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Blockchain roots deepen in Kenya

Bitcoin. Adoption of blockchain technology is changing how people carry out business today. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Bitcoin. Adoption of blockchain technology is changing how people carry out business today. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Blockchain Technology (BT) use is gaining momentum in Kenyan private and public sphere spanning security, transport, health, insurance and motor vehicle sectors.

Blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial deals, but virtually everything of value.

It is an ingenious invention – the brainchild of a person or group of people known by the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto.

By allowing digital information to be distributed but not copied, blockchain technology created the backbone of a new type of internet. Originally devised for the digital currency Bitcoin, the tech community is now finding other potential uses for the technology.

Bitcoin has been called digital gold and for a good reason. To date, the total value of the currency is close to $9 billion US. And blockchains can make other types of digital value. Like the internet (or your car), you don’t need to know how the blockchain works to use it.

The technology has revolutionalised transport services driving established taxi operators off the roads with Apps that determine charges before start of the journey.

In a month, the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) has disclosed, Kenya will have an electronic motor vehicle identification service where all vehicles will have an electronic sticker pasted on the windscreens detectable via use of special gadgets thereby helping root out jalopies from Kenyan roads and recovery of stolen vehicles.

NTSA’s new service running on a shared BT platform will link various State agencies from the Kenya Revenue Authority and Kenya Police promptly alerting security officers about a vehicle’s insurance and inspection status as well as ownership.

Kenya’s public health sector is installing a smart platform in all 98 public hospitals creating a shared BT hub were crucial data such as a patient’s history, hospital management and use of public resources will be monitored from the cloud-based database.

A modernisation programme being conducted by Japan’s Toyota Shusho Company and Kenya’s Seven Seas Technologies will eliminate the oft-tedious patient history re-writing exercise conducted every time someone visits a different hospital for treatment.

It will also lead to establishment of a medical professionals’ hub where shared services will be handled on an online platform and nurses based at remote health facilities advised on a treatment regime that a patient needs by a doctor elsewhere.

Specialist services such as X-ray photographs diagnostic issues will be done from a central location helping save money on establishment of numerous offices across Kenya as radiologists with medical osteopathic expertise will diagnose and remotely treat diseases and injuries using medical imaging techniques sent to them through an online mail.

The BT medical portal will also see doctors’ treatment notes scrutinised thereby helping reduce the number of incidents where wrong diagnosis is made.

On the security front, the government is soon linking the National Registration of Persons Bureau database to the Kenya Police manned Closed Circuit Television Cameras installed in Nairobi and Mombasa enabling instant face recognition via BT technology.

The technology is, however, meeting resistance in the financial front with regulator citing money laundering fears and theft by online crooks.

The Central Bank Governor Patrick Njoroge has rejected digital currencies use saying bitcoins operations are conducted on an unregulated regimes that expose Kenyans to cyber fraudsters.

In an interview, financial markets consultant, Ally-Khan Satchu urged the Kenyan Government to reconsider its stance on digital payment platforms and blockchain use saying it could no longer be ignored as a mode of funds transfer.

“Essentially blockchain platform payments and crypto currencies are being mainstreamed and that is why we have been seeing the material share price appreciation of leading blockchain platform provider Bitcoin,” he said.

Mr Satchu, who heads Rich Management Services, said Kenyans need to be sensitised on how digital payments work to enable them take part in blockchain investments.

“The Kenyan investor has certainly internalised the crypto currency universe. I think we need to review our regulatory stance and seek a way to carve out ahead of the curve position commensurate with our mobile money leadership,” he said. 

On the insurance front, America Insurance Group (AIG) conducted a global BT pilot where it jointly with banking group StanChart, ran a simulated cover offering where they processed and attended to their Kenyan, Singaporean and American policy holders needs on a unified platform that linked AIG and StanChart to agents and financial institutions on realtime.

This saw payments made on time and policies renewed automatically upon payment of premiums, a process that its proponent said could help reduce company expenses while eliminating the need for brick and mortar establishments in individual countries.

Kenya’s four year old BT firm, BitPesa, which to date has raised Sh1 billion to power its expansion across Africa, Europe and Middle East, said BT payments were highly favoured by multinationals with local subsidiaries saving them hefty transfer fees usually charged on clients sending money across borders through local banks.

With BT currency, no world currency is dominant and its operations are dictated by market forces and not whims of any regulatory regime.

Among leading financial BT firms dealing in digital cash include BITCOIN, Ripple and Ethereum.

Side bar

The blockchain database isn’t stored in any single location, meaning the records it keeps are truly public and easily verifiable. No centralized version of this information exists for a hacker to corrupt. Hosted by millions of computers simultaneously, its data is accessible to anyone on the internet.

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