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Thursday, October 22, 2020
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    Does blockchain hold the key?

    Rene Seifert, co-head of TrueProfile.io looks to the future of international recruitment and professional migration

    If COVID-19 has taught us one thing, it’s that many businesses now understand that location has no relationship to quality of work. This is evidenced by the fact that for some, such as Twitter, the days of operating out of a bricks and mortar office are firmly over and remote working is an irreversible upshot of the pandemic.

    But what if you are an organisation that can’t work remotely? What happens if you heavily relied on recruiting internationally before COVID-19, but can no longer access the skills you need? Yes, COVID-19 has shown that remote working does indeed work, but there are various industries that not only can’t move to operating remotely, but also depend on hiring from overseas to ensure they have the right skills in place and a future pipeline of talent.

    Why is this an issue? Well, although international travel is showing signs of life, there are still restrictions on global movement imposed by various countries, which is continuing to impose a widespread pause on professional migration. In particular, the healthcare industry, which is a heavily immigration-dependant sector, has felt the full force of the drop in the ability to recruit internationally.

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    The question is, then, how can we open up borders again, help restart international recruitment and reignite the flow of professional migration in these sectors?

    A digitised health passport?

    For us at TrueProfile.io, like so much else during this pandemic, technology holds the key to turning the tap of professional migration on again and, more specifically, digitised health passports.

    The basic idea of a digital health passport is to provide a detailed, digitised record of where and when an individual has been tested. In other words, citizens would have access to an app to present a negative COVID-19 result at check-in and again on arrival at their destination, helping them avoid spending weeks in quarantine at the end of their journey.

    In theory, this could not only open up professional migration, but the travel industry more widely. However, for the sake of saving international recruitment, having a portable, digitised mechanism to demonstrate to immigration officials, employers and other relevant authorities their health status, they can freely and safely travel and migrate to other countries. This can help restart professional migration and support sectors, such as healthcare, continue to garner talent from abroad, which is fundamental to their ability to help reduce skill shortages and ensure a future pipeline of talent.

    A word on security 

    Before getting ahead of ourselves, however, a key question that will linger is: how can we make sure that information is unalterably and securely linked to their identity so that it can be considered authentic and the risk of the virus spreading kept to a minimum? With this in mind, the concept of digital health passports has some purchase to it, but only if it harnesses the latest technologies, such as blockchain.

    A blockchain can be best defined as a shared, distributed database which records transactions. Each transaction is added as a block and is stored, decentralised in the chain. Importantly, this means that no central party has control over its content and nobody can tamper with the records.

    Why is this important? If blockchain were to be at the centre of any digital health passport development, we can ensure that professional migrants present an unalterable, secure and digitised health passport to anyone, including their employers or immigration authorities, at any point to prove when and where they have been tested for COVID-19. This can provide a turnkey solution to opening up the doors to international recruitment again.

    Follow the science

    Although an immunity passports solution isn’t readily available just yet, it’s clear that a blockchain-enabled digital health passport is a plausible way to help support sectors, such as healthcare, continue to tap into pools of global talent and get the skills they need in place.

    However, it is worth closing on the point that, for a blockchain-enabled immunity passport to truly work effectively and be taken seriously, it is crucial that COVID-19 tests are not only readily available to the general public, but that they also have high levels of sensitivity and specificity, which are essential measures to express the rate of false negatives and false positives of a result. Yet, this should not mean that the development of blockchain-enabled health passports stops altogether, as it is clear that they can and will play a key part in helping restart international recruitment again.

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