‘Blockchain technology is the world’s biggest invention after the Internet’
With the fourth industrial revolution now well underway, there are few inventions that promise to have an all round effect as much as the blockchain. It has already made an advent in Africa, most notably when Swiss-based start-up Agora held Africa’s first blockchain inclusive national election in Sierra Leone.
A cog to quicken the adoption rate of Blockchain Technology in Africa will be the rise in the number blockchain start-ups over the coming years.
To propel this mission, we will in this post explain exactly what blockchain technology is, and the features that show it will thrive in Africa.
Let’s get started then.
What Really Is Blockchain?
A blockchain is a basically a distributed record of all transactions or events that have been executed and shared among participating parties. You can think of it as a transaction information storage and exchange medium that is accessible to anyone with an access to the network.
It stores a certain and verifiable record of every single transaction ever made from its inception until infinity. This is because; information stored on a blockchain can never be erased or tampered with.
An illustration of Blockchain Technology At Work (Bitcoin)
The advent of Bitcoin (a digital currency) allows people to exchange funds on a global network without worrying about payment charges, security of transaction details and authenticity of the individual they are dealing with.
Transaction details have to be verified and approved by other individuals on the network before it is safely stored in a chain as a single block that cannot be manipulated. Every individual on the network (including you) has access to every single transaction that is done.
Let’s say we have six people on a Bitcoin program and A wants to transfer ownership of some coins to B, then C, D, E, F are all notified of this transaction which they approve at their own end after confirming that the sender (A) really owns the Bitcoin they are transferring. The presence of a public key (similar to a thumbprint, unique to A) is used to confirm ownership by the four parties.
A process called mining follows, which is the addition of the transaction (block) to other blocks on the chain (previous transactions).
Blockchain technology is what powers the safe transfer of Bitcoins and this technology according to experts have further application across several fields of human endeavor (including the voting process demonstrated in Sierra Leone).
Characteristics Of Blockchain Technology
When Satoshi Nakamoto invented blockchain and its counterpart Bitcoin, his primary objective was to create a payment system that was void of third parties such as banks and other financial institutions. An Individual could simply send payments to another without using a financial system.
That has become the strongest point of the blockchain technology since no single person can claim ownership of the system.
It is the same as a public ledger where each participant in a business has access to the records and need to give their approval before a transaction can be completed.
In simple terms, we say that it is more difficult to still an item under public watch than one that is in a hidden corner.
Closed blockchain like the one used by Agora for the elections in Sierra Leone requires that only authorized individuals could add the blocks, but once they are added everyone else who had access to the network can view the stored information.
This clearly differs from the public blockchain used in the case of bitcoin and strengthens the fact that blockchain technology takes on different dimensions in different sectors.
This feature of the technology is the reason why information stored on the blocks can never be tampered with.
Each block is tied to each other by three components
- Data (Transaction details)
- Hash (A key that is unique to each block)
- Hash of the previous block
Therefore before a hacker can tamper with the saved details, they must accurately calculate the hash for the different blocks on the chain and then change them all at the same time. This is already impossible but is made even harder with a ‘proof of work’ that is completed on the average of ten minutes per block.
In real life, this technology can be efficiently used to secure tax records and used to combat cases of tax evasion.
Just like every other landmark technology, the performance of the blockchain technology is never limited to a certain region.
Bitcoin, for instance, accepts users from virtually any part of the world into the program while in Sierra Leone, the technology was used to record election results for the major cities in the country.
So, blockchain technology can be efficiently developed for individual, organization, community or global use.
An Innovative Future with Blockchain Technology In Africa
With the features of blockchain technology listed above, it is almost easy to realize how it will ring changes and improvements across different sectors in the African terrain.
We pick three of the most remarkable.
1.With blockchain technology around, there will be an increased trust in stored data for drug and patient welfare, since these data cannot be manipulated.
2.A reduction of human errors
3.Blockchain can be used to store the full history of a patient. Including all medicines taken, information from every doctor visit, illnesses, operations and lots more. This data will give real insights into what medications should be administered.
4.Patient data can also be simultaneously accessed by healthcare providers in the case of an emergency because of the existence of secure network managed by them.
5.Better data sharing will yield a higher probability of more accurate diagnosis and effective treatments.
1.As already illustrated by Bitcoin, blockchain can power even the most complex financial transactions without the existence of a third party.
2.The non-existence of a third party reduces transaction cost and also ensures a faster process for funds transfer. There are no holidays!
3.Safekeeping of immutable transaction details. These records can help reducing fraud and looting of public funds since every single transaction detail is stored indefinitely and is available to the public.
It is worthy to note that world-class financial institutions are already investing a lot of money into figuring out ways blockchain can improve their operations and the same should be done in Africa.
The ultimate goal for blockchain this sector is to allow voters cast their votes via personal electronic devices. This will cut down election costs, increase voter accessibility and eliminate a potential avenue for rigging elections.
With little doubt, the advent of blockchain technology in Africa will bring about landmark reformations in different fields. But as has been the case over the years, technological advancements would take some decades before they get to Africa.
ChamaPesa is already doing an incredible work in Kenya but there is a need for more blockchain start-ups in order to accelerate the growth process.
Who will champion Blockchain Technology in Africa?
It could be you!!