database, characterized by standardized categories and delivered on a blockchain platform to ensure third-party validation and security. Joint agreement and uniform terms, such as work categories, would prove practical in creating new solutions that benefit the widest participants as economies restart and re-emerge, namely, employers and workers. Naturally, decentralized or blockchain solutions, as described above, are the key.
WHO plays an essential role in arbitrating and overseeing a fair and economically sensible process for allocating vaccines across the global landscape. Creative thinking, collaborative discussions, and positive action can frame a responsible, open market in which all countries can compete and benefit. Notwithstanding the inevitable short-term self-interest of each nation, transnational private and public initiatives, even partnerships, will undoubtedly address manufacturing lines, research, and development to meet the world’s on-going needs in due time. But complementary changes in human resource processes have yet to be defined. as new practices and standards for personal information ownership, access, and control will be needed. IHRIM established the Consortium for Decentralized Human Resource or DeHR with Competitive Edge Technologies Pty to facilitate these discussions and produce deliverables, e.g., guidelines, standards, and protocols by and for the HR profession (see www.DeHR.org).
Human Resource Preparedness – Vaccination Verification
Most HR professionals are meeting unprecedented challenges in 2020 with extraordinary commitment and innovation. Among HR leaders, one can find daily demonstrations of resourcefulness, resilience, and adaptability. More evident and crucial is the spirit they exhibit to engage with workers and managers across the companies they serve. They are recruiting for essential positions during periods of uncertainty and doubt while developing new practices to keep workers motivated, productive, and safe.
Similarly, the pandemic accelerated adoption rates for new techniques and methods by a generation or two. While virtual reality was foreseen as a rising frontier, virtualizing the real-world suddenly became essential to everyone for business and personal reasons. People wanted to connect with loved ones, co-workers, customers, and other vital relations world-over.
Companies, educational institutions, and government agencies quickly employed virtual conferencing technologies. They quickly learned and unlearned how to meet, share, and manage in different ways, developing skillsets anticipated to take 20-40 years for full adoption prep-pandemic.
The next and subsequent “normal,” vis-a-vis organizational and individual behaviors, will be heavily influenced by 2020 as better and best practices emerge from innovation and devastation. Specifically, in human capital management, an increased need for trusted, transnational vetting of personal data, such as COVID-19 vaccination records, will be high on that list, as employers cannot afford to engage on-site workers without precautions. Nor can the procedures for vetting, hiring, and managing remote workers return to less efficient methods.
New applications involving decentralized recordkeeping and personal data ownership will shift paradigms across the recruitment and retention lifecycle. HR professionals, the guardians of these data and the processes that manage them, will require equally important investment in their continuing education, especially concerning emerging best practices.
While the pandemic response is significant to all, HR plays a crucial role in personal data privacy. IHRIM believes building a sustainable infrastructure to implement the World Economic Forum’s Presidio Principles globally is achievable for all companies and their digital assets, especially involving verified identification and transaction validation that assures personal data ownership and control. HR professionals and their employers can expect IHRIM to retain its leading role in delivering HR-Tech continuing education.
Moreover, in subsequent articles, the authors will endeavour to present a panoramic summary of global regulation on data ownership and privacy, including the foundation for individual data ownership outlined in the Presidio Principles and recent legislative changes that enforce the ideal of data as personal property.
References for Further Information
Berkley, Seth. “COVAX Explained.” Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, 3 Sept. 2020, www.gavi.org/vaccineswork/covax-explained.
Microsoft Office Team. “The Future of Video Conferencing.” Microsoft 365 Blog, 13 May 2020, www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/blog/2016/06/14/the-future-of-video-conferencing/.
WEF Staff. “Presidio Principles Foundational Values for a Decentralized Future.” World Economic Forum, World Economic Forum, 2020, www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Presidio_Principles_2020.pdf.
About the Authors
Dennis Hill, PhD is a member-at-large on the Board of Directors for IHRIM (USA) and the inaugural chair of Consortium DeHR, cofounded with John Macy, Managing Director of Competitive Edge Technology Pty Ltd. (AUS). The authors may be reached at Information@DeHR.org.