Saturday, January 28, 2023
  • Technology like blockchain can swoop in and take care of problems while unleashing the potential in the continent
  • Africa as a continent is paradoxical in that it is devowed by so many problems but possesses great opportunities
  • Bitcoin is trading at 8-month lows and suggestions are that we haven’t hit rock bottom quite yet

As the cryptocurrency winter continues to beat us, it’s been more bad news for crypto enthusiasts. Bitcoin is trading at 8-month lows and suggestions are that we haven’t hit rock bottom quite yet. The winter has claimed a few victims including blockchain systems in the process.

It may not seem like it but there is still much reason to be excited about blockchain technology beyond the cryptocurrency space. Africa as a continent is paradoxical in that it is devowed by so many problems but possesses great opportunities.

Technology like blockchain can swoop in and take care of problems while unleashing the potential in the continent. Let’s look at some interesting blockchain applications that are being developed that Africans should be excited about.

  • Blockchain applications tracking content and royalties
  • Blockchain applications improving public service delivery
  • Blockchain technology can help in anti-money laundering

Read: Bitcoin fixing unemployment among the youth in Africa

Content tracking and royalties

Africans are no strangers to issues of intellectual property infringement and cultural appropriation. Blockchain technology is being used to combat issues of media identification and royalty collection for artists and creators.

Thanks to blockchain capacity, the original information about any media can always be found even if the media is posted by a different user. If you’ve ever used Shazam or Google image search you will have a rough idea of how this works.

Placing the application on a blockchain means the tracking is better and faster allowing original creators to know where and when their content is being used. This also makes royalty collection much easier and more accurate. Mediachain is a project that was started for this purpose and acquired by streaming giant Spotify.

Supply chain logistics monitoring

For various reasons supply, chain management has become increasingly important to the world. Organic food for example need not only to be produced organically but also requires proof of the supply chain to satisfy the increasingly discerning customer.

Supply chains have many moving parts and keeping track of developments in crops from field to store means managing a lot of data, something blockchain technology does well. This can be applied to much more than food.

Clothing, jewellery, electronics and more can all benefit from blockchain-based supply chain management. Shipchain (SHIP) is a project that looks at shipment and logistics tracking for products and this can be extended to the entire supply chain.

Decentralised cloud storage

Cloud computing is with us and is the future of computing. I didn’t quite appreciate the idea of keeping all my data somewhere out there where I would have to pay (through internet access) to retrieve it until I lost 3 devices in one swoop and thankfully lost very little data in the process.

Read: The rise of a new dawn: Blockchain technology adoption in Africa

Now this blockchain application has me very excited because it is incredibly practical and of immediate use. Filecoin (FIL) is a decentralised cloud storage platform that allows users to store their data in the cloud but the files can be broken down into bits and bytes stored on various computers across the globe. This increases security for sensitive information. The people providing hard drive space for these files are paid using filecoin.

Identity Documents

Many people in African countries struggle with matters of identification and documentation. The countries I have had the pleasure of living in are characterised by long winding queues at home affairs offices as people struggle to receive, renew or replace documentation.

I remember having to drive for an hour from the city I resided to the city I first applied for my passport, to ask them to press one button on the computer so I could return to my city of residence to process my passport renewal.

The Illinois Blockchain Initiative is looking at ways to implement blockchain technology in the issuance and security of identification documents such as birth certificates, identity cards, voter registration and social security amongst other items. A government blockchain could prevent experiences like mine and improve service delivery around identification.

The monetisation of online content

Web 2.0 introduced the content creator to the internet. Users generating content across the world and breaking down the dominance of mass media of the world’s attention. Monetising this content hasn’t always been easy.

While Khaby Lame has reportedly amassed millions through Tik-Tok fame many content creators struggle with this. The Basic Attention Token (BAT) is a blockchain-based project that seeks to reward creators for the attention paid to their content. Models like advertising and appreciation gifts are inefficient and don’t reflect actual consumption patterns.

The BAT rewards creators based on the time spent on their content. This is a huge shift that could benefit many creators downstream. Couple this with a concept like Mediachain, creators could be rewarded even when aggregators post their content, giving credit where credit is due.

File sharing

Many should be familiar with Bit Torrents. It is a peer-to-peer file-sharing system that takes a file and breaks it down into bits and transfers them over the internet. Bit torrents have seeders (people sharing the file) and leechers (those downloading the file) and they rose to prominence because leechers can seed parts of the file they have to other leechers who do not have it.

Bit Torrents are synonymous with piracy but they are a legitimate file transfer application that has proven popular. The Bit Torrent Token (BTT) is a token that is used to pay seeders for providing files on a bit-torrent network. The project provides a way to reward people for making a download available. This has many great applications for media, music, books and more content.

Anti-money laundering

Bitcoin, the flagship cryptocurrency was built and sold as a money transfer platform. While Bitcoin has excelled at fulfilling this and other functions the lack of regulation and decentralisation make it open to abuse in money laundering and financing for terrorism among other nefarious uses. This is an area that cryptocurrency will have to deal with to find mainstream adoption and approval from authorities.

In the same way blockchain technology can track content and file sharing it can be applied to tracing money flows. This application is likely to be more favourable to Central Bank Digital Currencies than cryptocurrencies. The cases of money, particularly public funds that vanish into thin air could be tackled with a blockchain-based approach.

This is an area we will keep an eye on in future. Blockchain will only make it into the world if it only makes sense to its users. Projects like the ones mentioned above bring it closer to doing so.

Read: Debunking Bitcoin’s volatility amidst the recent decline

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