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Technology

Exploiting new blockchain benefits needs higher skills

Nairobi Tech Week
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 excutive officer Frank Deya and its community manager Joyce Mwangi pose for a photo at Strathmore University. PHOTO | FAUSTINE NGILA 

In a humid Friday, Digital Business drives to Strathmore University, for this year’s Nairobi Tech Week event.

There are students, tech enthusiasts, researchers and tech experts attending the event, with representatives from tech companies embracing the opportunity.

Innovation establishments like Moringa School, Blockchain Association of Kenya, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Jumo, Andela, Tala, iHub, Liquid Telekom, Twiga, Nailab, Little, Belva Digital, Pangea na Shelter Tech were all present to share knowledge.

This year’s theme is ‘Competing in the Digital Age: The Development of IT Skills and Jobs in Kenya and Uganda’, and all tech presentations are happening in the Thomas More Building.

There are various interesting topics, all with question and answer sessions, as digital brains came together for a conversation towards a consensus on the bridging of the skills gap in the tech space in Kenya.

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One presentation drew much attention from participants – The Blockchain Technology. In their presentation, blockchain experts 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.

Three tech masters took turns to emphasise the need for a countrywide awareness on blockchain and cryptography.

Benjamin Arunda, Kenya’s first author about the technology who is also the 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 need to see all students and professionals in various sectors in the country having a strong grasp of this technology before it gets rolled out,” he said.

Kesho Labs’s blockchain strategic liaison officer Roselyne Wanjiru, said that the government needs 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,” she added.

Aeternity Hub Africa’s chief executive officer Frank Deya observed that although the government has indicated signs of considering 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 bridge 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 any time,” he said.

This comes as the Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence Taskforce Report, completed last November, 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 because the electorate was not consulted.

Digital ledger

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.”

Cryptocurrencies

There are currently five tech organisations spreading the blockchain gospel in Kenya. Blockchain Association of Kenya, Bithub Africa, DLBRT Blockchain for Business, Nairobi EOS community and Andela Kenya have been in the frontline mission in educating professionals in various sectors through classes, 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 a matter of days.

According to Credit Karma, for instance, Americans lost Sh1.7 trillion in Bitcoin trade in 2018 and asserted the belief 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 at high speed.

“If we prepare our young brains for the technology of the future, there will be fewer gaps in the tech market and we shall see more digital jobs being created,” he remarked.

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