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A Systematic Literature Review of Blockchain Technology for Smart Villages

Parminder kaur.

Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology, Patiala, Punjab India

Anshu Parashar

According to the United Nations, Sustainable Development Goals are framed for improving rural health, hunger, poverty issues, environmental conditions, and illiteracy globally. With the upcoming technology, there have been many advances in the lifestyle of people all around the world. Comparatively, more emphasis has been given to the development of urban areas than rural. The sustainable development of a country depends on the growth of its rural areas. Countless technological and theoretical models, projects, and frameworks have been proposed and implemented to help overcome sundry issues and challenges faced by rural people in quotidian life. New technological methods are deemed to be the future of livability, therefore; a technologically advanced solution for sustainable rural development is called for. Blockchain Technology is the next step for innovation and development and it has far many applications in sustainable rural development that are yet to be discovered. The objective of this paper is to explicitly review research conducted in rural development to fill the undone work in the future with better research ideas, to make rural areas a livable and advanced place while also maintaining their integrity leading to sustainable development. To conduct such a review, a systematic research methodology is applied following regulations in the conduction of standardized but explorative analysis. Within the timeline of 2010–2021, 112 papers are carefully selected to perform the systematic review. This review will provide a comprehensible as well as concise research compendium for all applications proposed, implemented, and possible in the future to realize the concept of smart villages for the development of rural areas using blockchain technology.

Graphic Abstract

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The development of a country partly depends on how well connected are its rural areas to the global chain and how technologically advanced they are. Rural areas as we know of are geographical locations sited outside town or cities with fewer populations. Essentially, we also know it as a place unprivileged of vital necessities, stricken by poverty [ 1 ], and unemployment. For many years, rural areas have been developing consecutively in Technology, Education, Housing, Governance, Human rights. Accordingly, the world’s rural population has dropped from 66.389 percent in 1960–44.286 [ 2 ] percent in 2019 due to various transformations. Years ago, people in rural areas were deprived of necessities such as water, electricity, and education. Even getting a reliable source of electricity was a strenuous effort. Moreover, female rights, reliable healthcare and subsequently securing a job were more of a dream. According to the United Nations, there can be seen a steady drop in the percentage of people residing in rural areas from 1960 to 2019 [ 3 ]. What was the core reason behind it? A general example of the reason can be migration, rural decline, demographic qualities, natural disasters, and infrastructure: transportation or socio-economic. These can further be exploited into many explanations as to what leads to those choices. Rural–Urban migration itself directs catastrophic changes in the environment and economy. Rural Decline is another consequence of migration that drains the area of services, businesses, and social capital forcing the development of the rural area to halt or probably diminish [ 4 ]. Even then, almost half of the world’s population comes under rural areas and it consists of many more issues than resolvable.

This section explores the interdependent backdrops of the rural area and a feasible solution through the concept of smart villages. Sustainable development goals with respect to Blockchain Technology are discussed in sub-Sect.  1.1.2 and a brief introduction on Blockchain Technology and development techniques are mentioned in sub-Sect.  1.1.3 .

Rural Development

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were framed for improving rural health, hunger, poverty issues, environmental conditions, and illiteracy globally. The present situation of rural areas brings us to a list of issues (Fig.  1 ) that can further promote the eradication of rural areas from the global chain if not technologically. Beginning with poverty which has been an issue unresolved regardless of the various monetary schemes provided by the government drives the young generation out of the community to find jobs to sustain daily needs. Many of them fail to finish even high school, which leads to securing menial jobs in urban regions. This brings us to the second issue in the rural community, illiteracy [ 5 ]. Education that plays a vital role in the overall development of humans, as well as the community, is often disregarded to fulfill contemporary requirements such as money. In many cases, the parents exploit their children into working on the farm or small family businesses.

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Issues in rural areas

Typical issues in a rural school can be enumerated as teacher’s absenteeism, unhygienic school premises, and distant schools, technologically backward, absence of school records, inexperienced teachers, and teachers with false degrees. Those who get themselves educated, consider it better to get a job in urban areas because of job opportunities and better pay which is at times difficult since most villages lack communication between employees and job availability [ 6 ]. Basic hygiene and pollution are other issues in rural areas that deplete life expectancy and give birth to numerous diseases. Many rural communities do not have proper sanitation facilities, dumping grounds, or recycling plants. Not having the basic facilities drives people into a lack of personal hygiene such as bathing, washing, and cleanliness [ 7 ]. Pollution of land and soil is prevalent due to unhealthy sanitary practices. Hundreds of people still live without washing their hands leading to diarrhea, cholera, and the death of children [ 8 ]. Acknowledging the fact that medical practitioners, physicians are scarce on top of that reaching a nearby multispecialty hospital takes a lot of time [ 9 ]. The primary activity of rural people is said to be agriculture. It is considered to be the basic source of income for the dwellers. Farmers in many areas remain uninformed about the recent advancements in agro-technologies. The core reason for this incomprehension is the lack of broadband connection and incentives. Even though the Government provides various monetary as well as agricultural schemes, more than half of the farmers fail to enroll in one [ 10 ]. In addition to that from the consumer’s point, there is a whole heap of issues relating to the certification of quality produce, improper monitoring of crops, traceability of farm produce, and unsustainable agro-activities. Besides, the involvement of middlemen leaves the farmers with the minimal price of agricultural produce [ 11 ]. Further, given the aspects of daily needs, approximately 940 million [ 12 ] people around the world live without access to electricity, most of which belong to rural areas. In a generation where electricity is the basic need in every household, industry, medical center without which the whole institution of Earth would come to a halt, there are still people who do their daily activities without it [ 8 , 9 ]. About 1.7 billion [ 13 ] people in the world are still unbanked. The banking facility is essential for financial assistance especially much needed to financially excluded dwellers of the rural community. However, due to unreachable banking locations, time-consuming Banking processes, and in many cases lacking identity proof constrains the adults from applying for a bank account further reducing the chances of obtaining a loan or funding from government schemes [ 14 ].

The concept of a smart village [ 15 ] is to develop a rural area using technology as a medium. The biggest problems in rural areas are financial exclusion, poverty, hygiene, and education [ 16 ]. All the issues are interconnected and co-dependent, such as due to poverty, children in rural areas fail to get an education [ 17 ]. Due to illiteracy, the villagers do not come to know about various financial schemes. People seem to care very less about hygiene. Not only the waste is disposed of incorrectly, but it is also burnt giving rise to environmental pollution. Most of the time people do not find encouragement to learn how to properly discard waste material, to get educated, or find a solution to their financial problems [ 18 ].

Sustainable Development and Blockchain

The development of an economically backward area without jeopardizing the natural assets or future necessities is termed sustainable development. According to the United Nations, Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) [ 19 ] were adopted in 2015 for improving rural health, hunger, poverty issues, environmental conditions, and illiteracy globally (Fig.  2 ). The sustainable development goals that balance the socio-economic and environmental factors are:

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Sustainable development goals

For rural development, World Bank has provided programs in public administration, agricultural markets, commercialization, and agriculture business, agricultural extension, research, and many other support activities along with social protection and transportation programs for rural communities [ 2 ]. IFAD projects for eliminating poverty and hunger, activism against gender-based violence, boosting development, investing in rural people in Papua, Food and nutrition security in Latin America boosting millet value chain, income security, and nutritional security in East Africa, Climate Risk Analysis in East and Southern Africa, Climate finance gap examination for small-scale agriculture, etcetera [ 20 ]. The IEEE smart village is an approach to empowering underserved communities, providing the power, education, entrepreneur opportunities. Following are the project initiatives by IEEE Smart Village Initiative: Mural Net(MNAZ)- Broadband to underserved on tribal lands, Regis University(RGU)- measurement and evaluation Praxis Course scholarships, Sirona Cares Foundation (SCF)- SunBlazer deployment in Haiti, Village Help for South Sudan(VHSS)- South Sudan rural electrification, Lichi community solutions (LCS)- sustainable energy kiosk for rural development, Green village electricity (GVE)- Electricity project expansion in Nigeria, Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE)- Electrification of remote Himalayan villages, Seva-Bharati India (SBI)- Sustainable development of community villages, Shakti Empowerment Solutions(SES)- sustainable energy distribution for rural consumers in eastern Uttar Pradesh, India [ 21 ].

Challenges of achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SG’s) in rural areas can be elucidated in terms of different regions. As per the research [ 22 ], in Ukraine, control over the large businesses and their impact over the agribusiness structures in addition to shrinking the number of farms, jeopardizing rural population, poverty, and fewer efforts in social cohesion improvements or remote development are the principal challenges of achieving SDG.

Similarly, as per the methodology applied by the author in [ 23 ], the major challenges faced by Romania over achieving SDG are the Socio economic discrepancy among the rural dwellers’ lives as well as the Environmental incongruity.

A few of the Sustainable Development challenges faced by the Iranian Rural communities as per the authors [ 24 ] are economic setbacks, improper management, and under-planned developments, environmental factors, social concerns, and infrastructural challenges were determined. Overall implications of the studies provide us with a concise picture of significant challenges of achieving sustainable development goals in rural areas.

Sustainability and blockchain both are the call for the future to reduce cost, increase productivity, improving health, better environmental state, and availability of food, water, and sanitation. Blockchain holds the ability for long-term and inclusive progress in sustainable development and to achieve SDGs.

Blockchain Technology

In 2008 when Satoshi Nakamoto [ 25 ] (pseudonym) proposed Bitcoin, its expansion was doubted. The rise of Blockchain was such unforeseen that some enthusiasts asserted it as the biggest invention since the Internet [ 26 ]. Although W Scott Stornetta and Stuart Haber described the first cryptographically secured chain of blocks in 1991, it wasn’t until 2009 that Blockchain was implemented as the public ledger for bitcoin transactions by Nakamoto. For a substantial amount of time, Blockchain technology was only preferred for a cryptocurrency (Fig.  3 ). However, after the introduction of scripting language into the blocks by Ethereum Blockchain to work as bonds, which are now known as Smart Contracts the inventory of applications widely opened. In his paper Nakamoto proposed to create a peer-to-peer form of electronic cash that did not require a financial institution as an intermediary and would be transferred directly between one party and another. He improved the double-spending problem in Digital Signatures by implementing timestamps on the transaction and hashing them onto the ongoing chain of hash-based proof-of-work which changed the proof-of-work if tampered with hence forming an immutable record.

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Centralized and decentralized systems

Blockchain, even though it uses pseudonyms as account identifiers, has four key trust characteristics that eliminate the need for third-party authenticators. Firstly, a ledger in which after successful verification and authentication the transaction details are stored. Secondly, it is Secure since its transactions are time-stamped and hashed to the previous blocks; it makes the blockchain cryptographically secure (Fig.  4 ). Thirdly, the shared characteristic of involving multiple users provides transparency amongst all participants in the distributed ledger. Lastly, its property of being distributed eliminates operational inefficiencies, provides more security as the more the number of nodes the more resilient it is towards attacks [ 27 ].

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Blockchain technology diagram

The complexity of the working of blockchain can be simplified by exploring the components that make up its architecture [ 28 ]. The main components can be enumerated as Node, Cryptographic hash functions, Transactions, Asymmetric-key cryptography, Ledgers, Blocks, Miners, and Consensus (Fig.  5 ).

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Blockchain components

Node : A device possibly a computer forming the structure of a blockchain. A node is where the blockchain exists. Copies, as well as original records of the blockchain, are stored in a node. Classified as Full node and Light nodes, where Full node is a server in a decentralized network that contains the Block chain’s block history, and Light nodes are used for simple payment verification such as a wallet that queries the current status of a block.

Ledgers : A decentralized blockchain uses a ledger for record-keeping. As it is decentralized, it keeps many copies of the transaction including providing a copy to each user of their transaction.

Blocks : A block resembles a page in a record book (ledger). The first block is called the generic block. A block comprises a block header and block data where the block header consists of the history of the blockchain (previous hash value, timestamp, size of the block, and nonce) and miners perform hashing to validate the block, and block data keeps the record of recent transactions that are yet to enter the blocks.

Cryptographic hash functions : A digest or an algorithm that takes up an arbitrary amount of data and produces a hash value or hash which is an output of fixed size. It eliminates the use of a password, instead uses enciphered text that provides more security from attackers.

Transactions : A transaction is what the components work about. When two parties interact in blockchain, a transaction takes place. Authorization is required to approve a transaction between two parties. In a public blockchain, the transaction is inserted by consensus which happens when the majority of nodes validate the transaction.

Asymmetric-key cryptography : It is public-key cryptography that is used to enable certitude between the transacting parties who are unsure about each other’s integrity. Asymmetric-key cryptography uses mathematically related keys to ensure safety as well as the secrecy of data. The public key and Private key, even though relative is used for decryption and encryption, respectively.

Miners : When two users create a transaction, the miners validate that transaction in the block data before putting it on the ledger. The average time it takes for a miner to mine a block is 10 min. Since miners use their energy and hardware to solve a block, they also require an incentive for their work which is mostly paid in cryptocurrency.

Consensus : A consensus can be identified as a decision-making criterion. It makes sure that all the nodes validate a block and no such duplicity exists in the ledger that hasn’t been agreed upon. The discussion involved in consensus is used to solve identity-issue, clarify altercations, and establish a similar viewpoint between the participants by applying a set of rules.

Ethereum : introduced by Vitalik Buterin [ 29 ] addressed various limitations of the scripting language in the blockchain. The platform is used to build and publish distributed applications by using a programming language. It is said to be an improvement over the blockchain structure. It provides data-friendly services to all and sundry no matter their location or background. Ethereum consists of full nodes that run the Ethereum Virtual machine to deploy distributed programs such as smart contracts. Application development in blockchain can be done through Ethereum which can also call multiple other blockchain, protocols, and cryptocurrencies [ 30 ]. Ethereum uses the chain of global computers to operate and runs smart contracts that are free of intermediaries or third-party censorships. Ethereum uses an incentive mechanism [ 31 ] to encourage programmers who run the Ethereum functions to compensate for hardware and energy used in running decentralized digital applications (dapps). These incentives are called Ether which is a cryptocurrency in the Ethereum protocol.

Blockchain Development Platforms and Tools

To simplify the blockchain processes and to ease the development various tools and programming languages have been introduced.

Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM)

The executing code and the Executing machine consist of an abstraction which is referred to as virtual machines, and Ethereum virtual machines increase the intended code execution chances, and the consensus is maintained on it [ 32 ].

Remix Integrated Development Environment is open-source software for web or desktop development. An intuitive and appealing interface remix allows smart contract development and Ethereum interaction [ 33 ]. Remix IDE has multiple plugin options such as Web3 integration, embedded Web3, and Javascript for running the contract locally. Solidity smart contract programming language is used for development in Remix IDE.

Smart Contracts

Simple programs stored on the blockchain comprise some predefined conditions [ 34 ]. Upon meeting the conditions the contract is self-executed giving the edge of non-intermediary processes as well as time efficiency. Multiple programming languages are used to develop smart contracts for blockchain; a few of them have been discussed below:

  • Solidity [ 35 ]: A highly preferred object-oriented design-based, high-level language conveniently made for developing smart contracts. Most of the solidity syntax inspiration came from C ++ , Javascript, and Python programming languages. Solidity, along with being the top smart contract language focusing on EVM in certain also supports inheritance and user-defined types.
  • Vyper [ 36 ]: Highly influenced by python and the second-best after Solidity, vyper is based on three important principles namely auditability to ensure the readability and understandability of the code for the user, Security to ensure secure smart contracts, and Simplicity of the language and the implementation.
  • Yul [ 37 ]: An intermediate smart contract development language that includes the bytecode compilation according to different backend needs. The main focuses of Yul are simplicity in bytecode translation, understandability, and readability of the scripted programs. Yul supports stack machines and is specifically tailored for them, whole-program optimization, and static type reference and value nature.


A Linux framework for blockchain development that provides standards and tools for open-source blockchain applications [ 38 ]. Hyperledger enterprise helps build permissioned blockchain solutions for businesses and services. Under the Hyperledger Framework, multiple projects have been introduced:

  • Hyperledger Fabric : A modular permissioned and private framework for blockchain technology used for developing solutions for businesses and private enterprises. Fabric has a well updated smart contract interaction, faster transactions, and efficient data sharing.
  • Hyperledger Explorer : Explorer is a user-friendly blockchain development web application tool. The interface provides detailed information about the blocks, transactions, network nodes, and the state of the blocks. Hyperledger Explorer uses visualization tools for representing the blockchain data in a user-friendly and readable manner.
  • Hyperledger Sawtooth : By separating the core system, that is, specifying the business rules without interacting with the application domain is the main task of hyperledger sawtooth. It supports the Practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance (PBFT) as well as the Proof of Elapsed Time (POET). The smart contracts can be developed and run on the platform without actually knowing the core system’s design.
  • Hyperledger Caliper : A blockchain benchmark tool, the caliper used pre-defined uses cases to test the blockchain solutions along with a test result of its performance. Caliper has a very proficient success rate for testing the successful and failed transactions, provides the maximum, minimum, and average latency of transaction and read data for the test cycle.

Limitations of Blockchain are limited but cannot be disregarded [ 39 ]. From the creation of the node to the validation by miners, Blockchain consumes a lot of energy. Splitting of the chain is another problem where a node does not accept the transactions in a new chain if it is operating to the old software. The computing requirements increase as the blockchain grows. Since all the nodes cannot provide the necessary capacity, the node breaks, and the immutability and transparency of the blockchain cease to exist.

Blockchain for Smart Village Applications

The scenario in a typical village is such, in terms of the infrastructure most of it is inadequately built, there exists schools and colleges but poorly maintained, poorly built houses with no constraints for disaster management. In terms of necessities, normal villages lack stable electricity supplies, or a secure income to support electricity bills, and non-purified water. People in villages are often neglected and most of the dwellers don’t have any personal or national identity. The healthcare system in villages is simple and inefficient which does not help during major problems. Normal villages lack any technological advancement and people there live in history because of the lacking development. Sustainable development with the concept of smart villages can give a secure and feasible future to the villages.

Beyond the conventional use of blockchain in finance using cryptocurrency, numerous applications can change the way we perceive digitization. According to Kandaswamy [ 40 ], blockchain can have four types of initiatives: blockchain disruptor, digital asset, efficiency play, and record-keeper (Fig.  6 ). With similar inventiveness some of the blockchain applications with the concept of a smart village can be enumerated as:

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Blockchain elements

Healthcare : Blockchain with its record-keeping characteristics and smart contract with its privacy and security has greatly assisted the medical area by providing a solution for publicly or semi-private sharing of the medical data of patients. This can help the researchers and students to elicit a new solution or use it for clinical trials [ 41 ]. The solution for missing health documents or previous clinic visit records can be improved through blockchain. The potential of Blockchain to store patient’s record on the ledger make it possible to get treatment across the globe. Furthermore, the problem of counterfeit drugs in the market can be resolved through the traceability solution from blockchain through which fake medicines can be traced and removed from the supply chain.

International payments and insurance : Accelerated payment to international locations is possible through blockchain technology. Several Bitcoin-operated services make it easier to transfer money cross-border. The process includes converting the payer’s local currency into Bitcoin bypassing the existing banking infrastructure and then converting that Bitcoin into the receiver’s local currency. This saves the trade cost and speeds up the transaction. Apart from that, the insurance industry can also be benefitted from blockchain technology [ 42 ]. Blockchain can provide a transparent and trustworthy system to overcome the challenges of the insurance industry. Fraudulent claims, intermediary payment transactions, and big data handling are some of the many issues faced by insurance companies. Blockchain can resolve the issues through its security and transparency provided by the distributed ledger which also furnishes the authenticity of the participants. Besides, its characteristic of record-keeping comes in handy with the huge amount of customer data that is immutable in the blockchain ledger. Additionally, by using the smart contracts real-time data of the claims, reimbursements or payments can be fetched from multiple systems in no time.

Personal Identity Record-keeping : Identity is an integral part of society that provides a unique character and sense of acceptability in a country. However, physical forms of national identity are not accessible to many people around the world. The absence of identity makes it difficult for people to participate in voting, banking, employment and limits the chances of access to the financial system. Here blockchain steps in by providing identity solutions through digital identity. Additionally, self-sovereign identity arranges options to store one's identity on devices accessible across the world [ 43 ].

Supply chain and logistics : Blockchain can bring great usability to supply chain management. Procurement, traceability, digital payments, and logistics are some areas that have benefitted from blockchain technology. The distributed ledger can reduce the sharing of operational data by providing a full view of the sale/purchase data, accessible from any device. Fraud in the food supply chain is prevalent in many countries. Counterfeit products selling in the market prove hazardous to the consumer. The Block chain’s QR tracking system along with digitized physical products can be used to track products from production to delivery [ 44 ]. This technology has started benefiting the agricultural sector to develop food safety and smart farming increasing the income of small farms and food producers.

Education : Keeping physical records and transcripts can be a hassle. This blockchain provides a solution for digitizing student records, transcripts, and payment receipts [ 45 ]. Digital record-keeping can benefit a student as it will be acceptable by universities across the globe, free of manipulation, and handy. Blockchain can also be used to incentivize students through a course credit system. The credit can be translated to cryptocurrency, which can be further used as fee payment.

Blockchain with the Internet of Things (IoT) : Powerful union of two futuristic technologies makes machine-to-machine transactions easier. The decentralized authority of blockchain combined with the smart devices run by IoT allows a function to autonomously execute without a central authority [ 46 ]. Smart IoT run devices can be implemented on edge devices, reducing data transfer costs, and security issues with the blockchain collaboration [ 47 ]. Blockchain integration with IoT can highly change the agricultural sector. Supply chain traceability could benefit the farmers in eliminating the intermediaries through traceability and RFID tag-based applications. Water, soil, climate, and other sensory-type IoT devices can help in monitoring the agricultural activities and gathering the farm data and activities such as cultivation and livestock data in the blockchain ledger. IoT with blockchain will certainly revolutionize and transform many rural and urban sectors.

Motivation and Major Contributions

Sustainable Rural development starts with the participation of rural people in improving their lifestyle. Without the people working for their development, any implementation or help is incomplete. Economic and technological sector links are important for rural areas to develop. Along with that, a healthy agricultural sector improves the dweller’s linkage to the global supply sector. By managing the social, economic, environmental, and health objectives the development can be fast-forwarded. There is a considerable amount of potential in rural people which can be applied to employment issues, social disparities, E-governance, women's rights etcetera. Developing rural areas can benefit nationally, economically, and financially. This systematic literature review aims to provide extensive literature related to blockchain’s application in rural development and sustainable living. A plethora of blockchain review papers available does not provide a collective literature review of blockchain applications divided into different areas directed towards rural and sustainable development. Therefore, clear and concise information can be gained about blockchain’s work in improving rural development providing scope for future research in this direction. The primary contributions are mentioned below:

  • A systematic review of relevant literature for research trends, key applications, and areas of implementing Blockchain Technology for smart villages for sustainable rural development.
  • Identification of major issues in rural development and how they can be addressed using Blockchain Technology.
  • Exploration of the existing software, platforms, and tools for the implementation of Blockchain in Rural Development.
  • Identifications of the research gaps and future research directions for applying Blockchain Technology to Rural Development.

To conduct a fair and precise literature review, the studies have been selectively chosen after processing through the query string, and inclusion and exclusion criteria. The relevant set of research questions are formulated as depicted in Table ​ Table3 3 and also addressed in their relevant sections. The complete review methodology process is elucidated in Sect.  2 .

Research questions

The remaining paper is organized as follows: Sect.  2 presents the details and process of the review methodology adopted to include relevant studies for literature review. Section  3 presents an extensively reviewed literature study of the papers selected through review methodology. Section  4 , presents the critical analysis and discussion of the reviewed papers for a clear perspective on the existing work in Blockchain Technology pertaining to rural development and for future research directions. In Sect.  5 , the limitation of this work is mentioned. Section  6 , finally, presents the conclusion and future scope.

Review Methodology

The systematic review was conducted with relevant articles on blockchain technology in rural development. To perform a systematic review, Kitchenham’s and other related guidelines were followed [ 48 – 50 ]. To provide a transparent, systematic, understandable review of papers multiple sites and journals were visited, segregating articles into the various application of blockchain technology. The main objective of a systematic review is to write a planned article to relay a comprehensible, clearly stated literature after repeated analysis to define a problem, be replicated, or identify research gaps. To find a relevant article miscellaneous Journals, digital libraries, and web sources were delved into.

Search Strings

To find a relevant article, the following sources were considered: ACM Digital Library, IEEE, Science Direct, Elsevier, and Springer. Along with that Google Scholar was used as a web source where a broad search for scholarly articles is possible. The keywords and strings are listed in Table ​ Table1 1 .

Search criteria

Selection Criteria

To search for articles best suited for the review, the following (Table ​ (Table2) 2 ) selection criteria were applied.

Inclusion or exclusion criteria

Process Flow

The process of forming a literature review consisted of selecting relevant papers, applying inclusion or exclusion criteria on them, and reviewing them (Fig.  7 ). In the process, a total of 157 articles were considered out of which 112 papers were reviewed pertaining to the keywords specified in Table ​ Table1 1 .

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Systematic review process

Research Questions

To identify the scope of the systematic literature review, few research questions have been formed. The research questions along with the explanation on the depiction of the answers are shown in Table ​ Table3 3 .

Relevant Literature Trend

From all the papers reviewed consisting of applications of blockchain in rural development, the following applications were recognized: Agriculture, Banking, healthcare, energy, Environment, and Employment. Additionally, the articles consisting of incentive mechanisms were segregated (Fig.  8 ). From each of the applications, different areas were identified concerning each application (Fig.  11 ). Table ​ Table4 4 is a detailed table with application areas and its definition concerning Blockchain in rural development.

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Distribution of Blockchain applications in rural development

Relevant literature: blockchain application for sustainable rural development

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Areas of blockchain application in rural development

Publication Distribution

To provide a simplified view of the literature review for better understanding the articles are distributed according to the peer-reviewed journals, conference papers, and chapters as shown in Fig.  9 .

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Publication distribution

The articles are further distributed according to the applications type while also displaying the number of articles and their publication year in Fig.  10 .

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Number of articles and their area of publications (2016–2020)

For further classification, the geographic distribution of papers was performed with 112 papers (Fig.  11 ), distributed in 37 countries as shown in Fig.  12 with India, China, and the USA is the largest publishing countries followed by Italy, Spain, and Pakistan for blockchain applications in rural development.

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Geographical distribution of articles

Publication Type

The distribution of the articles according to different publication types was found (Fig.  13 ) with the largest number of publications (61) in The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), followed by (27) in Springer, (16) in Elsevier, (3), and (5) in ACM digital library and Science direct respectively.

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Distribution of articles by journal type

Literature Review on Blockchain Technology for Sustainable Rural Development

The literature review consists of the collective work of blockchain in rural development. A total of 6 areas of application were identified after careful extraction of data and transformation globally namely: Agriculture, Banking, Environment, Energy, Employment, and Healthcare. A detailed discussion on the related work is discussed in the subsections.


In the agriculture sector, most of the application areas included supply chain traceability, facilitation of smart agriculture, and incentivization of services (Fig.  14 ). A detailed summary is given in Tables ​ Tables5, 5 , ​ ,6, 6 , and ​ and7 7 .

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Agriculture supply chain traceability diagram

Comparison of blockchain in agriculture supply chain traceability

Comparison of Blockchain application areas

Comparison of Blockchain applications in Incentivization

Supply Chain Traceability

The author F. Tian, [ 51 ] studied the integration of RFID (Radio-frequency Identification) and blockchain technology in building the agri-food supply chain traceability system. With the help of blockchain technology, the information shared and traceability is guaranteed. Apart from the supply chain, it also regulates food safety and quality supervision. This system can enhance the credibility and reliability of agri-food safety information. With the depletion of an application cost, this system can effectively change the current supply chain to be more quality-enhanced and safe. Similarly, Hua et al. proposed an agriculture [ 65 ] provenance system based on blockchain featured by decentralization, collective maintenance, consensus trust, and reliable data to solve the trust crisis in the product supply chain. The system’s Target is to record information related to the production supply chain: production, processing, storage, transportation, and distribution of agricultural products. It also facilitates Recordkeeping from basic planting information to provenance records. The proposed work solved the issue of the credibility of data and the difficulty of integrating the subsystem of each company.

The paper by Casado-Vara et al., [ 58 ] addressed the issues of the current supply chain such as communication gaps between vendors or the opacity of the origin of the product. The author has proposed a new model of the supply chain via blockchain where all the members of the supply chain save all their transactions in the blockchain to ensure higher security. This model also enables a circular economy that is a make-use-recycle model. With this model, all products can be traced from their origin to their sale and subsequent recycling.

Further, Caro et al., [ 70 ] presented AgriBlockIoT which is a fully decentralized blockchain-based traceability solution for agricultural food supply chain management. The proposed architecture based on API includes a controller to convert high-level function calls to corresponding for the blockchain layer and blockchain itself which is the main component of the system. The collaboration of IoT and blockchain can create transparent, fault-tolerant, immutable, and auditable agri-food traceability records. The authors Li and Wang, [ 85 ] characterized the research applications of blockchain in food supply traceability. With the help of blockchain technology and various radiofrequency devices can be integrated to collect data from farms, deploy sensors, and create intelligent contracts to implement server logic. The new system can change the traditional food supply system by making it more convenient, efficient, and trustable. Kim et al., [ 54 ] presented a theoretical, end-to-end, vis a vie “farm-to-fork”, food traceability application named Harvest Network with the integration of Blockchain technology and Internet-of-things. The process includes tracing the products from processing, grading, transportation, temperature, and contractual payment all with blockchain, IoT, and smart contracts. This can help consumers gain field-level insight into the products. Lin et al., [ 63 ] proposed an IoT and blockchain integrated self-organized, open, and ecological food traceability system. The proposed model consisted of trade, logistics, delivery, and warehousing information as well as data from IoT devices such as soil humidity, soil pH, and soil nutrition. The concept was to enable a user to get detailed information about the product they buy with the help of a trusted, self-organized smart agriculture ecosystem.

Galvez et al., [ 78 ] review the potential of blockchain technology in guaranteeing traceability and authenticity in the food supply chain. The review included blockchain solutions to traceability problems. It explained the use of a chronological distributed database to coordinate individual activities. By using a probabilistic approach to enable transparency and verifiability without a central authority, enabling consensus on a transaction to secure legitimate transactions, and time-stamped blocks providing immutable records to preserve records the traceability issues were solved. The paper also discussed the Block chain’s concept on the food supply chain which provides transparency, efficiency, security, and safety to the food produce. According to Kamble et al., [ 55 ], the supply chain practitioners found a lack of efficiency and transparency which leads to constant threats to formers and consumers. The system deployed the ISM methodology to identify Blockchain technology enablers in the agriculture supply chain. The findings implied the acceptance of blockchain technology as an innovative tool to ensure an efficient agriculture supply chain by the practitioners. To achieve further traceability the farmers could capture relevant information about the agricultural events onto the blockchain to enable transparent and trusting sources of information for the farmers. Kamilaris et al., [ 60 ] explored how the food supply chain and agriculture were impacted by blockchain technology. The stages of the supply chain with blockchain technology has been identified as (1) the provider (2) producer, (3) processing, (4) distribution, (5) retailer, and (6) consumer where a web application or device can be used to scan the item’s QR code to view its detailed information. Along with this, the author explored various challenges and benefits of the agricultural supply chain and Blockchain’s collaboration. Salah et al., [ 66 ] proposed a solution of eliminating the third parties and centralized authorities in the food supply chain along with a security system for food traceability, transparent records, and governance of interactions and transactions between the users. The model entities are related to providing secure tracking of the product and payment with Ethereum smart contracts. Thus, the presented model for traceability can be used to trace and track the soybean supply chain. S. Missineo, [ 75 ] proposed a model to secure storage origin provenance for food data. The proposed system aims to certify the production and the supply chain concerning food local products by using Blockchain Technology and Smart Contracts. The author aimed to ensure the authenticity of typical Sardinian products and to sell them online or offline. The platform ensured the consumer to check the authenticity of the product before the purchase giving details on both the production chain and supply chain. Jaiswal et al., [ 86 ] proposed multiple smart contracts deployed on the Ethereum blockchain for decentralized trading of food grains. The framework included Peer-to-peer trading, the security of food grain data, transparency, user anonymity, trust, and incentives as key features. The design of the framework consisted of four contracts namely food grain supply, bidding, trading, and utilization for the supply chain management. Dong et al., [ 56 ] proposed a collaborative model of blockchain and IoT in the agriculture sector. The data collection and transmission can be distinguished through a unique identity card given to each agricultural product. All the environmental aspects of the agricultural process can be gathered at the source. Along with that crop growth information, circulation of the product using an RFID tag and distribution process can also be recorded and stored on the distributed ledger. A QR code attached to the product can be scanned by the consumer to view product information in details.

Withal, Madumidha et al., [ 145 ] proposed the use of blockchain technology to maintain tamper-proof records, avoid intermediaries and provide security to the transactions which in turn reduces transaction costs and improves the quality of the products. The food products are labeled with RFID tags to maintain the supply chain. The author explained the revolutionary changes blockchain technology can bring to the supply chains and how it can increase the economic conditions of a country by reducing corruption rates and increasing the satisfaction of producers and consumers. Paul et al., [ 83 ] proposed a way to eliminate intermediaries between farmers and consumers to provide the right amount for the farm produce. The proposed system consists of blockchain nodes namely Supply companies, landowners, markets, and farmers. The farmer node sets the amount after the agreement period, the market node collects and stores crops and stops intermediaries from manipulating the prices, the landlord node collects the money from the land on lease, and the supply company node sells extra agricultural products to the farmers. This platform named KHET where all the nodes are interconnected through Ethereum blockchain is beneficial for farmers, landlords, and markets.

Musah et al., [ 62 ] main objective in proposing the role of blockchain in Ghana’s cocoa beans food supply chain was to evaluate the contributions made by applications of blockchain technology in the supply chain. The system provides a global traceability platform, supply chain intelligence and visibility, Africa cocoa village; impact the investing for smallholder farmer and uses Bean tracker. The author carefully studied the tools and platforms benefiting the cocoa bean production and supply chain processes.

Additionally, Baralla et al., [ 146 ] proposed a blockchain-based generic agri-food supply chain traceability system for implementing the farm-to-fork model. In this system, a QR code scan can allow the consumer to reconstruct the product history to verify product health and quality. The main contribution of this article was the authentication and verification of shared data’s integrity in supply chain management. With the help of this system, the involved operators could identify any new participants along with the supply chain which increased the degree of trust between organizations and individuals. Dakshayini et al., [ 87 ] proposed an integrated model based on Blockchain, big data, and cloud to efficiently manage crops that achieve effective demand-based decision support, simplified, transparent, and secure agricultural supply chain. The proposed model has a higher percentile of achieving demand and supply of crops which avoids the farmer’s loss, catering to consumer’s needs, provides sustainable agricultural practices, reducing middlemen involvement, and reducing price inflation problems. Saji et al., [ 88 ] proposed a model to enhance the supply chain performance by using a blockchain network. The proposed model provides security food safety, traceability, and opens new markets. The system improved farming profitability and endorsed the financial stability of cultivators. It also provided health benefits, reduced food wastage, eliminated manipulation, and adulteration, and supports the supply chain of agro-products. Saurabh and Dey, [ 69 ] identified the potential divers of blockchain concerning the grape wine supply chain. The smart contract-based module was constructed to ensure trust between participants during transactions. The proposed model enhanced the customization, competitiveness, and usability of the supply chain.

Iqbal and Butt, [ 84 ] proposed a model to save the farmer’s crops from animals at night. A repelling and notifying system (RNS) is installed in the field that receives signals during an animal attack. Human-safe ultrasonic waves are produced by this RNS which drives the animals away. This proposal also consists of a farm management system that receives the report regarding the hazards caused in the fields. This system enabled timely data delivery, efficient multi-hop communication, dependable data transmission, and low-cost technology. Chun-Ting et al., [ 73 ] proposed a blockchain-based agricultural traceability service platform for tamper-proof data storing and backup. The system design consists of Data collecting layer where IoT sensors collect environmental data, the blockchain layer takes data from the formal layer and sends them to blockchain nodes and later to blocks, and the application layer handles the requests to access transaction data based on the transaction hash. Hegde et al., [ 81 ] presented different ways of implementing blockchain with the agricultural supply chain. With the use of blockchain, the producers can get data and income security, and keep track of environmental changes that affect the crops. The traceability option provides clarity in any damage that occurred to the product and an overall increase in efficiency can be achieved by producing only required products hence reducing wastage. Peña et al., [ 89 ] presented a systematic review on blockchain in food supply chain management in Ecuador. According to the review, most of the work was done in Hyperledger composer, models for business interactions and human interactions, Traceability, Security, and Blockchain Information.

Additionally, M. Kumarathunga, [ 57 ] after reviewing presented the way to reduce transaction costs and improve farmer’s involvement in agricultural supply chains. To reduce transaction costs farmers can participate in Information sharing, goal congruence, decision synchronization, incentive alignment, resource sharing, collaborative communication, joint knowledge creation. Xu et al., [ 80 ] reviewed the working principle of blockchain technology in the agri-food sector. Blockchain technology provided data transparency, data traceability, food safety, and quality monitoring, and agriculture finance. Additionally, food safety and quality can be secured by digitizing products. According to the review, blockchain revealed a better approach to the future of the agri-food supply chain which is safer, healthier, sustainable, and reliable. Mirabelli and Solina, [ 71 ] collected and analyzed the applications of blockchain technology and its contribution to agricultural food traceability issues. The review showed that the usability of blockchain technology in the agricultural sector was still in the early stage. The review highlighted three main aspects namely starting problem, area of interest, and contribution. Blockchain can be a valid way to minimize fraud and errors in agricultural supply chains by increasing the quality and safety of food products. Shahid et al., [ 53 ] have proposed a complete solution to the blockchain-based agricultural and food supply chain. The paper aimed to provide an end-to-end solution to the growing blockchain-based agri-food supply chains. Further, it achieved the following properties: accountability, credibility, auditability, autonomy, and authenticity. The system also acted as a better alternative to the existing supply chain system by enabling a scalable and auditable system. Awan et al., [ 79 ] proposed a smart agricultural model as a transformation to the traditional agricultural supply chain. The system consists of Seed seller, Farmer, Crop buyer, Processor, Crop storage, Distributor, Retailer, Customer. To improve the food supply chain’s productivity and reliability the smart model was proposed. The model allowed farmers to enter and monitor the data in the plant. The main objective of this model was to provide equal opportunities to the participants of the agricultural food supply chain. Thejaswini and Ranjitha, [ 64 ] proposed a model that explores the problems faced by people in agriculture production and its solutions based on blockchain technology. Blockchain solutions for traceability of crops, disclosure of data, clarity in food production, and authentic agricultural products was proposed by the author. This proposed model ensured food safety, benefitted farmers, and stakeholders.

Yadav et al., [ 67 ] reviewed the blockchain adoption barriers in the Indian agricultural supply chain. The barriers can be enumerated as Lack of proper government regulation and regularity uncertainty, Huge resource, and initial capital requirement, security and privacy concerns, lack of interoperability and standardization, etc. Further, the barriers were modeled using an integrated ISM-DEMATEL approach which provided limited interpretative logic. W. Lin, [ 59 ] provided a survey to study the techniques and applications of blockchain technology. The application categories of blockchain in agriculture are Provenance traceability and food authentication, smart farming data management, trade finance in the supply chain management, and other information management systems. The paper also indicated possible future developments and applications of blockchain. Dutta et al., [ 61 ] reviewed articles related to blockchain technology’s integration with various supply chain operations. The benefits of Blockchain in supply chains can be enumerated as Data management, Improvement in transparency, Improvement in response time smart contract management, Operational efficiency, and Disintermediation, Immutability, and Intellectual Property management. According to the review, the main supply chain functions were identified as supply chain provenance, supply chain resilience, supply chain re-engineering, security enhancement, business process management, and product management. The work also examined various challenges and impacts of blockchain in the supply chain. Shahid et al., [ 77 ] proposed a solution for a blockchain-based reputation system in the agriculture and food supply chain. The system model consisted of invoking smart contracts to provide reviews based on the services to the providers. The reviews are requested by buyers and the sellers’ review the transactions and perform other transactions based on that. The system was proposed to maintain the immutability and integrity of the registered review. Torky and Hassanein, [ 82 ] presented a comprehensive survey on IoT and blockchain and their importance in developing smart applications. According to the review, crops overseeing, livestock grazing, and food supply chain are a few subsectors in precision agriculture managed by blockchain platforms. Apart from that, a novel blockchain model was also proposed to use as an important solution for major challenges in IoT-based precision agricultural systems. The objectives of Skender and Zaninović, [ 74 ] in their paper were to analyze blockchain technology’s overall perspective, investigate its potential in a sustainable supply chain to replace the shortcomings in the traditional supply chain. The traceability and transparency in the agricultural supply chain can be improved with blockchain.

To better understand the benefits and challenges and the perspective for sustainable blockchain, the author provided a conceptual framework. Borah et al., [ 68 ] proposed a novel blockchain-based Farmer and Rely called FARMAR. The system could provide fair prices and reduce duping by middlemen. The assets can be traced from farmers to consumers, reducing the artificial inflation of prices. Ferrag et al., (2020) [ 76 ] reviewed the research challenges on IoT-based agriculture and its security and privacy issues. The rest of the paper identified threat models against green IoT-based agriculture analyzed the privacy-oriented blockchain-based solutions and consensus algorithms for green IoT-based agriculture. Enescu and Ionescu, [ 52 ] proposed a model for farmers in the agri-food sector using blockchain. This system ensures a credible supply chain for producers and consumers, guaranteed timely payments between the participants. The authors proposed this system to provide transparency, security, and trust in the trading process. Chaudhari et al., [ 90 ] proposed a framework for a secure and transparent supply chain with the help of blockchain technology. With the help of this system, the farmers can get a fair price for their products. This transparent and tamper-proof supply chain system generates a bill at the end including the commissioning price as well as the total price after sold product hence benefiting the farmers in knowing the selling and market price. Xie et al., [ 91 ] proposed to construct a traceability framework For fresh E-commerce agricultural product quality and safety based on blockchain technology. To access the key control points the author used the FMECA (failure model effect and key analysis) to analyze the failure mode, impact, and hazards in the traceability chain. This system can promote agricultural development through decentralization, consensus trust, maintenance, and reliable database features.

Furthermore, Li et al., [ 92 ] proposed a blockchain-based Traceability of the fresh food supply chain With the help of business process reengineering (BPR). The overall traceability architecture is based on key links’ product quality data and participants’ transactions. The objective of this traceability system was to ensure data integrity. Flores et al., [ 93 ] proposed a model for decentralization of data and provide traceability of agricultural products with blockchain technology. Using this method could guarantee transparency of the supply chain and other operations as well as the transactions involved. Fernandez et al., [ 94 ] proposed a Blockchain-based model to improve farmer’s profits. The author aimed to improve the output primitives of the supply chain. Farmer-to-consumer product tracking and cost were the main factors in improving traceability in the supply chain. Cortez-Zaga et al., [ 95 ] proposed a model used in the Peruvian agricultural sector using blockchain. When using blockchain it can eliminate dependence on a central entity, provides integrity of the process, transactions become irrevocable, secure, and private, and provides transparency and immutability. G. Zhao, [ 96 ] presented a systematic literature review that explored the advances in the agri-food supply chain. The paper also pointed out the challenge of the applications of blockchain technology enumerated as storage capacity and scalability, privacy leakage, high-cost problem, regulation problem, throughput and latency issues, and lack of skills.

Land record maintenance using blockchain was also proposed by Bhorshetti et al., for easy maintenance of land records in real-time. The database proved to be a non-failure system and the work provided intermediary-less land title transfer and processing between owners. This system provided security, transparency, and a broker-free land management system [ 97 ]. The paper by Thakur et al. presented the issues related to land records maintenance, registration, settlements, and banks. The system ensured better land management, lesser fraudulent transactions while strengthening the sustainable development goals (SDG) and increasing the GDP of the country [ 98 ].

Agriculture Security System

Tse et al., [ 102 ] proposed food supply information security based on blockchain technology. The use of blockchain in this system can regain the people’s trust in the food market, the government can collect statistics on various kinds of food, and adulterated and fake food in the market can be eliminated. This type of technology can benefit the customer, manufacturers, and supervision departments of the food supply chain. Wu and Tsai, [ 103 ] proposed an intelligent agriculture network security system by applying dark web technology to monitor packet transmission frequency in order to prevent DDOS attacks. The system applied a darknet mechanism to identify anyone who attempts to access blockchain data. It also incorporated IoT sensors to gather data regarding temperature, humidity, and soil. This model was proposed to keep track of the farms and cultivation factors related to an environment and to establish network security for IoT networks.

Organic Farming

Reddy and Kumar, [ 101 ] presented the article based on the sustainability of the food supply chain. The author's objective was to achieve Fair Trading and a circular economy with the help of blockchain technology. With this framework, the following results but achieved: Automatic hashing for less electricity consumption, product malfunctioning and add alteration, the involvement of middlemen, availability of farming jobs, and facilitating development and unity among farmers. According to Basnayake and Rajapakse, [ 104 ], the purpose of the research was to implement a Blockchain-based solution to verify food quality. The process included Farmers issuing a product contract to control the quality of each product. For each deployment of the product contract, it would return an address that was used to generate the QR code to identify the physical product. Lastly, Consumers were also eligible to rate the product quality to ensure trust.

Smart Agriculture

To overcome remote monitoring challenges and provide security and privacy in agriculture, Patil et al., [ 105 ] proposed a lightweight architecture for smart greenhouse farming. The model consisted of four groups showing the integration of blockchain with IoT namely (1) smart greenhouse, (2) overlay network, (3) Cloud storage, and (4) End-user. This model can be used to successfully monitor the secure transmission of greenhouse data. Umamaheshwari et al., [ 106 ] proposed a model for Buying and selling crops and land. The model used Ethers as a cryptocurrency. According to the paper, the recordkeeping of crops grown in the land was useful to know the history of plantations in the land. With the help of this model, users were able to access real-time data about crops, eliminate the need for middlemen, and establish a transparent and efficient system. Voutos et al., [ 107 ] proposed the integration of IoT and smart contracts to develop smart agriculture to deliver higher quality agricultural products. It also focuses on improving the associated supply chain and logistics benefiting the participants involved. The author discussed the factors of smart agriculture as soil factors, climate, sensors, research, supply chain, storage, analytics, and smart contracts. Miloudi et al., [ 100 ] proposed IoT, Blockchain, and Geospatial technology-based Smart farming to manage the farming practices more smartly and sustainably. The system proposed smart farming management in 4 stages namely (1) Integrated blockchain with IoT platform where various IoT sensors apply analytics and sends data to the blockchain, (2) Blockchain Working Methodology where data visibility is provided through smart contracts, (3) Integrating GIS with blockchain where the data sent from IoT sensors are improvised and accuracy is facilitated through GIS geospatial tools, and (4) certifying farmers in blockchain stage facilitates authorities and privileges to the farmers through smart contracts which could greatly benefit farmers and food production industry.

Furthermore, Devi Et al., [ 108 ] Proposed a design architecture by merging IoT and BC for smart agriculture. The nodes involved in the blockchain received the information from the sensors that were connected to the things involved in the Smart Agriculture monitoring process. The design architecture enhanced the security and data transparency performance of smart agriculture. Vangala et al., [ 109 ] reviewed blockchain technology and its information security schemes. The application areas covered by the authors were agriculture monitoring, controlled agriculture/smart greenhouses, food supply chain tracking, and precision farming/smart farming. The review also presented a thorough analysis of the security attributes, application areas, advantages, drawbacks, and competing schemes’ cost of computation and communication. Branco et al., [ 110 ] proposed a conceptual approach with the integration of IoT and blockchain for a mushroom farm distribution process control system. The proposed system allowed the collection of distributed data on the environmental factors contributing to mushroom production providing collection, storage, and processing of mushroom farm data to be scalable, immutable, transparent, auditable, and secure.

Dairy Farming

Misra and Das, [ 111 ] presented a conceptual framework using blockchain to bring feasibility and efficiency in E-governance. The architecture consisted of a service-oriented architecture framework to store details of stakeholders involved in user services on demand, a blockchain architecture that would allow stakeholders to authenticate and perform transactions on the ledger, and digital identity architecture to act as a regulator in the architecture. With a dairy farmer as a user or participant in the architecture who would benefit from the transactions while having voting rights and leadership entities in the system the author conceptually explored the prototype of the dairy cooperative sector in India. Similarly, Rambim and Awuor, [ 112 ] proposed a model for dairy farmers in Kenya that explores the potential use of blockchain technology in milk delivery in rural areas. From the Naitiri Dairy farmers’ cooperative (NADAFA) in Kenya, the author introduced a Milk Delivery Blockchain Manager (MDBM) which is a decentralized platform to automatically capture the quantity and quality of milk delivered by the farmers. The delivery data stored in the blockchain is immutable, cryptographically hashed, and digitally signed. The details of delivery are accessible to the farmers. The NADAFA facilitates the system and provides payment to the dairy farmers on time. The consortium-based network provides leveraging blockchain solutions for farmers.

Under Livestock monitoring, Alonso et al., [ 113 ] worked on important trends in the applications of IoT and edge computing paradigms in the smart farming field. This helps producers to optimize processes, provides the origin of the product, and guarantees the quality to its consumers. The state of dairy cattle and feed grain can be monitored in real-time by using artificial intelligence and blockchain technology. This is to ensure the traceability and sustainability of different processes of farming. The implementation of smart farming contributed to the reduction of data traffic and reliable communications between IoT-Edge layers and the Cloud. According to Hang et al., [ 114 ], the uncertain data quality of analysts’ data can be solved through blockchain. The proposed structure brings scalability, off-chain storage, privacy, and high throughput as advancement to the previous version. Various IoT data is fetched from fish farms such as temperature, water level, oxygen, and PH data. The data storage can be a database or cloud and end-user can view the fish farm’s detailed information through smart devices. Leme et al., [ 147 ] proposed a novel infrastructure based on the integration of cloud storage and blockchain technology to monitor the overall health of livestock. The components of the architecture can be named as (1) Administrator, (2) Users, (3) Cloud service, and (4) blockchain network. With the help of RFID tags attached to the cattle, various entities can be monitored to ensure that cattle go through necessary procedures. Yang et al., [ 115 ] proposed a novel method to ensure traceability and authenticity in the livestock supply chain using blockchain. The model uses RFID-sensor-based livestock monitoring in the food industry where the sensors augment the physical tracking and solved the RFID’s inherent computational capacity limitation by using cloud services. The data is then made accessible to the end consumer through Block chain’s transparent ledger.


The analysis proposed by Li et al., [ 116 ] Investigated the convenience of sustainable electronic agriculture based on Blockchain technology and analyzed the application likelihood and challenges of Blockchain in the agricultural field. The authors selected 5 villages with similar development rates in china and Blockchain technology was applied using data statistics to the sustainable e-agriculture for exploring its convenience. Results showed that sustainable electronic agriculture based on Blockchain Technology brought great convenience to the farmer’s sales, increasing by 25% on average compared with traditional electronic agriculture. Song et al. [ 117 ], to improve the biased point of view, higher initial costs, and lack of transparency and trust proposed a system for providing sustainability in the current agri-food supply chain. The paper discussed blockchain adoption in rural areas and relative energy consumption from supply and demand perspectives.

Agriculture Monitoring

Arshad et al., [ 99 ] proposed a private blockchain-based secure access control for agriculture to monitor climatic parameters. Private Blockchain access control (PBAC) was used to guarantee secure communications where a user usually goes through initialization, authentication, and revocation. The farms monitoring system consists of the login phase, system setup phase, user/farm professional registration phase, password authentication and session key agreement phase, update or change phase, and addition of node phase. The whole system stores access records and lessen the computational and communication overhead. Forbye, N. Bore, [ 118 ] proposed a model to improve the shortcomings of existing digitized farming models through the AG-Wallet System (AGWS). The AGWS design consisted of (1) digitizing the far demand–supply, (2) The farm information pipeline was to ensure secure storage and validate events received from IoT, and (3) data analytic services that make the information visible to the participants. The system proposed by Osmanoglu et al., [ 119 ] uses a blockchain-based yield estimation solution. Farmers can share the farming plans for the upcoming harvesting season with other participants, or learn from other’s plans to review their plans. Smart contracts can be employed by participants to share their yield commitments. The author improvised a censorship-resistant, tamper-proof, and immutable public ledger of time-stamped transactions.

Talreja et al., (2020) [ 121 ] proposed a farmer’s portal with the help of blockchain technology and python to preserve the contract of trade between farmers and consumers. The farmer’s portal is a way to access farm activities. The proposed work enhanced the degree of participation, reduced intermediary cost, simplified process, provided ease of selling crops, and greater efficiency. The immutability of blockchain technology fortified farmers for getting a fair price for their crops and reduced operational costs. Abraham and Kumar, [ 120 ] proposed a blockchain-based data security system to preserve farmer’s data. The proposed work was based on a private-permissioned blockchain for controlled participation, hyper ledger fabric to support smart contracts, and system design to safely store farm data. The widened blockchain data helps farmer’s data to be accessed by other participants which can allow the government to sanction schemes based on farmer’s data. Topart et al., [ 122 ] proposed an interoperable ecosystem of farmer’s consent management. The model used a permissioned blockchain to allow only a specific group of people to access the services. The immutability of consent allows the data to be non-manipulative, distributed, signed transactions, and transparent. The consent verification for each data allows only valid users to request data. The model was proposed to respect the privacy, security, transparency, and consent of the farmer’s data.


Blockchain has been using incentive mechanisms since bitcoin to incentivize miners, but recently many authors have presented ways of promoting work for a reward. Incentives to promote sustainable agricultural practices by Giaffreda et al., [ 123 ]. Objectives include savings and increasing market value plus monitoring the use of water in the fields. Farmers have been relying on satellite data as it is a cheap source of agricultural services. With the use of LPWAN networks, accuracy in fields is increased along with a tensiometer-a sensing unit that is used to wirelessly communicate the data related to the humidity of the soil and a mini-meteo station that is used to measure temperature, air humidity, and air pressure. Smart contracts record the transactions from the calculated results in the cloud and release the incentives to the farmer according to their deal with the stakeholder. The proposal includes EnvCoins as the incentives, which can be further used to buy technologies for sustainable agricultural practices, for cash, or investment. Esmaeilian et al., [ 124 ] proposed an incentive mechanism for green behavior such as waste disposal, using re-furbished products, purchasing energy-efficient products, saving energy, recover, repair, and maintain. The tokens gained from sustainable behavior can be further used to access services on blockchain. Incentivization can ameliorate some of the environmental issues in rural areas with the help of rural people by motivating them to clean the areas. OpenLitterMap by S. Lynch, [ 125 ] uses geospatial analysis to geotag various types of litter. It uses LitterCoins as an incentive mechanism for the proof of work. This is to motivate people to submit correct data. It also rewards for uploading litter images from a new location. Apart from plastic and other homogenous litter, a proposal to eliminate solid waste from small municipalities in return for a reward is given by França et al., [ 148 ]. The provision was to change the original system from attack risk, data loss, power outage, and other such problems. The new digitized system proves to be a handier as it is in the form of a mobile application. The reward for selling solid waste to the collecting agent is in Green Coins, a cryptocurrency sent to the seller’s virtual wallet. This initiative led to computerization gains, information integrity, and the use of crypto-currency. Additionally, in [ 128 ] D. Zhang, worked on a similar solution to efficiently use rural waste in incentivizing rural people. The process includes the installation of smart bins and when they are full, the collection trucks will swap the waste for a digital coupon which the farmer can use to either get agricultural products from the waste to the energy plant or cash them. Blockchain makes it an easier process to transfer and record data faster with maximum transparency. Other applications of incentives for waste include Recereum, SwachhCoin, Plastic Bank, 4New, and OILSC [ 129 ].

The motivational incentive mechanism can also transform the way medical data is shared for research and diagnosis. In the paper by Zhu et al., [ 126 ], the authors gave a solution to actuate people into sharing medical data by providing them rewards for doing so. The rewards system is based on the access provided by the owner of the medical file. Through Smart contracts, a trusted payment money flow can be devised between the third party and the owner. The Shapley value was considered for the revenue distribution of medical data sharing and to study the impact of consensus on the miner’s income. Furthermore, an incentive mechanism for the accident alert system, proposed by Devi and Pamila, [ 127 ] is another blockchain-based medical application. According to the authors, most of the accidents occurs near rural places where medical help is unreachable on time. To eliminate the privacy issue of the nearby user who receives the accident report, a blockchain-based incentive method is implemented for the user who receives the accident alert to send the location of the victim to a close-by emergency service. Then the message initiator gets rewarded incentives for alerting about the accident. A similar report system mobile application for anonymous reporting is proposed by Zou et al., [ 130 ] in which reporting any incident can earn people rewards. The design goal of the author was to implement an anonymous report system, to provide privacy to the person who reports, without having to give their personal information to the system. This model induces incentive named Rcoins to whoever published the report information, the repliers, and the consenting miners. The Blockchain and Kudos by Sharples and Dominigue, [ 131 ], a reward-based permanent solution as the digital record-keeping model. The author proposed the use of blockchain to store digital certificates, achievements, and credits. Stored as a public record it can be accessed by the institutions or the student online. The model uses Kudos an educational reputation currency as a reward. The reward can be earned through uploading certificates on the blockchain, passing a test, or on course completion. Another application of blockchain-based incentive system is EduCTX by Turkanović et al., [ 132 ] which is proposed to globally enable the higher education credit platform. For potential stakeholders such as educational institutions, companies, and organizations a unified view of student’s higher education credits and grading system is placed on the global ledger through blockchain. ECTX tokens will be credited based on the completion of courses which will act as proof of completed courses.


In the environment sector, the most emphasis was given on blockchain applications in Natural hazards, Water, and Waste management in rural areas (Fig.  15 ). A detailed summary is given in Table ​ Table8 8 .

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Blockchain applications in Environment

Comparison of Blockchain applications in Environment

Waste Management

From the articles proposed, in D. Zhang, [ 128 ] the author worked on a similar solution to efficiently use rural waste in incentivizing rural people. This framework is based on China’s Yitong system which is waste to energy plant for agricultural waste and the use of blockchain to provide digital coupons or cryptocurrency in return for waste. The author proposed the use of a web application to use a QR code scanner when the waste is collected from a smart bin, also encouraging segregation of agricultural waste and residential waste. The serves receive the weight of waste, lodges it on the global ledger, and the coupon is rewarded based on the weight. Apart from plastic and other homogenous litter, a proposal to eliminate solid waste from small municipalities in return for a reward is given by França et al., [ 148 ]. The provision was to change the original system from attack risk, data loss, power outage, and other such problems. The new digitized system proves to be a handier as it is in the form of a mobile application. The reward for selling solid waste to the collecting agent is in Green Coins, a cryptocurrency sent to the seller’s virtual wallet. This initiative led to computerization gains, information integrity, and the use of crypto-currency.

Latif et al., [ 133 ] have addressed the smart waste management system with the integration of IoT and blockchain. The proposed model included identification of waste material, trace location, send to trash, categorize waste, transfer waste, recycling, and decision-making process. The sensor nodes in the model were used for waste identification, and adding new blocks and the admin and waste management offices were responsible for collecting, executing recycling, and delivering products. The recyclable wastes are transformed into useful products and share with the customers and send the non-recyclable wastes to the trash.

Natural Hazard

Additionally, Nguyen et al., [ 134 ] proposed a blockchain-based weather-based index framework based on smart contracts. In this system, a NEO smart contract with an oracle server was introduced. In the process of the farmer’s request for an insurance enrolment, the insurance entity accepts the requests, the agreement is formed based on a policy scheme, Irrigation water companies release the water reports based on which the smart contracts execute the claims to the farmers. Deployment of the system can ensure water supply in rural areas and accessibility of insurance in case of droughts or floods.

Water Management

The intelligent smart watering system proposed by Munir et al., [ 135 ] is a blockchain-based system for the smart consumption of water. The system uses IoT for capturing real-time environment conditions such as soil moisture level, light intensity, air humidity, and air temperature. The main focus of the proposed system was to develop a healthy ecosystem while efficiently using water in plantations and gardening. Forbye, A water control system to efficiently manage and coordinate the use of water in irrigation communities is proposed by Bordel et al., [ 136 ]. The prosumer environment in the model is composed of a rule definition module where users can create irrigation recipes using ECA (Event-Condition-Action) rules. These rules are executable and easily transformed into other programming languages. Inputs are taken by a transformation engine, to create, compile, and deploy a set of Smart Contracts coding all the irrigation and management logic. Finally, irrigation recipes are executed by an execution engine, which invokes deployed Smart Contracts to interact with the infrastructure. From the perspective of Dogo et al., [ 137 ] proposed convergence of IoT and Blockchain. Objectives of smart water solutions include smart measuring and monitoring across the water distribution, enhanced security, better analysis of the generated data, and enhanced revenue and efficiency.

Similarly, Hassija et al., [ 138 ] proposed a drone-mounted base station in the tactile internet environment based on blockchain. The drone-mounted small cell station was based on a Permissioned peer-to-peer blockchain. To take strategic decisions, a game theory model was deployed. The decision was based on user association; transmit power level, drone speed, and altitude. Additionally, smart contracts can add parameters and conditions based on requirements. The model’s results showed that the low network areas can experience better bandwidth with the proposed system.

Further, the proposed model by Pincheira et al., [ 139 ] presented a trustless water management system-based software architecture. The system proposed presented a decentralized water management system that could incentivize virtuous behavior in agricultural practices. Smart contracts were used for their intermediary-less characteristic. The authors also implemented a cross-platform software library to allow constrained devices to interact with blockchain directly. The author’s goal was to enable sustainable behavior between irrigation communities for reducing water consumption.

This section reviewed the application of blockchain in the electrification of rural areas (Fig.  16 ). A detailed summary is given in Table ​ Table9 9 .

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Blockchain applications in Smart Energy

Comparison of Blockchain applications in Energy

Energy Grid

In the energy sector, rural electrification and the use of renewable energy were mainly focused on in the articles. Enescu et al., [ 140 ] proposed a study on the use of photovoltaic energy. The paper showed the use of photovoltaic panels to power a power plant for the improvement of abandoned land. According to the authors, photovoltaic panels can easily pump water and is a more appropriate use of solar energy. Blockchain can help reduce the intermediary distributors hence making the selling and buying of energy more profitable. Additionally, Kulkarni and Kulkarni, [ 141 ], considering the lack of electricity in rural India, proposed a model to solve rural electrification problems. The model introduces peer-to-peer energy trading through blockchain suitable for small and remote micro-grids. A reliable and profitable electricity supply can be obtained through micro-grids. Smart contract-based meters allow transparency in the daily usage of energy used hence encouraging rural people into investing in blockchain-based electrification.

Renewable Energy

Levi-Oguike et al., [ 142 ] have presented the challenges and modalities for the adoption of blockchain technologies and to ensure energy efficiency as an advancement to the sub-Saharan Africa environment. In the case study performed by the authors, the following factors affected its use to a large extent in sub-Saharan Africa: Employment and education, displacement and resettlement, financing the technology, regulatory provisions, operational modalities, and paranoia and wariness. The overall objective of the paper was to ensure that the sub-Saharan region was involved in the innovative and industrial revolution wave. From Krajnakova et al., [ 143 ] author’s perspective following Scientific induction and deduction were made: The proposed Biomass blockchain structure is based on the use of traditional resources but the transactions are processed exclusively in a digital environment. The user can know the precise amount of energy and time when it is transferred to the consumer also ensuring real-time payment for the energy. According to the system Deal signed between biomass energy producer and consumer and transaction are based on cryptocurrency hence digitizing transaction accounting, payment and deposit mechanism, transaction security verification.

In the banking sector, most of the solutions were about issues in banking availability in rural areas, loan sanctions to under-documented people, and methods of transferring money (Fig.  17 ). A detailed summary is given in Table ​ Table10 10 .

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Blockchain applications in Banking

Comparison of blockchain applications in Banking

Guo et al., [ 151 ] proposed a novel poverty alleviation loan management called the Loan On Blockchain (LoC). In the LoC, the participating roles can be named as the Financial department to check the identity and application information of the participants, bank to provide loan to the customer, Customer to provide identity and apply for loan, civil affairs department to audit the customer identity and loan applications, Regulator to monitor fund flow and inspect ledger. This digital account model was proposed for decentralized and centralized transfer of assets. Similarly, Jain et al., [ 152 ] presented a solution named Bit-score for credit scoring for underprivileged (rural) people with the help of blockchain. The authors’ model used a self-sovereign model for identity, distributed ledger storage, credit score calculation without any extra charges, and non-financial factor for acquiring credit score. With bit-score being an improvisation over traditional credit scoring techniques it makes the transactions more transparent, decentralized, secure, and intermediary-free.

Mobile Money

Y. Hu, [ 150 ] proposed a blockchain-based digital payment system to deliver reliable services on unreliable network services in rural areas. The system management contract to record account types, user balances to avoid forks during disconnection with the help of smart contracts. True transparency can be obtained through digitization and economic growth can be boosted in poor countries. Ghatpande et al., [ 149 ] proposed a way of moving Secure, interoperable mobile money in sub-Saharan Africa (SIGMMA) to support semi-offline payments through blockchain. The model provides unreachable areas a monetary transaction solution without having to provide any identity proof while ensuring trust between parties along with not having to physically visit any bank.

Cash Transfer

Another proposal is to provide banking solutions to rural areas where a chit fund system has been designed by Kumar and Sangal, [ 154 ]. Chit fund being a traditional saving scheme in India is an easier way to have access to credit. The purpose of this system is to remove geographical barriers and provide credit scores to each user based on their transaction behavior. Unlike other anonymous blockchain applications, this system requires identity registration. Unlike traditional co-lateral systems, blockchain generates credit history to prohibit manipulation. Lastly, Jaffer et al., [ 153 ] proposed a blockchain-based distributed system that is immutable and secures the transaction logs. The self-executing smart contracts were used to automatically execute real-world contracts for auto disbursement of subsidies on meeting specific conditions. This system overcoming traditional cash transfers, and corruption and manipulation related to it can benefit rural or deserving people.

In the healthcare sector, smart healthcare systems, telemedicine, and privacy in medical data sharing to provide security and transparency in the healthcare system between doctors and patients were the commonly addressed areas in related work (Fig.  18 ). A detailed summary is given in Table ​ Table11 11 .

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Blockchain applications in Healthcare

Comparison of blockchain applications in Healthcare

Medical Data

Kaur et al., [ 157 ] proposed a blockchain-based electronic medical record storage and management system. The proposed model consisted of three main components: Domain experts (doctors, lab technicians, pharmacists, and drug manufacturers), health insurance providers, and patients. To ensure the privacy of medical data which contains most of the private information blockchain distributed data storage for heterogeneous data was proposed having a single source for data storage and access while providing high security and privacy to the users and researchers. Similarly, Zhang et al., [ 158 ] proposed secure and scalable clinical data sharing using FHIR Chain, a blockchain-based system meeting ONC (office of the national coordinator for health information technology) requirements. The technical requirements for blockchain-based clinical data sharing were verifying identity and authenticating all participants, Storing and exchanging data securely, consistent Permissioned access to data sources, applying consistent data formats, maintaining modularity. FHIRChain facilitates clinical data exchange while maintaining ownership.


Guo et al., [ 161 ] proposed an ABE scheme to achieve dynamic authentication and authorization with higher flexibility and efficiency for the Medical on Demand services in the telemedicine system. The system uses a Consortium Blockchain managed by multiple authorities. Medical examinations are uploaded to the database provided by Cloud Service Provider (CSP). The medical results are downloadable from Cloud only by Medical specialists. All the data is stored in Blocks of Blockchain hence preventing any manipulation in health records. Through this system independence of choice should be provided to the patient whether they want to enroll, leave, or change access policies. Nusrat et al., [ 160 ] proposed a model of a telemedicine system for medical care and security of data of rural people by using blockchain technology. The system consisted of stations for primary treatment tests while storing data directly in the blockchain. This system ensured communication and data privacy to doctors and patients while also giving reliable medical care and benefits to underserved (rural) people.

Forbye, Yong et al., [ 159 ] have proposed a blockchain and machine learning system for vaccine supply chain traceability. The novel intelligent system based on the blockchain can be used for vaccine supervision in the vaccine supply chain. Additionally, using smart contracts for the vaccine supply chain can provide the following advantages: detection of expired vaccines, vaccine information, and vaccine coin.

Smart Healthcare System

Machine Learning holds the power to change the perception of understanding and analyzing data and decision-making in multifarious sectors. Since, the blockchain with its decentralized network focus on secure data sharing, its integration with machine learning would provide a very meticulous outcome. Few of the ways through which blockchain’s integration with machine learning and benefit the healthcare system are [ 162 ]:

  • Blockchain ledger with legitimate data collection can feed the machine learning models with highly accurate and dependable data.
  • Real data can be used to train machine learning models to increase efficiency and precision, therefore, saving cost and time.
  • Models can be trained to give the same health advice to multiple patients with alike symptoms.
  • Models can also be trained to give better clinical solutions to doctors based on the patient’s symptoms.
  • Training the models on the patient history and storing them on blockchain ledger can predict outbreaks.

For implementing the integration, Jain et al., [ 156 ] proposed an integrated model of blockchain and machine learning to detect diseases. These models can be implemented in a hospital or rural medical camps. The proposed system consisted of IoT, blockchain, cybersecurity, and machine learning. Various components measure basic parameters of the human body such as weight, pulse, blood pressure, and automatically saved the data in the ledger. The system has the potential to expand medical parameters while making it adaptive. The complete system can collect, store, and analyze the data of the patient and benefit the doctors, patients, and medical institutions.

Similarly, Tripathi et al., [ 155 ] have proposed a safe and convenient use of medical data and its user through blockchain technology. The proposed work is an improvement on issues and challenges faced regarding security and privacy. The clinical data are recorded in the blockchain ledger with access to legitimate users only. For a doctor to access a patient’s data a request has to be made and only when the patient approves the request does the data become visible. The goal of this model is to provide secure and reliable services to insurance companies, drug supply chains, and medical researchers. Lastly.

This application area mainly focused on employment visibility and temporary employment for rural job security (Fig.  19 ). Therefore, the following related research articles were identified and a detailed summary is given in Table ​ Table12 12 .

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Blockchain applications in Employment

Comparison of blockchain applications in Employment

Temporary Employment

Pinna and Ibba, [ 163 ] proposed a decentralized employment system to process employment contracts with a fully automated and fast procedure. The model consists of a new job offer event in which awaiting employers apply for jobs, an application event where a smart contract acquires the application request, a hiring event where the applicant worker meets the employer, a relationship event to enable the workers to check working situation and details, the workday event which describes the maturation of workdays, a payment event where the employee gets paid. The transparent ledger can make sure that the employment contracts were deployed with unchangeable information.

Employment Visibility

Similarly, the paper’s proposal by M. et al., [ 164 ] ensures supply chain visibility to seamlessly connect all stakeholders of the supply chain network who are a part of the Blockchain ecosystem. The paper defined two modules in BC design: the Supply module and the demand module. Supply module to collect worker's data and smart contracts to perform transactions through an application interface and store them on the ledger. Demand module to implement job allocation. The aggregators are given direct access to help track worker’s information from the ledger.

Existing Systematic Literature Reviews

A tabular representation of a few major existing works of blockchain in rural development has been done in Table ​ Table13. 13 . This table communicates the area of literature reviews, and their main contributions in the review regarding blockchain in rural or agriculture.

Existing literature reviews

An extensive literature review was done in this section which portrayed the enormous amount of work done in blockchain technology pertaining to rural development. All the functional areas and sub-areas were compared and discussed in tabular form. Multiple novel ideas and theories were identified during the literature review. At last, a small tabular representation was made for the existing systematic literature reviews and surveys in a similar area to identify the depth of the work done. In the upcoming sections, critical analysis and detailed discussion have been done based on the literature study, followed by the limitations of the survey and conclusion.

Critical Analysis Existing Technologies and Discussion

Blockchain Technology possesses much competence and futuristic hold towards rural development. In this review, all possible applications of blockchain that facilitated rural development were found, reviewed, compared, and summarized. With Agriculture being the predominant application of blockchain, various areas under it were analyzed that worked on the relief of agricultural issues in rural areas.

Starting with Supply chain traceability, the study showed integration of blockchain technology with Internet of Things [ 51 , 54 , 56 , 58 , 63 , 64 , 69 , 70 , 73 , 76 , 82 , 84 , 85 , 89 , 100 , 145 ], Cloud computing [ 65 , 87 ], Big Data [ 87 ], and Geospatial Technology [ 100 ]. Among the papers discussed, this area consisted of papers pertinent to tracing agricultural produce from the beginning of the process till it reached the consumer. The range of traceability options comprised all agricultural products as well as specifically certain products such as soybean [ 60 ], grape wine [ 69 ], and cocoa beans [ 62 ]. Furthermore, blockchain’s integration with IoT provided sensing and sharing of private data with blockchain without intermediary support. Additionally, some proposed work used QR codes [ 56 , 60 , 146 ] for viewing data directly related to the attached product. Articles supporting IoT devices were implemented for tracing agricultural produce, encouraging circular economy, fault-tolerant, and immutable APIs. A few were reviews on agriculture traceability [ 53 , 58 , 60 , 61 ] barriers [ 67 ], challenges [ 59 , 71 , 76 ] contribution [ 80 ], IoT based solutions, and future scopes [ 78 , 96 ]. Some agricultural prototypes included AgriBlockIoT [ 70 ], KHET [ 83 ], and FARMAR [ 68 ]. A few land record management articles were also discussed that implied security and broker-free methods for land titling and transferring [ 97 , 98 ]. Most of the platforms used were Ethereum Smart Contracts, Hyperledger, REST, JavaScript (Web3, node, angular), Truffle Framework APIs, and MySQL and MongoDB for cloud storage.

While traceability of agricultural produce is important, the agriculture security system is also a necessity. In this review, the articles for agriculture security systems included prevention of farm data from cyber-attacks using IoT [ 103 ] and supervision of agricultural products and food information [ 102 ]. In both the works acquired, it used Smart contracts and Ethereum Blockchain respectively, along with IoT-based sensors for farm monitoring.

Organic Farming as a part of agriculture application for sustainable farming and quality food production included two articles for analyzing the effectiveness of supply chain [ 101 ], and identifying product quality and transparency of organic food supply chain using decentralized applications and QR codes for tracing product data [ 104 ].

Furthermore, using smart methods to enhance the agricultural process was discusses in the smart agriculture Sect.  3.1.4 where farm controlling, recordkeeping, improved logistics, farm managing and improvising, and monitoring using Blockchain Technology and IoT [ 106 – 110 ] as well as cloud computing [ 105 ] and geospatial technology [ 100 ] in some articles were covered. Most emphases were given towards improving the quality of farming and its management while providing utmost security to data. Mostly used platforms to implement the proposed work were JavaScript(Node, Ganache, Truffle), Ethereum Smart Contracts, and IoT-based sensors.

Apart from the supply chain in farming, the dairy sector was one of the application areas covered in the review comprising of E-governance in the dairy sector implemented on smart contracts [ 111 ], and quality and quantity assurance of milk with a delivery platform [ 112 ] using Blockchain Technology. In addition to the dairy sector, blockchain applications in livestock management using Blockchain Technology [ 114 ], IoT and Cloud Computing [ 113 , 115 , 147 ] to monitor livestock, observe cattle using RFID tags, storing detailed information on fishes, along with livestock traceability were discussed in the review. Integration with IoT provided real-time monitoring and traceability of livestock and its by-products in the supply chain.

Similarly, to share informative farming data and techniques a review on convenience analysis of the blockchain in agriculture [ 116 ], and exploratory data planning and management of agricultural food supply chain for sustainable development [ 117 ] was given to explore the work done in E-agriculture using blockchain technology. Since one of the main motives towards implementing blockchain in agriculture is to monitor the faring process and products till it reaches the consumer, therefore, agriculture monitoring section covered farm monitoring system[ 99 ], a yield estimation system to share farming plans implemented on smart contracts [ 119 ], and an IoT based AG Wallet system to track farm activity implemented using IBM enterprise blockchain platform [ 118 ]. Penultimately, the application area was divided into farmer Sect.  3.1.9 where blockchain’s reviews to facilitate farmers such as farmer’s portal to capture farm activities using HTML and Python [ 121 ], farmer’s data storage to provide transparency for government scheme using smart contracts [ 120 ], and farmer’s data accessing using their consent [ 122 ] were discussed.

Lastly, an overall blockchain application area covering the use of incentives for numerous activities was discussed in Sect.  3.1.10 . The review included a reward-based system in return for solid waste [ 148 ], rural waste [ 128 ], anonymously reporting an activity [ 130 ], reporting an accident [ 127 ], storing educational records in ledger [ 132 ], green behavior [ 123 , 124 ], geotagging litters [ 125 ], and to safely share medical data [ 126 ]. The incentive mechanism works when an activity is performed, therefore in return for good behaviors or activity, cryptocurrency-based tokens are rewarded that can be stored in a blockchain wallet. Most of the platforms used were smart contracts while some of the systems also used ARK Blockchain, Laravel PHP, and JavaScript.

Looking through the applications of blockchain in rural areas, usage of blockchain in reinforcing environmental conditions and changing people's outlook on preserving the environment was the outcome of factors affecting rural people as they were much likely also related to environmental conditions. From this view, the environmental application areas were discovered and discussed to be Water management, Waste management, and Natural hazards.

To begin with, under Sect.  3.2.3 water management, smart measuring and monitoring [ 137 ], smart consumption [ 135 ], management [ 139 ], and control system [ 136 ] of water were discussed. These articles provided smart ways of implementing blockchain for efficient use of water in irrigation, distribution, and consumption, preventing environmental deterioration while also providing security and digitization.

Secondly, under Sect.  3.2.1 waste management, the reward system in return for waste collection and selling [ 128 , 148 ], and waste management [ 133 ] using Blockchain Technology were discussed. Covered under the integration of Blockchain Technology, Cloud Computing, and IoT, the implementation used smart contracts in the first two proposals and UML, TLA + for the latter.

Lastly, as per the research criteria, only one article contributing to the environment and natural hazards was discovered and reviewed explaining the insurance system for drought-affected farms based on the farm data stored in the blockchain ledger [ 134 ]. The model was implemented on NEO virtual machine, smart contracts, and used Oracle server as database.

Similarly, from the challenges faced by rural people acquiring an electric line, energy-efficient methods, to secure, and transparent payments issues were covered and reviewed under the energy section. The blockchain application areas in the energy sector were discovered to be Renewable energy and the Energy grid. With blockchain’s integration with renewable energy a smart contract-based energy transfer credibility system of biomass energy grid [ 143 ], and a case study of sub-Saharan Africa and its challenges and adoption of renewable energy access were discussed [ 142 ]. Whereas in the energy grid section, the blockchain’s application in providing peer-to-peer electrification with secure payments, transparent energy usage [ 144 ], and the use of smart energy grids for farming and irrigation using Ethereum Blockchain [ 140 ] were reviewed.

Besides, from the traditional use of blockchain in Finance, the banking solutions for rural people were discussed in Sect.  3.4 . From the banking applications of blockchain, the use of mobile money for semi-offline payments in sub-Saharan Africa without identity proof using a secure, interoperable mobile money system [ 149 ], and a delay-tolerant digital payment system based on Ethereum blockchain [ 150 ] were discussed. A simpler way of getting a loan with the help of blockchain is by using a hyper ledger fabric-based Loan On Blockchain(LOC) system using smart contracts [ 151 ], and a credit scoring system called Bit-score using Ethereum Blockchain [ 152 ] were discussed. Finally, a Cash Transfer area where a distributed system for automatic subsidy delivery and fund release using JavaScript and Hyperledger composer [ 153 ], and a chit fund system based on smart contracts to provide credit to rural people [ 154 ] were reviewed.

Under the Healthcare applications of blockchain, A Smart Healthcare System, Medical Data sharing, and Telemedicine were the areas discovered. Under smart healthcare, the articles reviewed were a smart model to detect diseases and measure basic health parameters using Ethereum blockchain and Raspberry Pi [ 156 ] and protected access to medical data using smart contracts [ 155 ]. For the recordkeeping of medical data and share it legitimately an electronic medical record storage management system based on ethereum and cloud storage [ 157 ], and a permissioned clinical data sharing called FHIRChain using smart contracts [ 158 ] was reviewed. Lastly, under Telemedicine, vaccine supervision and traceability for safe vaccine supply [ 159 ], secure data storage using telemedicine system based on smart contracts [ 160 ], and a telemedicine system to prevent health records manipulation using Blockchain and Cloud Database [ 161 ] were the articles reviewed.

Another challenge faced by rural people implemented to recuperate from unemployment using blockchain technology was discussed in Sect.  3.6 . Using smart contracts an employment contracts processing, handling, and safe payment system for temporary employment contracts [ 163 ], and a blockchain aggregator to perform worker data transactions and employment visibility [ 164 ] were the works reviewed in this section.

Limitations of Existing Works and Research Gaps

In this section, the limitations of the existing literature review on blockchain in rural development along with a comparison of existing systematic literature reviews have been discussed. The comparison has been shown in Table ​ Table14, 14 , and a few research gaps have been mentioned in this section as well.

Comparison of existing reviews

While Blockchain technology is leading in security and transparency, providing ways of applying its technology in disparate areas its limitations and gaps can still be identified in the proposed and implemented work. While most of the work in agriculture is for ensuring transparency and traceability in the supply chain, there are far more factors in agriculture that affect farmers and crops. Blockchain inevitably uses excessive energy in execution, but its execution in rural areas may become worrisome due to the lack of energy and load in those areas.

Collecting farm data and storing them on the ledger in small farms is easier. However, in the case of big farms, the data collection and integration may consume much time and probably manpower in accumulating and loading it in the ledger. Apart from that, IoT-based services require sensors as well as collecting livestock DNA to trace them and load their information may cost a fortune to small-scale farmers.

Teaching the application usage to laymen, that too uneducated farmers or rural people may become a troubling task. Not only that, the availability of news of the latest technologies is hardly accessible to underdeveloped countries, introducing blockchain-based applications to those areas may toil the deployment and utilization.

Mistakes can prove disadvantageous to poor people while making blockchain transactions. A lost private key or a mistakenly added extra digit to the payment can cause irreversible damage.

Thereafter, a data breach of medical data and inappropriate access to medical histories are some issues that may decrease people’s trust in the blockchain-based healthcare system for medical data privacy.

Security threat is another limitation that can affect any type of application that requires recordkeeping. Here the blockchain’s main characteristics may itself prove faulty to find the intruder as it gives total anonymity to users. With both pros and cons, robust and reliable technology can still be deployed for many usages, making livability easier and people technologically advanced.

Multiple issues pertaining to rural areas have been addressed by authors with the help of blockchain. Agriculture is the most economic factor, solutions for blockchain-based supply chain traceability provided secure, transparent, beneficial product delivery. It also ensured timely payments to farmers and quality products to consumers. Banking solutions have also been made easier with blockchain technology, providing remote banking solutions, credit and loan easiness, and easy and transparent banking. Hygiene issues that led to many diseases, generational disabilities have also been given a solution through blockchain which also incentivizes rural people for participating in waste and water management. Rural electrification solutions were also proposed with blockchain for people unable to obtain energy resources, basic electrical amenities, and expensive bills. People who were unable to receive treatments, had to travel long distances for medical assistance, were also provided a blockchain solution with which telemedicine, privacy to medical data usage, and medical-on-demand were made available. Blockchain has also been useful in providing employment solutions to the truly underserved, using a global chain for employment visibility, and secure payment for jobs [ 168 – 172 ].

The Systematic Literature Review’s objective is to provide information on the research proposed related to blockchain in rural development to provide new research opportunities, extensive knowledge about each development area, and the possibility for future development in rural areas. After distinctly reviewing every research article variant areas of applications were identified relating to the development of rural areas with the help of Blockchain Technology. Overall, 6 disparate applications in rural development were picked out; from which each of these applications has a total of 23 divergent areas combined. These areas contribute to all the research that has been done in the blockchain in the rural development sector and are distributed across 37 countries obtained from 6 journals and 1 web source ranging from the years 2010 to 2020. After searching through journals, applying more than 16 keywords, 112 articles were found in aggregate. From analyzing each article, the primary application of blockchain was identified as agriculture with 67% of research articles relative to blockchain in agriculture whence 60% were associated with supply chain traceability. About 55% of those papers were from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Furthermore, in 112 research papers, 8 technologies were implemented with a total of 58 platforms and tools combined.

Research Questions Addressed

From the Research Questions defined (Table ​ (Table3), 3 ), the following inference can be made:

What are the main applications and areas of implementing Blockchain Technology in Rural Development?

Various extensively researched applications are defined in Tables ​ Tables5, 5 , ​ ,6, 6 , ​ ,7, 7 , ​ ,8, 8 , ​ ,9, 9 , ​ ,10, 10 , ​ ,11 11 and ​ and12. 12 . These applications define the Blockchain’s applications in rural development that impact the rural areas, provide security, opportunities, availability of resources, and a better lifestyle. The areas (Fig.  20 ) gave extensive knowledge about the domains of application-defined from several research articles related to it.

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Blockchain Applications and their Areas in rural development

What are the major issues in Rural Development and how they can be addressed using Blockchain Technology?

Numerous issues in rural areas are explained in Sect.  1.1.1 and the blockchain applications for the eradication of those issues are addressed in Sect.  3 .

What are the targeted software, platforms, and tools for the implementation of blockchain in rural development?

Throughout the applications, for implementation following (Table ​ (Table15) 15 ) technologies’ integration, and software and platforms were used:

Blockchain development platforms and tools

Following the review, in agriculture, most emphases were stated towards supply chain traceability and less or no work in natural resource management, overproduction, yield stagnation, and international trade. In regards to the sociological factor, research on work belonging to blockchain development for rural education, housing, women empowerment, crime reduction, brain drain, and craftsmanship is missing. For the implementation of banking, healthcare, and many other applications the required government and technological assist are still lacking. In some cases, the research proposed could be administered only in the far future, therefore contemporary work was absent. Some more gaps and future research directions are given in Sects.  4.2 and 6.1 .

The research questions mentioned in Table ​ Table3 3 are addressed in the following section (Table ​ (Table16 16 ):

Addressed locations of the Research Questions

Threat to Validity and Limitation of the Survey

While reviewing the issues in rural areas, blockchain technology, and the applications of blockchain technology in rural development certain limitations can be considered existing. All the articles were selected according to the review process and criteria implied in Sects.  2.1 , 2.2 , and 2.3 . During exclusion, some articles were not considered fit for this review, were missed, or were not found. Six applications were considered in this review, there could be more applications that we couldn’t figure or that couldn’t make the cut of criteria. A total of 23 sub-areas of all the applications were determined. Conclusively, as per our knowledge, there wasn’t any systematic review that reviewed all the application areas of blockchain technology in rural and sustainable development nevertheless there could have been a few rural and sustainable development articles that weren’t included in this review.

Conclusion and Future Work

Blockchain Technology has presented a considerable amount of work in the rural sector. While its implementation was few, the ideology is enough to motivate people into changing the lifestyle of rural people leading to the overall country’s development. In this systematic literature review, numerous applications of blockchain technology in sustainable rural development were discussed with diverse areas in each application. A comparative study of each application in all the areas pertaining to different approaches has been portrayed with differing attributes elucidating the technology, process, and techniques behind each article. The paper provides extensive literature towards each of the articles sorted after applying the review process consisting of relevant articles and keywords. The primary findings of the systematic literature review were as follows:

  • From the review, we were able to identify common and exceptional uses of blockchain technology that would help uplift the rural community and lead to sustainable rural development.
  • Various distinct approaches to implementing blockchain technology for rural welfare were discovered.
  • Platforms and tools that would facilitate the use of these applications for farmers and uninstructed agrestic people were identified and reviewed.
  • Blockchain’s integration with multiple powerful technologies for rural development was reviewed.
  • An overall idea for a collaborative approach leading to a smart village framework was constructed.

The gaps determined from reviewing the articles broadly would help researchers explore additional as well as alternative utilization of blockchain technology for sustainable rural development.

Future Work

Blockchain’s characteristics are exceptionally conducive to safety, privacy, integrity, traceability, efficiency, and transparency in every area limited by such advantages. While diverse blockchain applications for the welfare of rural community has been discussed nevertheless future work can comprise of facilitating applications in making use of blockchain incentives for a collaborative framework incorporating several services in rural areas namely Smart Village. Blockchain technology in terms of providing incentive mechanisms could lead to a better motivational unit in many areas. Incentivizing rural or urban people for education, data sharing, green farming, green behavior, and environment conservation are real future demands. Apart from emphasizing rural areas, blockchain’s integration with networking, cybersecurity, and digital advertising is also a future insistence.

This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.


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  • Published: 26 September 2021

A Review of Blockchain-Based Applications and Challenges

  • Pratima Sharma 1 ,
  • Rajni Jindal 1 &
  • Malaya Dutta Borah 2  

Wireless Personal Communications volume  123 ,  pages 1201–1243 ( 2022 ) Cite this article

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The deployment of blockchain technologies for multiple use cases has been widely investigated in the academic and business sectors over the last few years. The blockchain model has attained considerable attention due to its decentralized, persistent, anonymous, and auditable features. This review does a comprehensive literature analysis of broad blockchain implementations across several domains. The study’s key objective is to present a thorough overview of the widespread deployments of blockchain technology and demonstrate how particular aspects of this innovative technology can change the business community’s activities. Several papers are addressing the feasibility of using blockchain technologies in various fields. However, we include a description of blockchain concepts and comparative analysis of the application in six main fields: the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, supply chain, cloud, healthcare, and multimedia networks. For each area, we analyze in-depth the approaches proposed by the research community and industry. This paper also discussed the different problems involved in each area. Finally, we explore the critical issues needed for the broader implementation of blockchain technologies in these sensitive areas.

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a systematic literature review of blockchain based applications

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Sharma, P., Jindal, R. & Borah, M.D. A Review of Blockchain-Based Applications and Challenges. Wireless Pers Commun 123 , 1201–1243 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11277-021-09176-7

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A systematic review of blockchain

  • Min Xu   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-3929-7759 1 ,
  • Xingtong Chen 1 &
  • Gang Kou 1  

Financial Innovation volume  5 , Article number:  27 ( 2019 ) Cite this article

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Blockchain is considered by many to be a disruptive core technology. Although many researchers have realized the importance of blockchain, the research of blockchain is still in its infancy. Consequently, this study reviews the current academic research on blockchain, especially in the subject area of business and economics. Based on a systematic review of the literature retrieved from the Web of Science service, we explore the top-cited articles, most productive countries, and most common keywords. Additionally, we conduct a clustering analysis and identify the following five research themes: “economic benefit,” “blockchain technology,” “initial coin offerings,” “fintech revolution,” and “sharing economy.” Recommendations on future research directions and practical applications are also provided in this paper.


The concepts of bitcoin and blockchain were first proposed in 2008 by someone using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, who described how cryptology and an open distributed ledger can be combined into a digital currency application (Nakamoto 2008 ). At first, the extremely high volatility of bitcoin and the attitudes of many countries toward its complexity restrained its development somewhat, but the advantages of blockchain—which is bitcoin’s underlying technology—attracted increasing attention. Some of the advantages of blockchain include its distributed ledger, decentralization, information transparency, tamper-proof construction, and openness. The evolution of blockchain has been a progressive process. Blockchain is currently delimited to Blockchain 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0, based on their applications. We provide more details on the three generations of blockchain in the Appendix . The application of blockchain technology has extended from digital currency and into finance, and it has even gradually extended into health care, supply chain management, market monitoring, smart energy, and copyright protection (Engelhardt 2017 ; Hyvarinen et al. 2017 ; Kim and Laskowski 2018 ; O'Dair and Beaven 2017 ; Radanovic and Likic 2018 ; Savelyev 2018 ).

Blockchain technology has been studied by a wide variety of academic disciplines. For example, some researchers have studied the underlying technology of blockchain, such as distributed storage, peer-to-peer networking, cryptography, smart contracts, and consensus algorithms (Christidis and Devetsikiotis 2016 ; Cruz et al. 2018 ; Kraft 2016 ). Meanwhile, legal researchers are interested in the regulations and laws governing blockchain-related technology (Kiviat 2015 ; Paech 2017 ). As the old saying goes: scholars in different disciplines have many different analytical perspectives and “speak many different languages.” This paper focuses on analyzing and combing papers in the field of business and economics. We aim to identify the key nodes (e.g., the most influential articles and journals) in the related research and to find the main research themes of blockchain in our discipline. In addition, we hope to offer some recommendations for future research and provide some suggestions for businesses that wish to apply blockchain in practice.

This study will conduct a systematic and objective review that is based on data statistics and analysis. We first describe the overall number and discipline distribution of blockchain-related papers. A total of 756 journal articles were retrieved. Subsequently, we refined the subject area to business and economics, and were able to add 119 articles to our further analysis. We then explored the influential countries, journals, articles, and most common keywords. On the basis of a scientific literature analysis tool, we were able to identify five research themes on blockchain. We believe that this data-driven literature review will be able to more objectively present the status of this research.

The rest of this paper is organized as follows. In the next section, we provided an overview of the existing articles in all of the disciplines. We holistically describe the number of papers related to blockchain and discipline distribution of the literature. We then conduct a further analysis in the subject field of business and economics, where we analyze the countries, publications, highly cited papers, and so on. We also point out the main research themes of this paper, based on CiteSpace. This is followed by recommendations for promising research directions and practical applications. In the last section, we discuss the conclusions and limitations.

Overview of the current research

In our research, we first conducted a search on Web of Science Core Collection (WOS), including four online databases: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Arts & Humanities Citation Index (A&HCI), and Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI). We chose WOS because the papers in these databases can typically reflect scholarly attention towards blockchain. When searching the term “blockchain” as a topic, we found a total of 925 records in these databases. After filtering out the less representative record types, we reduced these papers to 756 articles that were then used for further analysis. We extracted the full bibliographic record of the articles that we identified from WOS, including information on the title, author, keywords, abstract, journal, year, and other publication information. These records were then exported to CiteSpace for subsequent analysis. CiteSpace is a scientific literature analysis tool that enables us to visualize trends and patterns in the scientific literature (Chen 2004 ). In this paper, CiteSpace is used to visually represent complex structures for statistical analysis and to conduct cluster analysis.

Table  1 shows the number of academic papers published per year. We have listed the number of all of the publications in WOS, the number of articles in all of the disciplines, and the number of articles in business and economics subjects. It should be noted that we retrieved the literature on March 25, 2019. Therefore, the number of articles in 2019 is relatively small. The number of papers has continued to grow in recent years, which suggests that there is a growing interest in blockchain. All of the extracted papers in WOS were published after 2015, which is seven years after blockchain and bitcoin was first described by Nakamoto. In these initial seven years, many papers were published online or indexed by other databases. However, we have not discussed these papers here. We only chose WOS, representative high-level literature databases. This is the most common way of doing a literature review (Ipek 2019 ).

In the 756 articles that we managed to retrieve, the three most common keywords besides blockchain are bitcoin, smart contract, and cryptocurrency, with the frequency of 113 times, 72 times, and 61 times, respectively. This shows that the majority of the literature mentions the core technology of blockchain and its most widely known application—bitcoin.

In WOS, each article is assigned to one or more subject categories. Therefore, we use CiteSpace to visualize what research areas are involved in current research on blockchain. Figure  1 shows a network of such subject categories. The most common category is Computer Science, which has the largest circle, followed by Engineering and Telecommunications. Business and Economics is also a common subject area for blockchain. Consequently, in the following session, we will conduct further analysis in this field.

figure 1

Disciplines in blockchain

Articles in business and economics

Given that the main objective of our research was to understand the research of blockchain in the area of economics and management, we conduct an in-depth analysis on the papers in this field. We refined the research area to Business and Economics, and we finally retrieved 119 articles from WOS. In this session, we analyzed their published journals, research topics, citations, and so on, to depict the research status of blockchain in the field of business and economics more comprehensively.

There are several review papers on blockchain. Each of these paper contains a summary of multiple research topics, instead of a single topic. We do not include these literature reviews in our paper. However, it is undeniable that these articles also play an important role on the study of blockchain. For instance, Wang et al. ( 2019 ) investigate the influence of blockchain on supply chain practices and policies. Zhao et al. ( 2016 ) suggest blockchain will widely adopted in finance and lead to many business innovations and research opportunities.

The United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany are the top three countries by the number of papers published on blockchain; the specific data are shown in Table  2 . The United States released more papers than the other countries and it produced more than one-third of the total articles. As of the time of data collection, China contributed 11 papers, ranking fourth. The 119 papers in total are drawn from 17 countries and regions. In contrast, we searched “big data” and “financial technology” in the same way, and found 286 papers on big data that came from 24 countries, while 779 papers on fintech came from 43 countries. This shows that blockchain is still an emerging research field, and it needs more countries and scholars to join in the research effort.

We counted the journals published in these papers and we found that 44 journals published related papers. Table  3 lists the top 11 journals to have published blockchain research. First is “Strategic Change: Briefings in Entrepreneurial Finance,” followed by “Financial Innovation” and “Asia Pacific Journal of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.” The majority of papers in the journal “Strategic Change” were published in 2017, except for one in 2018 and one in 2019. Papers in the journal “Financial Innovation” were generally published in 2016, with one published in 2017 and one in 2019. All five of the papers in the journal “Asia Pacific Journal of Innovation and Entrepreneurship” were published in 2017.

Cited references

Table  4 presents the top six cited publications, which were cited no less than five times. The list consists of three books and three journal articles. Some of these publications introduce blockchain from a technical perspective and some from an application perspective. Swan’s ( 2015 ) book illustrates the application scenarios of blockchain technology. In this book, the author describes that blockchain is essentially a public ledger with potential as a decentralized digital repository of all assets—not only tangible assets but also intangible assets such as votes, software, health data, and ideas. Tapscott and Tapscott’s ( 2016 ) book explains why blockchain technology will fundamentally change the world. Yermack ( 2017 ) points out that blockchain will have a huge impact and will present many challenges to corporate governance. Böhme et al. ( 2015 ) introduce bitcoin, the first and most famous application of blockchain. Narayanan et al. ( 2016 ) also focus on bitcoin and explain how bitcoin works at a technical level. Lansiti and Lakhani ( 2017 ) argue it will take years to truly transform the blockchain because it is a fundamental rather than destructive technology, which will not drive implementation, and companies will need other incentives to adopt blockchain.

Most influential articles

These 119 papers were cited 314 times in total, and 270 times without self-citations. The number of articles that they cited are 221, of which 197 are non-self-citations. The most influential articles with more than 10 citations are listed in Table  5 . The most popular article in our dataset is Lansiti and Lakhani ( 2017 ), with 49 citations in WOS. This suggests that this article has had a strong influence on the research of blockchain. This paper believes there is still a distance to the real application of the blockchain. The other articles describe how blockchain affects and works in various areas, such as financial services, organizational management, and health care. Since blockchain is an emerging technology, it is particularly necessary to explore how to combine blockchains with various industries and fields.

By comparing the journals in Tables 4 and 5 , we find that some journals appeared in both of the lists, such as Financial Innovation. In other words, papers on blockchain are more welcomed in these journals and the journal’s papers are highly recognized by other scholars. Meanwhile, although journals such as Harvard Business Review have only published a few papers related to blockchain, they are highly cited. Consequently, the journals in both of these lists are of great importance.

Research themes

Addressing research themes is crucial to understanding a research field and exploring future research directions. This paper explored the research topic based on keywords. Keywords are representative and concise descriptions of article content. First, we analyzed the most common keywords used by the papers. We find that the top five most frequently used keywords are “blockchain,” “bitcoin,” “cryptocurrency,” “fintech,” and “smart contract.” Although the potential for blockchain applications goes way beyond digital currencies, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies—as an important blockchain application scenario in the finance industry—were widely discussed in these articles. Smart contracts allow firms to set up automated transactions in blockchains, thus playing a fundamentally supporting role in blockchain applications. Similar to the literature in all of the subject areas, studies in business and economics also frequently use bitcoin, cryptocurrency, and smart contract as their keywords. The difference is that many researchers have combined blockchain with finance, regarding it as an important financial technology.

After analyzing the frequency of keywords, we conducted a keywords clustering analysis to identify the research themes. As shown in Fig.  2 , five clusters were identified through the log-likelihood ratio (LLR) algorithm in Citespace, they are: cluster #0 “economic benefit,” cluster #1 “blockchain technology,” cluster #2 “initial coin offerings,” cluster #3 “fintech revolution,” and cluster #4 “sharing economy.”

figure 2

Disciplines and topics

Many researchers have studied the economic benefits of blockchain. They suggest the application of blockchain technology to streamline transactions and settlement processes can effectively reduce the costs associated with manual operations. For instance, in the health care sector, blockchain can play an important role in centralizing research data, avoiding prescription drug fraud, and reducing administrative overheads (Engelhardt 2017 ). In the music industry, blockchain could improve the accuracy and availability of copyright data and significantly improve the transparency of the value chain (O'Dair and Beaven 2017 ). Swan ( 2017 ) expound the economic value of block chain through four typical applications, such as digital asset registries, leapfrog technology, long-tail personalized economic services, and payment channels and peer banking services.

The representative paper for cluster “blockchain technology” was published by Lansiti and Lakhani ( 2017 ), who analyze the inherent features of blockchain and pointed out that we still have a lot to do to apply blockchain extensively. Other researchers have explored the characteristics of blockchain technology from multiple perspectives. For example, Xu ( 2016 ) explores the types of fraud and malicious activities that blockchain technology can prevent and identifies attacks to which blockchain remains vulnerable. Meanwhile, Aune et al. ( 2017 ) propose a cryptographic approach to solve information leakage problems on a blockchain.

Initial coin offering (ICO) is also a research topic of great concern to scholars. Many researchers analyze the determinants of the success of initial coin offerings (Adhami et al. 2018 ; Ante et al. 2018 ). For example, Fisch ( 2019 ) assesses the determinants of the amount raised in ICOs and discusses the role of signaling ventures’ technological capabilities in ICOs. Deng et al. ( 2018 ) argue the outright ban on ICOs might hamper revolutionary technological development and they provided some regulatory reform suggestions on the current ICO ban in China.

Many researchers have explored blockchain’s support for various industries. The fintech revolution brought by the blockchain has received extensive attention (Yang and Li 2018 ). Researchers agree that this nascent technology may transform traditional trading methods and practice in financial industry (Ashta and Biot-Paquerot 2018 ; Chen et al. 2017 ; Kim and Sarin 2018 ). For instance, Gomber et al. ( 2018 ) discuss transformations in four areas of financial services: operations management, payments, lending, and deposit services. Dierksmeier and Seele ( 2018 ) address the impact of blockchain technology on the nature of financial transactions from a business ethics perspective.

Another cluster corresponds to the sharing economy. A handful of researchers have focused on this field and they have discussed the supporting role played by blockchain in the sharing economy. Pazaitis et al. ( 2017 ) describe a conceptual economic model of blockchain-based decentralized cooperation that might better support the dynamics of social sharing. Sun et al. ( 2016 ) discuss the contribution of emerging blockchain technologies to the three major factors of the sharing economy (i.e., human, technology, and organization). They also analyze how blockchain-based sharing services contribute to smart cities.

In this section, we will discuss the following issues: (1) What will be the future research directions for blockchain? (2) How can businesses benefit from blockchain? We hope that our discussions will be able to provide guidance for future academic development and social practice.

What will be the future research directions for blockchain?

In view of the five themes mentioned in this paper, we provide some recommendations for future research in this section.

The economic benefits of blockchain have been extensively studied in previous research. For individual businesses, it is important to understand the effects of blockchain applications on the organizational structure, mode of operation, and management model of the business. For the market as a whole, it is important to determine whether blockchain can resolve the market failures that are brought about by information asymmetry, and whether it can increase market efficiency and social welfare. However, understanding the mechanisms through which blockchain influences corporate and market efficiency will require further academic inquiry.

For researchers of blockchain technology, this paper suggests that we should pay more attention to privacy protection and security issues. Despite the fact that all of the blockchain transactions are anonymous and encrypted, there is still a risk of the data being hacked. In the security sector, there is a view that absolute security can never be guaranteed wherever physical contact exists. Consequently, the question of how to share transaction data while also protecting personal data privacy are particularly vital issues for both academic and social practice.

Initial coin offering and cryptocurrency markets have grown rapidly. They bring many interesting questions, such as how to manage digital currencies. Although the majority of the previous research has focused on the determinants of success of initial coin offerings, we believe that future research will discuss how to regulate cryptocurrency and the ICO market. The success of blockchain technology in digital currency applications prior to 2015 caught the attention of many traditional financial institutions. As blockchain has continued to reinvent itself, in 2019 it is now more than capable of meeting the needs of the finance industry. We believe that blockchain is able to achieve large-scale applications in many areas of finance, such as banking, capital markets, Internet finance, and related fields. The deep integration of blockchain technology and fintech will continue to be a promising research direction.

The sharing economy is often defined as a peer-to-peer based activity of sharing goods and services among individuals. In the future, sharing among enterprises may become an important part of the new sharing economy. Consequently, building the interconnection of blockchains may become a distinct trend. These interconnections will facilitate the linkages between processes of identity authentication, supply chain management, and payments in commercial operations. They will also allow for instantaneous information exchange and data coordination among enterprises and industries.

How can businesses benefit from blockchain?

Businesses can leverage blockchains in a variety of ways to gain an advantage over their competitors. They can streamline their core business, reduce transaction costs, and make intellectual property ownership and payments more transparent and automated (Felin and Lakhani 2018 ). Many researchers have discussed the application of blockchain in business. After analyzing these studies, we believe that enterprises can consider applying blockchain technology in the four aspects that follow.

Accounting settlement and crowdfunding

Bitcoin or another virtual currency supported by blockchain technology can help businesses to solve funding-related problems. For instance, cryptocurrencies support companies who wish to implement non-cash payments and accounting settlement. The automation of electronic transaction management accounting improves the level of control of monetary business execution, both internally and externally (Zadorozhnyi et al. 2018 ). In addition, blockchain technology represents an emerging source of venture capital crowdfunding (O'Dair and Owen 2019 ). Investors or founders of enterprises can obtain alternative entrepreneurial finance through token sales or initial coin offerings. Companies can handle financial-related issues more flexibly by holding, transferring, and issuing digital currencies that are based on blockchain technology.

Data storage and sharing

As the most valuable resource, data plays a vital role in every enterprise. Blockchain provide a reliable storage and efficient use of data (Novikov et al. 2018 ). As a decentralized and secure ledger, blockchain can be used to manage digital asset for many kinds of companies (Dutra et al. 2018 ). Decentralized data storage means you do not give the data to a centralized agency but give it instead to people around the world because no one can tamper with the data on the blockchain. Businesses can use blockchain to store data, improve the transparency and security of the data, and prevent the data from being tampered with. At the same time, blockchain also supports data sharing. For instance, all of the key parties in the accounting profession leverage an accountancy blockchain to aggregate and share instances of practitioner misconduct across the country on a nearly real-time basis (Sheldon 2018 ).

Supply chain management

Blockchain technology has the potential to significantly change supply chain management (SCM) (Treiblmaier 2018 ). Recent adoptions of the Internet of Things and blockchain technologies support better supply-chain provenance (Kim and Laskowski 2018 ). When the product goes from the manufacturer to the customer, important data are recorded in the blockchain. Companies can trace products and raw materials to effectively monitor product quality.

Smart trading

Businesses can build smart contracts on blockchain, which is widely used to implement business collaborations in general and inter-organizational business processes in particular. Enterprises can automate transactions based on smart contracts on block chains without manual confirmation. For instance, businesses can file taxes automatically under smart contracts (Vishnevsky and Chekina 2018 ).


This paper reviews 756 articles related to blockchain on the Web of Science Core Collection. It shows that the most common subject area is Computer Science, followed by Engineering, Telecommunications, and Business and Economics. In the research of Business and Economics, several key nodes are identified in the literature, such as the top-cited articles, most productive countries, and most common keywords. After a cluster analysis of the keywords, we identified the five most popular research themes: “economic benefit,” “blockchain technology,” “initial coin offerings,” “fintech revolution,” and “sharing economy.”

As an important emerging technology, blockchain will play a role in many fields. Therefore, we believe that the issues related to commercial applications of blockchain are critical for both academic and social practice. We propose several promising research directions. The first important research direction is understanding the mechanisms through which blockchain influences corporate and market efficiency. The second potential research direction is privacy protection and security issues. The third relates to how to manage digital currencies and how to regulate the cryptocurrency market. The fourth potential research direction is how to deeply integrate blockchain technology and fintech. The final topic is cross-chain technology—if each industry has its own blockchain system, then researchers and developers must discover new ways to exchange data. This is the key to achieving the Internet of Value. Thus, cross-chain technology will become an increasingly important topic as time goes on.

Businesses can benefit considerably from blockchain technology. Therefore, we suggest that the application of blockchain be taken into consideration when businesses have the following requirements: accounting settlement and crowdfunding, data storage and sharing, supply chain management, and smart trading.

Our study has recognized some limitations. First, this paper only analyzes the literature in Web of Science Core Collection databases (WOS), which may lead to the incompleteness of the relevant literature. Second, we filter our literature base on the subject category in WOS. In this process, we may have omitted some relevant research. Third, our recommendations have subjective limitations. We hope to initiate more research and discussions to address these points in the future.

Availability of data and materials

Data used in this paper were collected from Web of Science Core Collection.


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This research is supported by grants from National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 71701168 and 71701034).

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Three generations of blockchain

The scope of blockchain applications has increased from virtual currencies to financial applications to the entire social realm. Based on its applications, blockchain is delimited to Blockchain 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0.

Blockchain 1.0

Blockchain 1.0 was related to virtual currencies, such as bitcoin, which was not only the first and most widely used digital currency but it was also the first application of blockchain technology (Mainelli and Smith 2015 ). Digital currencies can reduce many of the costs associated with traditional physical currencies, such as the costs of circulation. Blockchain 1.0 produced a great many applications, one of which was Bitcoin. Most of these applications were digital currencies and tended to be used commercially for small-value payments, foreign exchange, gambling, and money laundering. At this stage, blockchain technology was generally used as a cryptocurrency and for payment systems that relied on cryptocurrency ecosystems.

Blockchain 2.0

Broadly speaking, Blockchain 2.0 includes Bitcoin 2.0, smart-contracts, smart-property, decentralized applications (Dapps), decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), and decentralized autonomous corporations (DACs) (Swan 2015 ). However, most people understand Blockchain 2.0 as applications in other areas of finance, where it is mainly used in securities trading, supply chain finance, banking instruments, payment clearing, anti-counterfeiting, establishing credit systems, and mutual insurance. The financial sector requires high levels of security and data integrity, and thus blockchain applications have some inherent advantages. The greatest contribution of Blockchain 2.0 was the idea of using smart-contracts to disrupt traditional currency and payment systems. Recently, the integration of blockchain and smart contract technology has become a popular research topic in problem resolution. For example, Ethereum, Codius, and Hyperledger have established programmable contract language and executable infrastructure to implement smart contracts.

Blockchain 3.0

In ‘Blockchain: Blueprint for a New Economy’, Blockchain 3.0 is described as the application of blockchain in areas other than currency and finance, such as in government, health, science, culture, and the arts (Swan 2015 ). Blockchain 3.0 aims to popularize the technology, and it focuses on the regulation and governance of its decentralization in society. The scope of this type of blockchain and its potential applications suggests that blockchain technology is a moving target (Crosby et al. 2016 ). Blockchain 3.0 envisions a more advanced form of “smart contracts” to establish a distributed organizational unit that makes and is subject to its own laws and which operates with a high degree of autonomy (Pieroni et al. 2018 ).

The integration of blockchain with tokens is an important combination of Blockchain 3.0. Tokens are proofs of digital rights, and blockchain tokens are widely recognized thanks to Ethereum and its ERC20 standard. Based on this standard, anyone can issue a custom token on Ethereum and this token can represent any right or value. Tokens refer to economic activities generated through the creation of encrypted tokens, which are principally but not exclusively based on the ERC20 standard. Tokens can serve as a form of validation of any right, including personal identity, academic diplomas, currency, receipts, keys, event tickets, rebate points, coupons, stocks, and bonds. Consequently, tokens can validate virtually any right that exists within a society. Blockchain is the back-end technology of the new era, while tokens are its front-end economic face. The combination of the two will bring about major societal transformation. Meanwhile, Blockchain 3.0 and its token economy continue to evolve.

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  • Published: 25 November 2023

Post-quantum distributed ledger technology: a systematic survey

  • Nikhil Kumar Parida 1   na1 ,
  • Chandrashekar Jatoth 1   na1 ,
  • V. Dinesh Reddy 2   na1 ,
  • Md. Muzakkir Hussain 2   na1 &
  • Jamilurahman Faizi 3  

Scientific Reports volume  13 , Article number:  20729 ( 2023 ) Cite this article

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Blockchain technology finds widespread application across various fields due to its key features such as immutability, reduced costs, decentralization, and transparency. The security of blockchain relies on elements like hashing, digital signatures, and cryptography. However, the emergence of quantum computers and supporting algorithms poses a threat to blockchain security. These quantum algorithms pose a significant threat to both public-key cryptography and hash functions, compelling the redesign of blockchain architectures. This paper investigates the status quo of the post-quantum, quantum-safe, or quantum-resistant cryptosystems within the framework of blockchain. This study starts with a fundamental overview of both blockchain and quantum computing, examining their reciprocal influence and evolution. Subsequently, a comprehensive literature review is conducted focusing on Post-Quantum Distributed Ledger Technology (PQDLT). This research emphasizes the practical implementation of these protocols and algorithms providing extensive comparisons of characteristics and performance. This work will help to foster further research at the intersection of post-quantum cryptography and blockchain systems and give prospective directions for future PQDLT researchers and developers.


The rise in bitcoin’s popularity brought blockchain into the spotlight among various stakeholders, including academicians, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), and even policy-making governmental bodies. The reason is that blockchain served as the foundation for the creation of a reliable, secure, and transparent cryptocurrency ecosystem 1 . Numerous developments revolved around bitcoin and blockchain, positioning them at the core of innovation. Distributed ledger technology (DLT) encompasses the underlying infrastructure and protocols that facilitate concurrent access, validation, and real-time updates across a networked database. Serving as the foundational technology for the creation of blockchain systems, DLT empowers users to monitor updates, and trace their origins, minimizes the need for data auditing, upholds data integrity, and restricts access to authorized personnel. These days, a new technology has emerged, known as Quantum Computing (QC) 2 , which poses significant risks to many DLTs. These risks include the potential for breaking traditional encryption methods and enabling faster mining with quantum computers, thereby gaining control over the network. To address this looming threat, an update to existing blockchain technology is imperative 3 .

Post-quantum distributed ledger technologies (PQDLTs) are the updated version of the classical DLT and are currently in the early stage of development 4 . PQDLTs encompass blockchains and similar DLT networks that can operate seamlessly in the face of the impending threat posed by scalable quantum computers. Quantum computers, as described by Brassard 5 , leverage quantum computing principles to solve complex problems. Classes of problems that take exponential time in classical computers can be solved in polynomial time complexity by a quantum computer 6 . Noticeably, the advent of quantum computing has cast a shadow on the security of blockchain, DLTs, and various cryptographic methods 7 . While quantum computers make predicting the private keys of blockchains easier, it is important to note that fault-tolerant and scalable quantum computers are yet to come into existence. Thus, there is still scope for researchers to develop PQDLTs capable of addressing the challenges posed by quantum computers.

The contemporary PQDLTs can be broadly categorized into two groups. The first category employs classical schemes 8 , while the second category leverages quantum mechanical properties to enhance security, as discussed by 9 . Although the second category is more desirable due to its reliance on the laws of physics for security, it poses inherent challenges such as dependence on QC algorithms, making them challenging to implement. Moreover, the PQDLTs are costly and non-scalable till date. Given that blockchain, as exemplified by bitcoin, has become an integral part of secure systems, it is more advisable to update it rather than replace it with alternative technologies 1 . As a rsult, the demand for quantum-secured DLTs becomes significant, underscoring the importance of ongoing research in this field.

A Systematic Literature Review (SLR) is a research methodology that systematically identifies, evaluates, and consolidates all pertinent research on a specific topic in a transparent and organized manner. The primary objective of any SLR is to provide a comprehensive analysis of the current state of research. This process entails thorough and exhaustive searching, data extraction, data presentation, and critical assessment. Currently, there is a noticeable absence of a well-structured SLR that focuses on the implementation details of post-quantum schemes for PQDLTs. This gap in the literature can result in wasted time for researchers and lead to inconsistent and biased conclusions, hindering the evaluation of the research landscape. In response to this gap, we have conducted an SLR on PQDLTs with the following key objectives:

To elucidate the concept of PQDLTs and explore the reasons behind their emergence.

To examine the methods and techniques employed in the implementation of PQDLTs.

To identify the challenges and issues associated with PQDLTs.

To envision the future prospects and potential developments in the field of PQDLTs.

This article aims to improve the understanding of the techniques used to mitigate the threats posed by QC towards ascertaining the relevance and security of DLTs in the quantum era. In order to disseminate knowledge about PQDLTs among researchers and developers, the article presents an SLR of state-of-the-art approaches and methodologies devised for fortifying PQDLTs. The major contributions of this SLR include the identification and classification of different approaches aimed at fortifying PQDLTs.

The remainder of this paper is organized as follows: “ Background ” provides a basic background of blockchain and its architectural description. In “ Quantum computing ” an introduction to QC, the key concepts, components of quantum computers, and QC algorithms is provided. “ Integration of quantum computing and blockchain ” highlights the effects of QC on the existing blockchain, threats, and opportunities revolving around them. “ Quantum secured DLTs: systematic literature review ” provides an SLR focused to synthesize the status quo of the PQDLTs, along with the state-of-the-art approaches and methodologies devised for fortifying PQDLTs. “ Application of quantum secure distributed ledger technologies ” highlights the key applications of PQDLTs. “ Threats to validity ” outlines the threats to the validity of this work. “ Conclusion ” highlights the conclusions and utility of the proposed study.

Blockchain architecture

figure 1

Layered architecture of blockchain.

figure 2

Blocks structure inside blockchain.

Blockchain represents a decentralized ledger system designed to facilitate secure computing within an untrustworthy or cryptocurrency ecosystem . Its prominence can be largely attributed to its most renowned application, Bitcoin 10 . The use-cases are exploded via the creation of various cryptocurrencies, decentralized finance (DeFi) applications, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and smart contracts. In decentralized finance (DeFi) applications, bitcoin effectively executes peer-to-peer financial transactions without reliance on a traditional banking system. While Bitcoin was established in 2009, the underlying principles and techniques enabling both blockchain and bitcoin have evolved over the past decade 11 . These advancements include development of consensus algorithms and the utilization of anonymous transactions. The widespread popularity of Bitcoin has propelled blockchain into the forefront of DLTs 12 . Blockchain can be elucidated through a layered architecture, as illustrated in Figs. 1 13 . This architectural framework encompasses the following layers: the application layer, contract layer, incentive layer, consensus layer, network layer, data layer, and hardware layer. Each of these layers are explained below:

Hardware layer: Every conventional blockchain network consists of numerous nodes that may be spread throughout various geographical areas 14 . Such nodes could be cloud-hosted or can belong to an institution’s internal network, having connectivity to many facilities such as storage systems, etc. It is just like any other P2P network, i.e. all nodes that are part of the network are linked to one other, nevertheless, this communication is accomplished using standard Internet infrastructures. The computer network quantifies both the monetary and non-monetary transactions, verifies these transactions, and saves them in a common /mutual ledger shared by all the nodes that are participating. Data collected is stored in local nodes in the on-chain approach and remotely in the off-chain approach.

Data layer: In the Blockchain, all the transactions are stored in an organized 15 fashion in the blocks, which are connected to each other. Stored data of the blocks can further be classified into two groups which are block body and block header as shown in Fig. 2 . Metadata of the chain is usually stored in the block header, which is the Merkle tree root hash, a hash of the previous block, the current version of the block, and a time stamp. Whereas the block body usually possesses a transaction and transaction counter. After the data is added to the chain it cannot be mutated or modified.

All the data is stored in an encrypted form. To find any mutation or alteration in data, cryptographic hashing functions are used. It is also used to identify the blocks. Hash functions like SHA 256 are pretty commonly used for this purpose. A special type of binary tree is utilized with the purpose to store such hash values called the Merkle tree 16 . To maintain Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability also known as the CIA triad is necessary to use digital signatures with every transaction with the involvement of private keys. Digital signatures also help in the detection of unauthorized tampering of data.

Network layer: Blockchain is a P2P network. In a typical P2P network, all the nodes are connected and the network layer is solely 17 responsible for synchronization between nodes, the discovery of nodes, and node-to-node communication. To maintain the global state of the blockchain it is necessary to take care of the state propagation, this is also taken care of at this layer. There are many types of blockchain, public blockchain, hybrid blockchain, private and consortium blockchain. A private blockchain is a type where a governing body is present and this body decides whether a node should join or not. Public blockchain on the other hand anyone with an internet connection joins the network. Hybrid blockchains are possesses the qualities of both public and private blockchains. It stands in between public and private and harnesses the benefits of both. The consortium is last on the list. It is a semi-decentralized type of blockchain where multiple nodes act as an authority. The node mentioned earlier can be roughly categorized into two classes, full nodes, and lightweight nodes. The full node contains the details of transactions that have voting rights. Lightweight nodes on the other hand do not possess the right to participate in voting, but they assist full nodes in daily routine work.

Consensus layer: Reliability is a key aspect of blockchain and the consensus layer 18 is responsible for this in the blockchain network. To achieve it every participant is required to follow all the set of rules that are being enforced by the layer and these rules are called consensus. It is due to the consensus algorithm that we see single and continuous chains because it does not allow forking. The consensus layer verifies, administers, maintains, and does the management of block generation. It guarantees power distribution across the blockchain network and this help in the prevention of data tampering (any attempt by an adversary to tamper data). The consensus layer also rewards the validator node and mining node based on the performance. It uses many consensuses to ensure consistency, but the two most widely used are probabilistic and deterministic approaches. Ethereum and Bitcoin both use the probabilistic approach, whereas Hyperledger is an example of a deterministic approach.

Incentive layer: The role of the incentive layer 19 is to maximize node participation in security verification conducted by the blockchain. It is achieved by giving some incentives to the participating nodes. If participation increases, the security will also increase. The role of the incentive layer is to maximize node participation in security verification conducted by the blockchain. It is achieved by giving some incentives to the participating nodes.

Contract layer: The contract layer is also known as the smart contract layer. It is quite similar yet different from an auto-executable piece of code. It comprises several algorithms, multiple scripts and contracts which makes blockchain more manageable and programmable. It’s a system component. It reacts to messages received or sent, it can store, and transfer values and information.

Application layer: It mainly manages centralized node’s security. An important task in security is handling digital currency transactions 20 . This layer consists of Dapps, UI (Decentralized applications and User Interface), and APIs. The decentralized applications are built on top of blockchain infrastructure. They can interact with chain code and smart contracts. These decentralized applications are controlled by multiple parties and are distributed in nature.

figure 3

Blockchain node in-depth view.

figure 4

Blockchain structure.

Structure of a block in blockchain

Blockchain can be described as a decentralized storage and transaction processing system. Every blockchain network has a main chain and the first block in this chain is called the genesis block, depicted in Fig. 3 . The contents of this block are solely dependent on the participating nodes. These nodes may be either validator nodes or mining nodes depending on whether the blockchain is permissioned or public, respectively 21 . These nodes carry out transaction validation based on standard consensus algorithms. Figure 4 provides an overview of the entire transaction process within the blockchain network. The genesis block, also known as “block 0,” serves as the first block in the blockchain but being the initial block, it does not contain the previous block’s hash.

In the blockchain, the blocks are in the form of transactions generated by the client. These blocks are then broadcasted across the peer-to-peer (P2P) network. Upon receiving these blocks, nodes within the network start mining, which involves verifying transactions based on the criteria established by the original consensus algorithms.

The mining process can vary significantly, with blockchains employing diverse approaches such as Proof of Stake (PoS) and Proof of Work (PoW) in the probabilistic approach 22 , or Practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance (PFBT) in the deterministic approach 23 .

In the PoW method, participating mining nodes compete with one another to provide mathematical proof for transaction validation. Typically, incentives are provided to encourage node participation. Once transactions are verified, they are grouped together, forming a new block that is subsequently appended to the immutable blockchain.

The flow of the blockchain process

The blockchain process involves a sequence of steps that are designed to securely record and verify transactions or data within a decentralized network. The flow of the blockchain process is given below:

Transaction Initiation: The process begins when a user initiates a transaction. This could be a cryptocurrency transfer, the creation of a smart contract, or the recording of any data on the blockchain.

Transaction Proposal: The initiated transaction is then proposed to the network. In the case of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum, this proposal typically includes details like the sender’s address, the recipient’s address, the amount to be transferred, and transaction fees.

Transaction Verification: The proposed transaction is broadcast to all the nodes (participants) on the blockchain network. Nodes collect and verify the transaction’s validity, ensuring that the sender has sufficient funds or permissions to make the transfer, and that the transaction adheres to the network’s rules and protocols.

Transaction Bundling: Valid transactions are bundled together into a block. The creation of a block usually involves solving a complex mathematical puzzle (proof of work) or through other consensus mechanisms, depending on the blockchain’s protocol.

Block Propagation: Once a block is created and verified by the network, it is broadcast to all the nodes on the network. Every node updates its copy of the blockchain with the new block of transactions.

Consensus Mechanism: Nodes on the network then engage in a consensus mechanism, such as proof of work, proof of stake, or other methods, to agree on the validity of the block. Once consensus is reached, the block is considered confirmed, and the transactions within it become permanent.

Adding to the Blockchain: The confirmed block is then added to the existing blockchain. Each block contains a reference to the previous block (except for the first block, called the “genesis block”), forming a chain of blocks. This linkage ensures the immutability of the entire blockchain.

Blockchain Validation: The entire blockchain, including the new block, is continuously validated by nodes on the network. This ongoing process ensures the security and integrity of the entire blockchain.

Record Keeping: Once a block is added to the blockchain, the transactions contained within it are permanently recorded. This record is available for anyone to view and can be used for auditing or verification purposes.

Network Maintenance: The blockchain network is continuously maintained by nodes, which can include miners, validators, and full nodes. They ensure that transactions are processed, and new blocks are added according to the blockchain’s rules and protocols.

User Verification: Users can independently verify transactions by examining the blockchain. They can track the history of transactions and ensure that the data recorded is accurate and has not been tampered with.

Transaction Completion: The recipient of the transaction is notified that the transfer has been completed and can access the funds or data. In the case of cryptocurrencies, the recipient’s balance is updated. The blockchain process ensures transparency, security, and trust in a decentralized manner. It allows participants to engage in transactions without relying on intermediaries while maintaining a tamper-proof and immutable ledger of all activities within the network. This process is at the core of various blockchain applications, from cryptocurrencies to supply chain management and beyond.

Quantum computing

Quantum Computing (QC) is one of the most recent paradigms that has gained significant attention from researchers in this decade 24 . In his seminal work 25 , Richard Feynman articulated the concept of a machine grounded in the principles of quantum mechanics, which subsequently served as the initial spark for the inception of a quantum computer. A quantum computer employs concepts such as superposition and entanglement, which are intrinsic to the realm of quantum mechanics. In comparison to its conventional machines, quantum computers possess superior computational power and capabilities. Quantum computers have the remarkable ability to tackle complex and previously intractable problems. They find application in domains such as quantum chemistry 26 , drug design and development 27 , clean energy solutions 28 , quantum sensing 29 , optimization problems 30 , finance 31 , and a myriad of other fields 32 . Recent years have witnessed substantial progress in the development of quantum hardware, quantum software, and quantum algorithms .

Understanding the basics

Qubit is the basic unit of Quantum Computing, it is different from the classical bit. Classical bit stores discrete values either “0” or “1”. The qubit does not store a discrete value of 0 or 1, rather it represents the probability of having 0 or 1 as depicted in Fig. 5 . It follows the principle of quantum mechanics and a qubit 33 can be represented in state 0, state 1, or both. As a result, the qubit is denoted as a \(\langle 0 \rangle \) + b \(\langle 1 \rangle \) . Where “b” is the coefficient of state “1” and “a” is the coefficient of state “0”.

figure 5

Classical bit and qubit.

Due to the property of the superposition a single qubit access to space is equivalent to two bits. Similarly, as the number of qubits increases the computational space that can be accessed also increases. With this very large computational space, QC can solve a very large range of computational problems. A simple example can be given in the form of a 3-bit number, a 3-bit number can store any one of these at a time 000,001,010,011,100,101,110,111. But a qubit is in a superposition of all the states so this means a \(\langle 000 \rangle \) + b \(\langle 001 \rangle \) + c \(\langle 010 \rangle \) + d \(\langle 011 \rangle \) + e \(\langle 100 \rangle \) + f \(\langle 101 \rangle \) + g \(\langle 110 \rangle \) + h \(\langle 111 \rangle \) . This implies that we can store \({2{^n}}\) bits in the space of n bits at the same time.

figure 6

Quantum entanglement.

Similar to superposition, QC also employs another important property known as entanglement, as depicted in Fig. 6 . In classical computing, individual bits operate independently, with no influence on each other. However, qubits, the quantum counterparts of bits, are interdependent, called “entangled bits”.

The qubits are also referred to as demonstrating “spooky action at a distance”, having some shared property. It means that when one entangled qubit is measured, the value of the other qubit is instantaneously determined, regardless of the physical distance that separates them. This phenomenon perplexed eminent scientists like Albert Einstein, leading to the formulation of the EPR paradox by Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen, as detailed in Home 34 .

Components of a quantum computer

According to Nelson and Chuang 35 , the physical quantum computer may be of different kinds which are listed below:

Optical Photon Quantum Computers 36

Optical Cavity Quantum Electrodynamics 37

Ion Traps 38

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Quantum Computers 39

Spin-Based Quantum Computers 40

Quantum Dots 41

Superconducting Quantum Computing (Josephson junctions) 42

The most efficient and most commonly known quantum computers which are known as “universal quantum computers” are based on superconducting qubits. The quantum computing hardware explained below is based on the universal quantum computer. The fundamental components of a substantial quantum computer include a Quantum Central Processing Unit (QCPU), quantum logic gates, quantum control and measurement circuits, quantum error detection and correction tools, and quantum memory 43 .

Quantum Logic Gates: These logic gates perform 44 transformations on the input qubit, these transformations are unitary and reversible in nature. These gates apply matrix transformation to the qubits(which are also represented in the form of matrices). This can be explained as the matrix multiplication of two matrices where the first matrix is a qubit while the other is the logic gate. The result of this matrix multiplication is termed the output of the gate. There are single qubit gates like Pauli Gate, Hadamard Gate, etc which take a single qubit as an input and then there are multiple qubit gates like CNOT Gate which take more than one qubit as input. Figures 7 and 8 explain gates their symbol and their transformation operator.

figure 7

Single qubit quantum logic gates.

Quantum Memory: Quantum memories are collections of many quantum states in different superposition configurations. Quantum registers 45 are used in quantum memory to store a quantum circuit’s quantum states. Additionally, qubits and qutrits are important forms of computing data that are stored as quantum states. Recently, robust quantum systems have been created employing arrays of quantum states to construct quantum memories.

figure 8

Multiple qubit quantum logic gates.

Quantum processing unit (QPU): The QPU 6 , executes the job using quantum computing and quantum mechanical principles, which is a crucial component and can be called the core of the Quantum Computer. The QPU differs significantly from the traditional CPU in terms of characteristics since these concepts are based on quantum physics. Computation states are preserved in terms of a quantum mechanical state, all of this is done by the QPU. It communicates with several other components of the quantum computer through the quantum bus.

Quantum control and measurement circuitry: To properly supervise numerous manipulative operations on quantum states. It also handles error correction 46 and detection procedures, quantum computers require a quantum control and measurement system, for these purposes Quantum control and measurement mechanism are needed and the lower the error rate is, the higher the accuracy becomes.

Quantum error correction and detection tools: Error detection and correction techniques are applied to find and rectify faults that occur while the quantum gates are operating. Error correction is a necessary step it rectifies the error caused due to noise and decoherence and saves quantum information from being deteriorated. Ancilla qubits 47 play an important role in this purpose, they discover errors without altering the information. It’s worth noting that the types of errors identified in quantum computers differ significantly from that of standard computing systems since the error might occur due to variations in the amplitude of the quantum state or phase of the quantum state. To attain fault-resistant quantum processing, an error correction, and detection system is necessary to cope with, not just noise on saved quantum information, but also faulty measurements, faulty quantum measurements, and defective quantum gates. Another interesting approach is being provided by D-Wave systems which are known as quantum annealers 48 . Quantum annealers provide applications for Constrain Satisfaction Problems (CSP) 49 and Discrete optimization 50 . Such devices provide exact optimal solutions due to the effects of quantum tunneling 51 .

Quantum computing algorithms

The first person to propose the idea of the quantum computer was none other than Nobel prize winner “Richard Feynman” 25 . He envisioned a machine that can work on quantum mechanical principles, which gives rise to the idea of a Quantum computer. To properly utilize the power of quantum computers, reliable Quantum computing algorithms 52 will be needed. Daniel Simon presented the quantum computing algorithm 53 that was found to be faster at speed than a conventional method. Similarly many other algorithms were created, the list of quantum algorithms is represented in Fig. 9 . Quantum computing algorithms can be classified as follows:

Quantum Fourier Transform (QFT) and Deutsch Jozsa algorithms: The set of quantum algorithms that make either make use of QFT or Deutsch Jozsa algorithms or both at their core, belongs to this class. some of the examples of this class are-Simon’s Algorithm 54 , Boson Sampling Problem 55 , Bernstein- Vazirani Algorithm 56 , Shor’s Algorithm 57 , Estimating Gauss Sums 58 , Fourier fishing and Fourier checking 59 , Quantum Phase Estimation Algorithm 60 , and Hidden Subgroup Problem 61 .

Amplitude amplification algorithms: These algorithms are used for the purpose to amplify one particular state present in superposition, out of all other states. Their application can be seen in optimization, database searches, etc., examples of this class are Quantum counting 62 and Grover’s algorithm 63 .

Quantum Walks algorithms: These are class of algorithms that mimics classical random walks 64 in quantum form. The source of randomness comes from the superposition of quantum states and many other quantum mechanical properties. Quantum walks can be used in searching, graph traversal, etc. Some examples are Element Distinction Problem 65 , Triangle Finding Problem 66 , Group commutativity 67 , Formula Evaluation 68 .

Bounded error quantum polynomial time (BQP) Complete Problems: BQP 69 can be termed as decision problems. Decision problems are classes of problems that needs a “yes” or “no”. Some classical examples are, the Turing machine halting problem or finding if a number is prime or not. So, BQP problems should be solved able in polynomial time by a quantum computer and must have a probability of error \(< 1/3\) . Some example of BQP are Computing Knot in-variants 70 , Quantum Simulations 71 and Solving a System of Linear Equations 72 .

Hybrid Classical/Quantum algorithms: These are the classes of problems that combine both classical and quantum methodology to generate the result. As these algorithms are leveraged with computing power of both the classical and quantum systems, they provide higher efficiency and better speed. Some examples are QAOA 73 and Variational Quantum Eigen solver 74 .

figure 9

A taxonomy quantum algorithms.

Subsequently, a stack of groundbreaking quantum algorithms emerged, paving the way for remarkable discoveries that form the basis of this paper. Among the most prominent of these algorithms are Shor’s algorithm 57 and Grover’s algorithm 63 . These algorithms can further be categorized into two subgroups: one that uses principles of quantum mechanics to tackle the problems caused by quantum computing, and the other that uses classical math problems to make communication secure, even though quantum computers are powerful and efficient, it is yet to make an appearance.

Integration of quantum computing and blockchain

The rise of QC poses several significant challenges to the blockchain ecosystem. In this section, we delve into the potential impact of QC on blockchain technology. First, the quantum attacks threaten to compromise the security of data stored on the blockchain by breaking current encryption standards, potentially leading to unauthorized access and data breaches. It is anticipated that by around 2035, quantum computers will reach a level of sophistication where they could effectively even shatter security algorithms like RSA-2048 . A significant portion of the functionality within blockchain systems relies on cryptographic protocols, specifically those based on Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) and the Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm (ECDSA) . These protocols are susceptible to quantum attacks, as highlighted in 75 .

The legacy blockchain systems and applications rely on traditional, non-quantum-resistant cryptographic algorithms, including ECC and ECDSA-based schemes, to create private and public key pairs. Given the decentralized and distributed nature of blockchain systems, there is no central authority to oversee key management. Consequently, if these keys are compromised, the responsibility falls solely on the affected node, and there is no offline backup of the data. As quantum computers become more powerful, these systems could become vulnerable, posing a risk to both past and present transactions and data. Moreover, the transition from classical to post-quantum cryptography might create a period of vulnerability if not managed properly. Figures 10 and 11 respectively, illustrate how data is stored within this context and the specific types of data that are stored. Such a scenario poses significant challenges to the security of the blockchain system, and in the event of physical device loss or node compromise, the entire dataset could be irretrievably lost.

figure 10

Merkle tree structure in blockchain.

figure 11

Details stored in blockchain.

Technically, the security threats can be categorized into two distinct segments, as follows 76 :

1. Speeding up the nonce generation and collision of hashes: The security of blockchain hinges on the ability to identify hash collisions, a highly resource-intensive and time-consuming task currently beyond the reach of existing technology. However, the advent of powerful quantum computers equipped with advanced computing capabilities could significantly simplify this process. For instance, one of the most common Grover’s algorithm 63 , can efficiently find pre-images for hashing schemes, particularly those as challenging to invert as SHA-256. This searching algorithm can search in unstructured data with a time complexity on the order of \(\sqrt{N}\) .

This possibly allows for the introduction of changed blocks into the blockchain network without jeopardizing the block’s chronological continuity. On the contrary, because the longest chain in the network is traditionally acknowledged as the valid one 77 , the chain that grows faster will eventually dominate the entire network. Such nodes will consequently gain control of the blockchain’s content. With Grover’s algorithm operating at its full capacity, nonce calculations would be surprisingly faster. This could result in quantum-powered nodes outperforming others and exerting influence over the entire network.

2. Breaking the classical encryption: Quantum computing has garnered attention for its ability to crack asymmetric key encryption and digital signature schemes that rely on problems like discrete logarithms and integer factoring 78 . This poses a significant threat to blockchain technology. For instance, bitcoin employs a digital signature based on ECC 79 . However, using an advanced version of Shor’s algorithm 57 , it is feasible to determine all ECC-related keys utilized in the bitcoin system. Notably, Google demonstrated that with approximately 20 million noisy qubits, RSA-2048 encryption could be cracked in just eight hours.

There’s also a risk of centralization as quantum computing technology is expensive and complex, potentially undermining the decentralization principles of blockchain technology. Privacy concerns arise from the potential for quantum-enhanced data analysis, necessitating a balance between data analysis and protection. Finally, the shift to quantum-resistant blockchain technology may be economically disruptive, requiring significant investments and the overhaul of existing systems, potentially impacting industries reliant on blockchain technology.

Possible solutions

1. Quantum cryptography : Quantum computing is delivering technological advancement in many fields, one of them being cryptography. There are several encryption technologies that may have a substantial influence on the blockchain. The Quantum key distribution (QKD) 80 is the main and most established approach in the field of quantum cryptography that even quantum computers could not crack. QKD is entirely based on the law of quantum physics. Unlike any other classical scheme which is based on complex mathematical models. QKD works with the principle that, once a quantum state is observed it causes the collapse of quantum wave function. QKD can be used as a cryptographic technique for message encryption, and Ivan et al. 81 suggested a unique approach using QKD, that will be helpful for post-quantum cryptography. Such innovations help to prevent blockchain from the fierce attack involving quantum computers.

2. Detectable Byzantine agreement and quantum synchronization: Blockchain does not have a central authority. This means the Byzantine general problem 78 must be solved and a proper consensus algorithm must be established for the proper functioning of the network. There are several different approaches and different consensus algorithms which are currently being deployed on different platforms.

For instance, bitcoin employs the proof of work method which is a probabilistic way to handle the Byzantine agreement problem, assuming that the majority of nodes were legitimate. Even though this issue cannot be resolved completely in a traditional manner, it may be simplified to the issue of creating and safely disseminating correlative lists, which eventually evolves into 82 Detectable Byzantine Agreement (DBA). The use of quantum synchronization can be helpful in many ways and one of them is to reach a consensus even with the presence of a large number of faulty nodes. There are different methods to reach Byzantine agreement - some authors used QKD, while some used three entangled qutrits, and some used four qubit singlet states.

3. Post-Quantum Cryptography This section highlights the necessity for Quantum Secured Distributed Ledger Technologies. Blockchain networks or similar DLTs use hashing, digital signatures, etc. for secure and fault-free communication. But these schemes are not quantum resistant. This leads to post-quantum digital signatures and post-quantum cryptography schemes. Making digital signature and encryption scheme quantum secure makes the blockchain or similar DLTs also quantum secure. “ Components of a quantum computer ” explains post-quantum cryptography and how PQC makes DLTs relevant in the future. Though RSA and ECC are not quantum resistant, there are many algorithms/schemes which are quantum resistant. NIST Round 1 and Round 2 have filtered out many algorithms/ cryptographic schemes which are resistant to attacks from the quantum computer 83 84 . Most of the post-quantum cryptographic schemes including digital signatures can be grouped into the following categories:

Multivariate quadratic equation-based cryptosystem: Solving the quadratic equation in a finite field is an NP-Hard problem and these cryptosystems use this advantage to make public key encryption schemes 85 . A lot of digital signature schemes based on this are being utilized for being quantum resistant.

Lattice-based cryptosystems: Shortest vector problem (SVP) 86 takes exponential time to solve it classically. There are many other lattice problem-based schemes that are quantum secure such as the short integer solution (SIS) problem and the bonsai tree, etc. 87

Supersingular elliptic curve isogeny-based cryptosystems: The entire principle on which these cryptosystems works is “Isogeny between the elliptic curves in a finite space” 88 . It is proved that it will take sub-exponential time to make isogenies of elliptic curves 89 .

Code-based cryptosystems: The syndrome decoding problem’s hardness is the core of the code-based cryptosystem 90 . There are a few core methods from which most of the code-based techniques are derived, those are McEliece cryptosystem 91 , Niederreiter cryptosystem 92 , CFS signature scheme 93 , and Stern’s identification 94 .

Secret key-based cryptosystems: Quantum computing will not be beneficial when it comes to exhaustive search 95 , 96 . This makes all symmetric and hash-based algorithms quantum-safe. But it is not true for every existing symmetric algorithm as shown in 4 .

Hash-based digital signature schemes 97 : Underlying hash function’s Collision resistance is the property that is considered when it is said to be quantum secure. It is known that for dimension space “N” the time complexity will be \(O[{N^{1/3}}]\) to find hash collisions. Merkle signature scheme 98 and one-time signature scheme 99 are the two categories in which the hash-based signature schemes can be divided. Tables 1 and 2 list the post-quantum cryptographic schemes and digital signature schemes that were made to the second and third rounds of NIST respectively.

Quantum secured DLTs : systematic literature review

The research methodology includes a process by which analysis of literature is carried out. This involves metaphysical and taxonomical analysis, rigorous evaluation, and documentation. A systematic literature review (SLR) is a scientific review process, where identification, classification, evaluation, and crucial interpretation of existing research methodologies/techniques/ algorithms are carried out. Unlike nonstandard reviews, SLR involves Planning Review, Conducting Review, and Documenting Review.

Planning review

This process consists of three sub-process: identifying the needs, identifying the research question, and lastly development and validation of the review protocol. Figure 12 provides detailed overview of the implied research methodology.

Identifying the need

We identified, classified, and compare the existing research surveys to find the gaps. This section presents the existing surveys which are related to PQDLTs and discusses their pros and cons. There were only 5 relevant review papers in this field and all have some sort of deficiencies that we have addressed in the later segment of this section.

figure 12

Overview of SLR followed in this paper.

Robert E. 105 in their literature work looked for the issues present in the Elliptical Curve Digital Signature Algorithm (ECDSA). ECDSA is currently being used in Bitcoin, Ethereum, etc. Further, the author has listed out several algorithms that have qualified the NIST rounds and pointed out the advantages of those algorithms. The primary evaluation was done for only one family of the post-quantum cryptography scheme that being the qTESLA 106 . The rest other types of algorithms and schemes were not properly studied in their paper. M.Edwards et al. 107 studied the classical and post-quantum cryptographic schemes. The authors explained about proof of work and proof of stake used in the blockchain networks. They discussed about collisions free quantum money 108 , Quantum Key Distribution and quantum lightning 109 , etc. This work solely focuses on the monetary aspect of the blockchain and simply tend to ignore other equally important section and other classical algorithms that made it to the NIST higher rounds were not mentioned. Ciulei et al. 2 explained all the classical schemes that passed the NIST upper rounds. They started the background of quantum computing and the need for a quantum-secured scheme. A lot of emphasis is given to blockchain and how it works. The number of papers included in their work that implemented quantum secure blockchain was less. Tiago M. et al. 110 briefly classified the post-quantum encryption schemes and post-quantum digital signature schemes. The authors explain the problems of blockchain and the solutions to those. No other literature has explained it in such a vibrant way, however, there is very less content on the implementations of quantum blockchain. This paper gave little emphasis on the implementation details of the schemes that made it into higher rounds of the NIST 83 , 84 competition.

Our focus is on understanding the functionalities, that were employed in different schemes and to find their advantages and disadvantages. How they differ from one another, and what make them secure, relevant, and useful in the upcoming quantum era.

Identifying the research question

In this section, we specify the research question that we used to conduct our survey. The research questions that we addressed in this paper are:

which/what are post-quantum distributed ledger technologies? Why are they important?

How are they implemented and what parameters are used in their implementations? How they differ from existing works?

What make them secure, relevant, and useful in the upcoming quantum computing era?

What are the applications and benefits of post-quantum distributed ledger technologies?

Conducting review

This phase consists of collecting research works, information extraction from the literature, and synthesizing this information. While collecting the relevant papers we followed a methodical technique 111 to examine and analyze the research in the field of PQDLTs. We use the respective websites of the publications as well as google scholar and use relevant keywords, like “quantum secured blockchain, quantum-resistant blockchain, post-quantum cryptography, etc”, for preparing this literature. After careful revision, the number of papers were reduced to 20. The reason for the selection of 20 papers is due to the inclusion and exclusion criteria that we employed. We included papers from relevant and trusted conferences journals and transactions only. Whereas non-English language-based papers, book chapters, thesis, non-peer-reviewed papers, and white papers are excluded. The details of selected papers are graphically depicted in Fig. 13 . We removed 16 articles because the implemented quantum-secured DLTs did not manage to pass in higher rounds of NIST competition.

figure 13

SLR breakdown.

Figure 14 shows a detailed graph of the number of papers published in different years. After analyzing all these papers thoroughly it can be seen that number of papers increases significantly in 2018 when compared to 2017. There is no increase in the number of research papers on PQDLTs from 2018 to 2020. But it increased from 2021.

figure 14

Number of papers published in different years.

Documenting review

This phase involves document observation and result description. After information extraction, we organize these articles into two categories based on the schemes they have used: (i) quantum cryptography and (ii) post quantum cryptography. We perform data synthesizing, where the merits, demerits, and the methodologies applied by these papers are presented below. Further, a comparative study of these research papers are presented in well-organized tables.

Quantum cryptography

Quantum cryptography employs the inherent characteristics of quantum mechanics to encrypt data securely and transmit it in a manner that is impervious to hacking attempts. This section presents various quantum cryptography techniques developed using quantum key distribution (QKD), quantum entanglement, etc.

Kiktenko et al. 112 proposed a two-layer network protocol in a blockchain network with n nodes. They used Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) in layer one, the quantum layer, and Toeplitz hashing in layer second, which is a classical one. QKD is required for generating the keys, for the two entities that are connected through a quantum channel. This quantum channel handles the transfer of the quantum states. They used the network with 4 nodes and they put the upper bound on the number of faulty nodes, which was equal to one. With the number of rounds in the broadcast protocol being equal to two. The time taken for the block generation is 5 minutes with an average authentication hash length is 40 bits and it took 80 bits for the quantum key during broadcasting. The author did not clearly mention the Quantum Key Distribution protocol, which they have taken into consideration off. This method clearly is secure and provides transparency but, the transfer rate suffers with the increase in channel length.

Nilesh and Panigrahi 116 provided a Blockchain model which was implemented with the help of the generalized Gram-Schmidt method, with the involvement of dimensional lifting in it. The transaction data is stored in a multiple-qubit form and this data is encrypted through the generalized Gram-Schmidt process. This work is among the few that have considered the forking process in the chain and also prepared for their possible solutions. This system has low complexity and it is a permissionless blockchain system what makes it better than other models. However, to enter into the network one would require specific quantum infrastructure such as quantum state preparation, quantum storage, etc. This model takes into consideration of double spending attacks and proposed their countermeasures. The instability of the Generalized Gram-Schmidt Procedure should be taken into consideration and maintaining a multi-qubit state are subsequently harder. Sandeep Mishra et al. 113 proposed an electronic voting machine based on the quantum-assisted blockchain. Their proposed system is a permissioned blockchain that uses Quantum Key Distributions, Quantum Random Number Generators and Quantum Secret sharing. This system store votes in the permissioned blockchain which is secure against the upcoming next generations of the quantum computer. The proposed scheme can be implemented with present technology as an application of quantum blockchain. It does have a centralized authority which implies that it cannot be a fully distributed system. The system does not mention or focus on the scalability aspect and it uses BB84 122 which is less efficient and inferior compared to other existing QKD schemes.

Sun et al. 114 developed a blockchain system named logicontract. This new blockchain system uses an algorithm based on the vote-based methodology which helps in achieving consensus among them. Vote-based consensus algorithms are generally used in permissioned blockchains. This work uses the Toeplitz Group Signature, for the signatures, it is easy to implement and require fewer resources when compared with other schemes in a similar category. The authors have used “YAC” yet another consensus, as the base which was used in the Hyperledger Iroha Blockchain framework. Authors implemented the improved “YAC” in their logicontract with the name “QSYAC”- quantum secured yet another consensus. QSYAC differs from its predecessor YAC because it uses Toeplitz group signature instead of the public key signature scheme. This consensus protocol scales better with the number of peers but it is difficult to estimate the cost of resources and the execution time of logically specified smart contracts.

Iovane 117 makes use of Computational Quantum Key Distribution (CQKD) 123 methodology to implement quantum blockchain. They developed optimized CQKD by introducing Photon-based system that utilizes the properties of quantum mechanics. Each node involved in this system can be present in three different states that are: OFF, BUSY and FREE. Each node can be present in one of the following functions: Quantum spin generator, Base generator, Quantum photon polarizer, Photon fusion engine, Quantum photon meter, or Quantum photon collider. The proposed MeReQua_ Chain architecture utilizes something called a computational photon; this is an information packet that is polymorphic. The author had adapted the improved version of the Algorand approach 124 which is more robust, secure and energy efficient than the existing methods utilized in Bitcoin and Ethereum. The author has alleged that this approach is highly secure, entirely democratic i.e., entirely decentralized, and has high scalability. This novel work indeed has a lot of betterment but it cannot be denied that there is a need for massive stress tests to analyze the robustness of the infrastructure.

figure 15

Structure of quantum blockchain used in 120 .

Gao et al. 120 in their work has used the blockchain model (depicted in Fig. 15 ) developed by Del Rajan as the base for their work and then they added extra features that enhance and upgrade the existing architecture. This newly developed blockchain system uses Quantum Coin for the purpose of security and the proposed scheme DPoS have better efficiency, it shortens the transaction time and can fend off the attacks like State estimation attack, man-in-the-middle attack and double spending attack. The diagram below shows their conceptual design of the Quantum blockchain. Wanyang Dai et al. 115 proposed a new idea of the internet of quantum blockchain and as per their expectations, it will be the new internet sensation. They had tried to establish a security model which is secure and can face quantum supremacy and a fintech model with dynamic pricing needed for the future stable digital currency in the Quantum era. In order to achieve several principles from quantum mechanics were borrowed like entanglement in space and time with quantum key distribution (BB84 with polarization scheme and random sampling verification).

In their proposed work 119 Del Rajan and Matt Visser made a QKD scheme. Developed by Bedington et al. 125 is not limited by the distance which is generally the case with other QKDs. They have utilized entanglement in time and Bedington’s QKD scheme but the primary innovation was the encoding of blockchain into the temporal GHZ state. Here the time-stamped blocks and hash functions are linking themselves with a temporal GHZ state 126 with entanglement in time. However, a deviation from an ideal nonlinear process leads to errors and, thus, reduces the fidelity. These disadvantages significantly limit the applications of a GHZ state analysis for practical quantum networks. Banerjee 118 et al. proposed multiparty entanglement of quantum-weighted hypergraph states for the creation of the protocol which later become the core of their proposed Quantum Blockchain. In simple terms, they have used weighted hypergraph states in their system and the has functions were replaced by the entanglement of the weighted hypergraph states. In this protocol, there is no publicly shared “hash function” or any shared ledger-based database. Also, there is no mention of the QKD scheme utilized in it. The summary of quantum computing-based schemes are presented in Table 3 .

Post quantum cryptography

Post-quantum cryptography (PQC) refers to cryptographic schemes that are thought to be secure against a cryptanalytic attack by a quantum computer. This section presents the deatils of various post-quantum cryptography approaches. Zhang et al. 127 in their proposed work has used the lattice cipher that is quantum secured for their blockchain. qTESLA the proposed scheme is a digital signature based on the lattice cipher. An IPFS network is being utilized to store the public keys in this scheme. Generally, the signature and the key size used in the lattice-based systems are high which causes a reduction in the storage capacity of the block in the blockchain network. This directly affects the block’s capacity and it now accommodates a lesser number of transactions. This will also, directly and indirectly, affect the performance, efficiency, and execution speed of the entire blockchain network. To solve this problem the authors decided to save and store the entire content on an entirely different IFPS i.e., an interplanetary file system. Only the hash values of the signatures and the public keys are digital signatures are stored in the blocks. Though it addresses the one of most common problems of lattice cipher-based blockchains it still lacks the ability to perform parallel transactions.

This work 128 used NTRU and LASH for making the blockchain quantum resistant. NTRU is a lattice-based encryption scheme, it is built upon the shortest vector problem and is being seen as an alternative to the RSA and Elliptic Curve cryptography. Whereas LASH is the hashing scheme that is paired with the NTRU in this work. It is simple to implement but the author has not done the implementations and it is only theoretical in nature. Since lattice-based cipher systems made it into the 3rd round of the NIST quantum resistant project it is just assumed to be safe, and no emphases about their scalability efficiency or performance are made in the literature. MatRiCT+ was proposed by Esgin et al. 132 , this a protocol based on lattice cipher made specifically for private blockchains. MatRiCT+ is the updated version of the already developed MatRiCT 136 and it follows RingCT 137 (i.e., Ring Confidential Transactions). This RingCT is already being used in the Monero system 138 , which is a cryptocurrency that is very well known for its privacy-preserving properties. It is faster and more efficient compared to its predecessor and the authors have claimed to achieve a Zero-knowledge proof system based on lattice cipher. This makes it quantum-proof as well as secure from classical attacks. Still, it cannot reach the communication efficiency levels compared to RingCT 3.0 139 and omniring 140 .

Saha 131 and his co-authors created a blockchain system that makes use of a lattice-based signature scheme embedded in a lattice with a polynomial, required for IBE which is identity-based encryption. All the benefits of using the lattice and the IBE can be seen in the results presented in their literature but some aspects are still needed to be answered such as the need for optimization of the key generation process and trust management. Scalability is also needed to be taken into consideration. In their work Gao et al. 135 used a digital signature scheme based on the lattice problem. In order to create the encryption keys, lattice basis delegation is used with the addition of an arbitrary value. The messages are signed with the algorithms named “Preimage sampling algorithm”. The correlation between the messages and the signatures was reduced thanks to the double signature scheme proposed by the authors. This proposed methodology can be reduced to the lattice short integer solution problem (also known as SIS 141 ). Reduced signature size and reduced key size helps in increasing the efficiency and performance of the system.

Li et al. 134 have suggested a protocol that is based on lattice cipher and can be used on existing channels of a classical blockchain network to secure them from quantum attacks. Two algorithms are used for generating the keys which are Randbasis 142 and Extbasis 143 . It is secure against quantum and classical attacks. The scheme has a smaller key and signature size which make it better in performance but at the same scalability should be taken into consideration. Holcomb et al. 129 created a new Hyperledger named PQFabric which as per them is the first of its kind i.e., a Hyperledger system that is capable of providing security against quantum and classical attacks it uses qTESLA at its base. This is the implementation of the QQS library with hybrid signatures in the fabric. This method is completely quantum secure and provides total crypto-agility, including the option of live migration toward a hybrid quantum-safe blockchain, and the flexibility to use any current OQS signature method available for each node. However, oversized certificate generates a variety of issues, such as peer node failures and endorser getting jammed, as well as increased block delay and it generates worse throughput than traditional Fabric. Yi 130 have used an NP-Hard problem for their blockchain network to make it more efficient. They have used the problem named “solving quadratic equations in the finite field” 144 for generating threshold signatures. In this blockchain, it is necessary for a new block to get signed and approved by a random group of existing nodes. The nodes are divided into groups of two normal and manager nodes. This scheme still lacks scalability and no comments about the scalability are made in the publication.

Based on observations made so far from Table 4 in this section. Most of the schemes are based on lattice cryptography i.e. 8 out of 10 papers selected in this section. the remaining two utilized code-based and multivariate cryptography. Figure 16 explains the different types of classical schemes mentioned in the paper.

figure 16

Types of post-quantum cryptography schemes mentioned in the paper.

Application of quantum secure distributed ledger technologies

Quantum Blockchain is an emerging field and it has the ability to tackle the security threats posed by quantum computers. This ability alone leads to many possible applications of quantum blockchain, not to forget about its other robust capabilities of it. Many researchers have gained interest in this and tried to develop possible and useful applications from the quantum blockchain. Abir et al. 145 have provided a post-quantum blockchain scheme for the scalable smart city. Similarly, Haibo Yi in his work 146 showcased the “Secure Social Internet of Things” based on the post-quantum blockchain. Chen et al. 133 in their journal paper proposed a post-quantum blockchain for the development of smart cities. All the literature work mentioned above just shows the amount of work done in the field of applications of post-quantum blockchain. But there are a lot of opportunities that have not yet been explored properly. Many fields where the tremendous growth for the post-quantum blockchain can be seen are E-finance, Insurance, Education, Voting, Real estate, supply chain, Military, etc. Detailed explanations about the scope of post-quantum blockchain in these sectors are given in Future directions.

The rise of quantum computers and technological advancements made due to their presence is unprecedented. These PQDLTs will surely have a huge impact on future technologies, once the primary problems with quantum computing (i.e., gate error rate, gate fidelity and decoherence time, etc.) and once the production of scalable, efficient, and industry-ready quantum computer starts, other associating technologies will also start to evolve. With the rise of the quantum internet, quantum devices will be able to connect and communicate more seamlessly, which will pave the route for the further development of quantum-associated blockchain. Several fields will, directly and indirectly, affect the development of the post-quantum blockchain. One of them is post-quantum cryptography, while the others are the quantum internet and protocols that work on principles of quantum mechanics. The possible sectors which will be benefited from the growth of the post-quantum distributed ledger technologies are the finance sector, insurance sector, supply chain management, education, governance, real estate, military, IoT, 6G, etc.

Finance sector: The finance sector is already being benefited by the developed blockchain and other DLTs-based crypto-currencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, etc. Since blockchain brings security, transparency, the ability to track transactions, etc. 147 makes blockchain an obvious choice for the finance sector. With these, we assume that post-quantum blockchain will also be treated in the same way its predecessor had been treated. Since this updated blockchain network will add more features to its ancestor. This will also reduce the need for paperwork such as Know Your Client (KYC) and will also reduce fraud.

Insurance sector: This sector remains one of the sectors where fraudulent claims cause a lot of damage. The integration of post-quantum blockchain will reduce such frauds and will be able to remove intermediaries such as brokers. Which will directly benefit both the user and the company. The basis of this assumption is based on this work 148 , where the authors have explained how blockchain can help this sector grow. And since it is post-quantum blockchains are high-end and sophisticated blockchain systems, it is safe to assume that in the future post-quantum DLTs will be utilized in this field.

Supply chain management: The PQDLT can be used in supply chain management for product transaction maintenance, increasing traceability, providing more efficient demand and supply forecasting, avoiding frauds, and increasing efficiency.

Education: There are already many platforms that are blockchain-based and are being utilized for the purpose to strengthen security, increase the accessibility for the participants, and many more. For example, “DISCIPLINA”. Similar progress can be made with the use of the PQDLT.

Governance: The traditional blockchain system was implemented in China 149 to ease the governmental systems and it benefited in many ways, such as improving in quality and quantity of the services provided by the government, it will keep the data safe and immutable, increased transparency, and many more. So, it can be assumed based on this that PQDLT will be beneficial to the government sector as well.

Real estate: It is a widely accepted fact that real estate has seen a lee amount of growth from digitization when comped to other fields. Even then there a lot of scams and frauds can be found when dealing with it. But post-quantum blockchain can bring a tremendous change to it, the immutability will not just reduce the fraud rate but will also make monetary transactions more traceable and transparent. Similarly listing property details for renting or sale, will be more efficient, and intermediaries like brokers will no longer be required for such work. This will save money for both the sides seller and the customer.

Military: The military possesses the most advanced technologies as it is a requirement in modern-day warfare. The technologically advanced fifth-generation fighter aircraft (such as the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning) which can evade even the most sophisticated radar systems are vulnerable to the generation of radar radars called “quantum radars” 150 . This is the impact quantum mechanics can have on modern warfare, similarly, post-quantum blockchains can be seen in unmanned aerial vehicles, military intelligence, the creation of un-hackable combat systems, and many more.

IoT: IoT has become a daily use necessity in day-to-day life. It possesses tremendous potential but also has some limitations such as limited storage capacity limited size, limited processor speed, etc., and adding blockchain to IoT is itself a bigger challenge as the blockchain needs several hundred GB of data. To overcome such problems 151 the researchers have provided a new scheme where they reduced the signature size by up to 75 percent to increase the feasibility of the IoT to the blockchain system. The future implementations will be better in every aspect.

6G: Jiang et al. 152 envisioned that 6G technology will be fully deployable somewhere around 2030. And as per Gill 153 , it will take nearly 10 years for Quantum Computers to mature. So, around the same time, both 6G and quantum computers will be present which makes the possibility of integration of 6G with quantum computers and with the PQDLTs.

The possible integration of PQDLTs could be seen with other existing technologies (Machine learning, deep learning) and several upcoming technologies (6G, quantum internet). PQDLTs will be a better replacement for existing DLTs, making them quantum secure. This work reviewed the impact of quantum computing and how it affects the existing DLTs. It also studied, how cryptography is evolving itself to mitigate threats from quantum computers. All relevant proposed PQDLTs schemes were studied, and their merits and demerits were also discussed. This paper tried to give a broader view of quantum computing, Blockchain, and post-quantum distributed ledger technologies. How these technologies interact and affect each other, which will be helpful for readers to gather knowledge about PQDLTs and inspire them for the development of the next generations of PQDLTs

Threats to validity

The major threats to the validity are Threats to completeness, Threats to the methods for identifying the studies, and Threats to information extraction.

Threats to completeness: As mentioned earlier we selected papers that are written in the English language, so it can be said that some articles may be missed due to the language barrier. To search for papers and literature we constructed a query string consisting of relevant keywords. This query with slight or no modifications was used in several databases for the papers. There is a chance that some research work might be missed in doing this procedure.

Threats to the methods for identifying the studies: We tried to collect as much research work as we can, without any bias or favoritism to any specific work. But our inclusion and exclusion criteria for selecting papers may have some errors be it human or machine. Which could lead to the removal of relevant papers or even the inclusion of a wrong paper.

Threats to information extraction: We selected information from 20 papers. Still, there may be a chance of having misinterpreted the information in the presented paper. which may lead to paper exclusion or the presentation of wrong data in the SLR.

In this paper, we explore the current state of post-quantum, quantum-safe, or quantum-resistant cryptosystems in the context of blockchain. The study commences with a fundamental overview of both blockchain and quantum computing, investigating how they influence and evolve alongside each other. We also conduct an extensive literature review, focusing on PQDLTs. The research places a strong emphasis on the practical implementation of these protocols and algorithms, providing in-depth comparisons of their characteristics and performance.In order to disseminate knowledge about PQDLTs among researchers and developers, we present an SLR of state-of-the-art approaches and methodologies devised for fortifying PQDLTs. Specifically, we tried to classify approaches aimed at fortifying PQDLTs. This paper aims to provide future blockchain researchers and developers with a comprehensive perspective and practical guidance on post-quantum blockchain security. The goal is to stimulate further research at the intersection of post-quantum cryptography and blockchain systems, providing valuable insights and directions for prospective researchers and developers of PQDLTs.

Data availibility

The datasets used and/or analysed during the current study available from the corresponding author on reasonable request. All data generated or analysed during this study are included in this published article.

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These authors contributed equally: Nikhil Kumar Parida, Chandrashekar Jatoth, V. Dinesh Reddy and Md. Muzakkir Hussain.

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Department of IT, NIT Raipur, Raipur, 492010, Chhattisgarh, India

Nikhil Kumar Parida & Chandrashekar Jatoth

Department of CSE, SRM University, AP, Amaravati, 522503, Andhra Pradesh, India

V. Dinesh Reddy & Md. Muzakkir Hussain

Faculty of Computer Science, Nangarhar University, Jalalabad, Afghanistan

Jamilurahman Faizi

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N.K.P., V.D.R., and Md.M.H., wrote the main manuscript. C.J. gave the idea and did editing and proof reading and J.F. prepared the figures.

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Parida, N.K., Jatoth, C., Reddy, V.D. et al. Post-quantum distributed ledger technology: a systematic survey. Sci Rep 13 , 20729 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-47331-1

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a systematic literature review of blockchain based applications

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EuroMed Journal of Business

ISSN : 1450-2194

Article publication date: 27 November 2023

This study aims to provide a new overview and opportunities of blockchain (BCT), financial technology (fintech) and knowledge management (KM) over the past ten years. Its focus is on their potential to drive new value creation and innovation processes within the digital landscape of the tourism and hospitality.


This systematic literature review and sociotechnical approach employs a literature analysis, analyzing and synthesizing 62 relevant articles published in the past decade form e-databases (Web of Science and Scopus).

This study reveals that researchers frequently discuss the potential advantages and challenges of BCT, fintech and KM in this industry. These include establishing systems that prioritize transparency and traceability, addressing blockchain security concerns, enhancing financial transaction efficiency and trustworthiness, and promoting innovation and improvement through KM strategies. Furthermore, this review suggests that the application of blockchain, fintech and KM has the potential to create new markets and opportunities in the tourism and hospitality industry. This study provides insights into the state and implementation of technology-based and knowledge-based for tourism and hospitality in times of crisis and digitization era.

Practical implications

Shifting to new lens (refers to sociotechnical theory), from technology adoption strategy, it is important to stay updated with emerging technologies such as BCT and fintech and upcoming technologies trends must align with tourism and hospitality business objectives, customer expectations and market demands. From the socio-dimension, KM is not confined to technological tools alone. Instead, it is a strategic approach that emphasizes fostering a culture of open communication, collaboration and knowledge sharing within the team of tourism and hospitality industry.


Through a literature review approach, this study establishes a new foundation in tourism and hospitality such as analyzing research gaps, understanding benefits and challenges, supporting methodologies/theoretical frameworks and informing the future research opportunities. Additionally, a novel contribution is the inclusion of sociotechnical approach that is allocated into socio or knowledge resources perspective (knowledge management), and technical or technology perspective (blockchain and fintech) that drives tourism and hospitality innovation.

  • Tourism and hospitality
  • Knowledge management
  • Financial technology
  • Sociotechnical
  • Literature review

Ratna, S. , Saide, S. , Putri, A.M. , Indrajit, R.E. and Muwardi, D. (2023), "Digital transformation in tourism and hospitality industry: a literature review of blockchain, financial technology, and knowledge management", EuroMed Journal of Business , Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/EMJB-04-2023-0118

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