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Looking Back at the Post COVID Hack 2020: Meaningful Blockchain Use-Cases

The year 2020 has consolidated its place in mankind’s history, though not in a very positive light. People from across cultures, geographies, and professions have lost their lives and livelihoods at scale. As the global economy has significantly dwindled, businesses have been facing massive losses in revenues, as well as in resources. Indeed, the pandemic has brought forth a rare instance of a global solidarity in suffering and uncertainty. It has been a time which unites us, but through a rather grim process.

Alongside the medical and financial crises, COVID-19 has also exacerbated a sociopolitical problem—authoritarianism and control. Historically, those with authoritarian intent have leveraged tumultuous times to forward their interests. The ongoing pandemic hasn’t really been an exception in this regard. Surveillance systems have been strengthened manifold, that too with renewed and apparently unquestionable rationale. Data repositories have become more centralized, thereby resulting in a greater consolidation of power in the hands of a few. Misinformation, on the other hand, is spreading like wildfire—an occurrence for which technological proliferation is often being wrongly accused.

Envisioning a better and more prosperous post-COVID world, IOV Labs, Indorse, Coinsilium, Blockchain for Humanity (B4H) and many others, organized the Post COVID Hack 2020. The objective was to explore innovative ways in which blockchain technology can help us build a better world—to show that it is not the problem, but a part of the solution. In this article, we discuss the hackathon, its winning projects, and how they built upon the varied use cases of the RSK ecosystem.

Index

Innovation as the Blockchain Community’s Lifeblood

The Post Covid Hack 2020: An Overview

   Socio-Economic Inclusion Track

  Open Track

  Judgement & Submissions

The Winning Ideas: Exploring RSK Use Case

  Distributed Town (DiTo): First in Socio-Economic Inclusion

  Saarthi: Second in Socio-Economic Inclusion

  BFactor: Third in Socio-Economic Inclusion

  CryptoForests: Wildcard Winner in Socio-Economic Inclusion

  CareCards: First in Open Track

  DeFi-Venture: Second in Open Track

  O10: Third in Open Track

The Road Ahead

Innovation as the Blockchain Community’s Lifeblood

No matter how in-depth a discussion we have about the hackathon, this article won’t be complete unless we mention the integral connections between blockchain technology and innovations. In general, technology has always been deeply related to new ideas and endeavors. Yet, with the coming of blockchain technology, there has been quite a paradigm shift in this regard, similar to what happened with the Internet’s onset.

Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin was the first, official introduction of ‘blockchain’ as a technology, as well as its first stable implementation. This, in itself, was an extremely intuitive beginning. Some of the elements which comprise blockchain—for instance, peer-to-peer networks and cryptography—have existed individually, much prior to Bitcoin’s release. However, Bitcoin represented an unprecedented combination in this regard, resulting in ground-breaking results.

Bitcoin’s release sparked a wave of world-changing ideas, disrupting sectors from finance to education, and almost everything in between. The ICO frenzy of 2017-2018, for instance, has been duly criticized for its shortcomings and associated malice. However, on the flip side, it showed the blockchain-cryptocurrency community’s potential for developing great projects. Over time, the likes of smart contracts, decentralized finance and storage solutions, blockchain-based domain naming systems, and blockchain oracles have enhanced the scope even further. Innovation, in more ways than one, has been the blockchain community’s lifeblood—a companion in our journey towards the decentralized Web 3.0. 

The Post Covid Hack 2020: An Overview

Facing a global crisis, we must find ways of contributing to the solution. It is our responsibility towards ourselves, as well as towards those with whom we share the world. The idea of Post COVID Hack (PCH) was born out of this realization, while choosing technology as our language for change. In the attempt to positively shape the post-COVID world, we called upon developers to make an impactful use of their locked-down time. The response was, by far, overwhelming—more than 1200 participants, while the event touched nearly 5000 developers from the global blockchain family.

Prior to focusing on the winning projects and how they leveraged RSK-based use cases, it’s worthwhile to present an overview of the event. If not anything else, it will provide a better context for understanding the works of the winners. Having said that, let’s begin with the two tracks for the hackathon—Open and Socio-Economic Inclusion.

Socio-Economic Inclusion Track

Notwithstanding the health impact, the COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected the global social and economic fabric. On one hand, there has been massive losses in livelihood and income, while on the other, those with minimal or no access to services—financial or otherwise—have been the worst hit. In turn, the gap between the privileged and underprivileged population has substantially widened within the mere span of a year. Arguably, the pandemic has taken away much of what the world economy had achieved in the recent past.

Based on this rationale, the Socio-Economic Inclusion track intended to foster greater inclusivity and autonomy through blockchain-based innovations. As such, solutions in Decentralized Finance (DeFi), among others, have a proven track record of enabling the global unbanked population to access financial services. Through this track, the Post COVID Hack envisioned a strengthening of this drive, alongside its diversification into other sectors.

Aid or remittance platforms, impact investing, crowd-lending, social IDs, decentralized reputation systems, community governance protocols, community wallets and digital assets and interoperability solutions were some of the possible use cases under this track. Participants could also make custom proposals, while using one of the RSK+RIF technologies. In this regard, they could leverage the RIF libraries, as well as other RSK-native utilities such as smart contracts, payment gateways, naming services, bridges and so on.

Open Track

The pandemic’s impact on our societies has been both direct and indirect—that is, there have been several ‘side effects’, so to say. The Open Track was meant to give participating developers a free rein, designed with the intent to address the pandemic’s collateral damage. Moreover, it was a way of making the event more inclusive for undiscovered talents and ideas that don’t specifically pertain to the Socio-Economic Inclusion track’s requirements. 

In this regard, healthcare, gamification, user experience, privacy, and security were deemed as some of the possible use cases. Similar to the other track, participants were also encouraged to suggest their own themes or scope. However, in the case of the Open Track, there was no prerequisite in terms of the technology stack. Participants were free to use any rudimentary technological elements, as long as their submission followed the rest of the guidelines.

Judgement & Submissions

Inspiring developers to innovate and showcasing their projects weren’t the only goals of the Post COVID Hack. Offering valuable guidance and mentorship to these budding talents was also very much on the agenda. Moreover, the event had to be fair to the greatest degree, and thus, there was an entire panel of stalwarts from the blockchain-cryptocurrency industry. People who have been, and still are, passionate innovators themselves.

In general, the criteria for judgement comprised the project’s impact, expertise, implementation and presentation. This covered the participant’s knowledge about the domain, the feasibility of implementing the idea in the real world and how coherently it was being explained during the demonstration. In terms of the prototype’s code, quality, readability, scalability, applicability, security, reliability and user experience were considered the primary parameters. 

The hackathon received over 60 qualified submissions in the first phase, out of which 30 progressed into the technical evaluation round. Based on the judgement of technical and industry experts, 18 of these projects were shortlisted for the final evaluation and the winners were declared from this set. Indeed, on the successes of the events has been the enthusiasm and satisfaction expressed by the participants, both winning and non-winning. Apparently, the approachability and responsiveness of the RSK team was a major factor in this regard, while most entries participated in the Socio-Economic Inclusion track. 

The Winning Ideas: Exploring RSK Use Cases

So far, we have discussed the social, economic, as well as political reasons that inspired the people organizing the hackathon. Furthermore, we also have an overview of the event, its parameters for judgement, and so on. 

Despite limited winners, the hackathon was marked by enthralling displays of camaraderie and sports spirit. Participants didn’t merely compete, but they also helped each other, marking an embodiment of the hack’s themes. Bearing this context in mind, we may now shift to the article’s primary focal point—the winning ideas. 

Distributed Town (DiTo): First in Socio-Economic Inclusion 

As a “system based on value”, Distributed Town or DiTo is an interconnected network of sovereign communities. DiTo users can either join an existing community or create a new one, depending on their needs. The protocol is based on a mutual credit system, which instills an inherent value to the system. Among other things, the solution addresses two of the main pitfalls of existing DAO architectures—generalized purpose and speculative currencies—which foster selfish and non-collaborative behavior. 

DiTo’s architecture adopts an applied, multi-purpose protocol architecture. Its Sybil-Resistant model employs self sovereign identities based on skills rather than on data. In doing so, DiTo leverages the RIF Identity directory service, which enables communities to have human-readable domain names. This not only makes them easily identifiable, but also minimizes the risks of fault in value transfer, apart from enhancing the solution’s overall usability. 

Built on a unique Community Smart Contract—enabled by RSK’s smart contract support within the Bitcoin environment—the protocol has multiple use cases and fosters local, community-level development and mutual support. Each community gets DiTo tokens, shareable only within the members of that community. 

DiTo is also connected to the Sovryn platform, which enables the use of Dollar on Chain (DoC) and rBTC tokens. In this regard, users can earn passive yields by lending these RSK+RIF based tokens on Sovryn. The integration allows for interoperable communities, while linking the platform’s innovative mutual credit system with external financial models. Lastly, it enables communities to connect in a blockchain-agnostic manner, thereby facilitating a decentralized web for greater social and public good. DiTo users are literally the citizens of a Distributed Town.   

Saarthi: Second in Socio-Economic Inclusion

Deployed on the RSK network, Saarthi is a “multi-dimensional” aid and remittance platform, addressing several medical, financial, and computational needs. Envisioning optimal inclusivity, the platform is available in twelve regional languages, apart from English.

The solution leverages RIF Identity to create self-sovereign and university medical identities for its users. Being easily accessible by scanning a QR Code, the functionalities allows seamless and widened access to the individual’s medical history. In turn, these records are stored on the fully decentralized RIF Storage network, which also hosts the project’s Web3-ready website. This ensures that Saarthi is fully encrypted, censorship resistant and has nearly 100% uptime. 

Saarthi integrates RSK-based assets such as RBTC, while its backend leverages RSK Swap for seamless inter-asset conversions. This ensures a wide scope for campaigns for medical help and donations, to which users can make currency-agnostic contributions. Lastly, the RSK Block Explorer allows the project to uphold full transparency with regard to transactions made on Saarthi. Users can track their records, funds and donations while also controlling their data shared with other entities.

BFactor: Third in Socio-Economic Inclusion

Innovating for financial inclusion, the BFactor projects shifts the focus from individuals to small-medium businesses and entrepreneurs. Arguably, these have been among the most-affected entities since the pandemic’s outbreak, primarily due to their limited cash flow. In general, BFactor caters to businesses that don’t have access to portfolio factoring, minimizing their payment outstanding periods. 

Leveraging the RSK ecosystem for storage and deployment, BFactor builds a decentralized reputational model that helps both investors and business owners. Through RSK-based crypto assets, the projects also reduces the barriers to entry in the factoring industry, thereby widening the scope for budding entrepreneurs and financiers. In the longer run, BFactor has the potential to connect on-chain and off-chain events using RIF Gateways, thus generating greater value and reliability within the decentralized factoring space. 

CryptoForests: Wildcard Winner in Socio-Economic Inclusion

CryptoForests is a project that combines socio-economic inclusion and conversation, under a single hood. As the name suggests, it is a decentralized, P2P marketplace connecting tree ‘vendors’ and interested buyers. In this regard, a vendor is an entity that plants, nurtures and enlists trees on the platform. 

Buyers, on the other hand, pay predefined installments for the tree’s upkeep, while the vendor has to provide regular proofs of the tree’s existence and current status. The platform allows payments in RBTC and other RSK-based assets. In return for their contributions, buyers receive the ecosystem’s native Leaf Token, which accumulates over time. In effect, this is the staking mechanism incentivizing buyers on the platform. Furthermore, using RSK Swap, the CryptoForests protocol enables users to swap their Leaf Tokens to RBTC, thereby assigning real market value to the former. 

The platform also integrates decentralized storage, including the listing’s metadata. Validators on the platform can access this data to verify a given listing, which enhances the platform’s overall security. In more ways than one, CryptoForests is using the RSK blockchain to build a greener world. 

CareCards: First in Open Track

Despite a considerable increase in research interest and awareness, mental health still remains a predominantly stigmatized domain. Even in developed nations, the consensus is rather apathetic towards sufferers of mental illness, with a gross lack of safe spaces and patient-friendly protocols. Understandably, the situation in developing or underdeveloped societies is worse by several degrees. As such, cases of mental sufferings have been on a steady rise. Personal and social situations induced by the pandemic has catalyzed the process manifold. Moreover, the existing care and support system is being affected by the ongoing medical crisis, thereby worsening the situation even further.

As a solution, a team comprising mental health experts and survivors are building CareCards—a platform for intuitive mental health screening. One of the major pain points of the mental healthcare system is the convoluted and patient-unfriendly diagnosis procedures. Moreover, traditionally, there isn’t any incentivization mechanism motivating patients to pursue treatment in the longer run. 

Leveraging blockchain technology and gamification, the decentralized CareCards protocol combines an intuitive and user-friendly interface with a robust incentivization mechanism. Above all, this mitigates the pains of getting properly diagnosed for one’s mental sufferings while granting rewards in Care Coins, which in turn are redeemable for a range of services. As our pandemic-ridden society becomes more anxious, deranged and uncertain, CareCards is truly a light shining brightly at the end of the journey. 

DeFi-Venture: Second in Open Track

Built on Matic, a layer-2 implementation on Ethereum, DeFi-Venture is a game that educates players about the blockchain domain in an interactive manner. It is similar to the classic Monopoly and each player assumes the role of a crypto-entrepreneur—the player with the richest startup wins. Leveraging smart contracts, DeFi-Venture functions in a fully decentralized manner, without involving any centralized governing authority. In turn, this ensures a fully fair gaming environment, bereft of any manipulation.

Predominantly a DeFi solution, the game integrates crypto-assets with real value, contrary to the traditional Monopoly. The in-game marketplace also enables players to conduct P2P trading of in-game assets, apart from facilitating staking for yield generation. As a whole, the DeFi-Venture game is a potential solution for driving adoptions for blockchain technology and decentralized finance. 

O10: Third in Open Track

As the world becomes increasingly digitized, catalyzed manifold by COVID-induced physical distances, security, privacy and confidentiality become essential requirements in terms of an individual’s identity. Despite substantial work being done in this regard, certain problems persist—above all, the risks of secure exchange of identities. No matter how decentralized the identity-hosting network might be as the user continues to be what is called the single-point-of-error

Built on the RSK blockchain, O10 is a solution for secured and confidential storage, as well as transfer of reliable identities. To achieve its intended purpose, the protocol uses zero-knowledge proofs and cryptographic commitments. Apart from facilitating O10’s smart contracts, the RSK+RIF frameworks provides the security layer essential for decentralized identity issuing. 

The adaptability and expanse of the RSK network enabled O10 to transcend mere pseudonymity and achieve the degree of meaningful privacy that it demands. Moreover, the solution implements a unique off-chain/on-chain identity sharing mechanism, which has been facilitated using RSK-based oracles and gateways. Over time, as the O10 protocol becomes more resilient, it might emerge as a fundamental element of future blockchain-based innovations. 

The Road Ahead

Humanity is witnessing an unforeseen and drastic change, sparked by the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, there hasn’t been such a large-scale crisis in the recent history of our world. People across social, cultural and economic backgrounds are finding themselves in situations that they haven’t been in before. 

We have seen how the winning teams have worked their way around today’s grim picture, empowered by the dream of painting tomorrow’s world in brighter colors. As long as we are willing to innovate, we haven’t reached the dead end in our journey.

RSK & RIF have been instrumental, not only to the winners but to a majority of the shortlisted participants. Furthermore, the mentorship offered to budding talents throughout the hackathon’s course could be the driving force for future innovations.