Experts call for countrywide blockchain awareness

From left: Nairobi Tech Week senior manager Anne Salim, Blockchain Association of Kenya's head of education Benjamin Arunda, Kesho Labs's strategic liaison officer Roselyne Wanjiru, Aeternity Hub Africa's chief executive officer Frank Deya and its community manager Joyce Mwangi pose at Strathmore University. PHOTO | FAUSTINE NGILA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Blockchain experts in Kenya have called for a private-public partnership on user education regarding the use of the technology in enhancing transparency and accountability in corporate and public institutions.

Speaking on Friday during the culmination of the fourth edition of the three-day Nairobi Tech Week event at Strathmore University, three tech masters emphasised the need for a countrywide awareness on blockchain and cryptography.

Benjamin Arunda, author of Understanding The Blockchain, and Blockchain Association of Kenya’s head of education stressed that only frequent trainings and workshops guarantee the gateway to full acceptance and application of the technology.

“We urge the government to work closely with the private sector in educating Kenyans on how blockchain works and why we need it as a country.  It will make no sense implementing the technology when users themselves have no clue of what the platform entails,”  said Roselyne Wanjiru, Kesho Labs’s blockchain strategic liaison officer.

Aeternity Hub Africa’s chief executive officer Frank Deya observed that although the government has indicated signs of considering the to use the technology to curb fraud in banking, healthcare and land ownership, users must be well informed about the power of a ‘digital block’.

“We need to fill the blockchain skills gap first before we go full throttle on its use. We have to create public trust about this innovation among Kenyans. Anyone can learn it anytime,” he said.

This comes as the Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence taskforce report awaits approval by the Information and Communication Technology cabinet secretary after which it will be presented to the president for consideration to be used by key government agencies.

The technology was reported to be a success when Sierra Leone tested its accuracy against the election commission’s tally in last year’s presidential election, but the information was taken with a pinch of salt.

While blockchain is the only technology that can enable a real time audit of voluminous transactions in a distributed digital ledger system without any human tampering, creating its trust must begin with mass enlightenment on its ability to tame corruption by blocking the siphoning of public funds.

“This technology gives no room for hackers to access vital data to enable theft of money or confidential information. For a hacker to succeed, they must hack every ‘block’ and there are millions of them,” said Mr Deya.

It is a major breakthrough in monitoring the use of county funds from the national government as it has the capacity to unmask the thugs of public cash in real time.

“The problem we encounter in counties losing millions of money to corrupt leaders arises from the centralisation of the national kitty. Blockchain makes decentralisation possible, with every county being digitally tracked down on the use of public money,” said Ms Wanjiru, adding that such accuracy will inform the treasury on how money was used before more is allocated.

“We are very optimistic about the future of law and tax compliance. In future, with support from the government, we shall see blockchain evidence being legally binding in court. Precedents arising from the power of blockchain will revolutionise the quest for justice in Kenya.”

There are currently four organisations spreading the blockchain gospel in Kenya. Blockchain Association of Kenya, Bithub Africa, Nairobi EOS community and Andela Kenya have been in the frontline mission in educating professionals in various sectors through boot camps and workshops.

However, when it comes to investing in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum and Ripple, blockchain cannot save you when the currencies plunge in value and many people have admitted to losing millions of money in just one week.

According to Credit Karma, for instance, Americans lost Sh1.7 trillion in Bitcoin trade in 2018 and asserted the believe that blockchain is a reality but cryptocurrencies are a mirage. 

Mr Arunda urged the government and private sector to consider investing in coding skills targeting children above the age of seven since technology moves with terrific speed.

The Nairobi tech event has gained popularity since its first edition in 2016 as more than 1,500 attendees turned up this year compared to 700 then, according to Nairobi Tech Week senior manager Anne Salim.

Adrian Muthomi, A fourth year Information Technology student at Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology said the event has been mind boggling as it has inspired him to change his design for an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software he is developing.

“It is very informative as pertains the emerging trends in technology. I can never miss to attend it to update my knowledge on computing,” said Tabitha Kavyu, a second year Computer Science student at the University of Nairobi.

Pauline Onyango, a tax administrator said she was baffled by how digital spaces have transformed offline offices besides how innovation can be used to curb tax evasion.