Nobody anticipated blockchain to usher in such a revolutionary change. The technology that started out as the basis of cryptocurrency is now disrupting the way dozens of industries are operating.
While African tech ecosystems may not get the attention they deserve, the region is home to a number of emerging blockchain communities, and local players are using blockchain technology to tackle social, economic, and political problems – and as a launch pad into global markets.
Recently, the government of Ghana collaborated with IBM to support the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources to use the technology for efficient service delivery in the land sector.
This would witness IBM engineers and technicians supporting public institutions in Ghana to apply blockchain technology in port logistics, improve transparency, information sharing and reduce fraud.
Other countries like Rwanda and Kenya have intentionally invested in emerging technologies like blockchain.
In Kenya for example, the government formed an AI and blockchain task force to provide a roadmap for the adoption of these technologies.
But why blockchain?
Blockchain is a distributed ledger that can be used by individuals who want to complete transactions involving multiple parties. Large organisations can use it to collaborate across multiple organisational silos.
Large, cross-industry ecosystems may want to use blockchain to handle complex transactions across multiple jurisdictions, or governments may want to use blockchain to help their citizens.
Blockchain technology is slowly catching up with various industries as it offers a safe, transparent and reliable way to transact due to its inherent resistance to any modification of data.
This data security certainty has been the reason that has seen various industries including the financial, logistics, medical, agriculture among others embracing this technology.
Trust is of utmost importance for governments around the world in this day and age. Globalization means that governments must eliminate lack of transparency, find ways to expand the economy, and find new ways to improve citizen engagement and accountability.
Integrating blockchain technology into government activities can help overcome lack of trust.
Blockchain presents a wide range of uses for central and local governments; it can be used to register and record property transactions, preventing traders from defrauding banks, healthcare initiatives to track medical records, citizen services – making sure that one voter uses one vote, government-issued digital identity secured on blockchains to offer e-services.
On a day-to-day level, blockchain technology could also make government tendering processes and purchases more efficient, and reduce the potential for fraud and error.
Blockchain is fundamentally changing business processes and enabling new ones. Blockchain stands at the precipice of transforming a wide range of industries, not just government. With an open source blockchain technology and industry-led community, blockchain can be turned into a mature technology to support serious business.
This is in recognition that there are various challenges that need to be overcome before the public sector can embrace this technology including:
By 2020, Dubai wants to become the first government in the world to conduct all of its transactions using blockchain.
The emirate estimates that adding visa applications, bill payments, license renewals and other documents to a blockchain could save 5.5 billion dirhams (£1.1 billion) annually in document processing alone.
It could also cut CO2 emissions by up to 114 MTons due to trip reductions and redistribute up to 25.1 million hours of economic productivity.
Recently, Riyadh Municipality in Saudi Arabia partnered with IBM to jointly develop a strategy to streamline government services and transactions on а blockchain.
The move was made in accordance with an authoritative decision of the Government of Saudi Arabia to work on improving the quality of municipal services for customers and integrate leading technologies into services as part of the Saudi Vision 2030 program.
Government organisations in Africa don’t just stand to benefit from the greater trust promised by blockchains; they are uniquely charged to create it for the benefit of all.
In a recent study, IBM's Institute for Business Value (IBV), in collaboration with the Economist Intelligence Unit, found that government organisations around the world are prioritizing blockchains to help reduce innovation roadblocks and inaccurate or incomplete information across their organisations.
Findings show that:
The study also demystifies experiences and expectations from blockchains among government leaders in 16 countries.
Government organisations, like those in any industry, are wise to take the long view on blockchain. But unlike other organisations, because they shape the regulatory and legal environment, they can’t afford to stay on the sidelines.
Early collaboration with the private sector on regulatory compliance, political obstacles and any proposed changes to regulations will become the determining factors that set the pace of blockchain adoption in all industries.
Blockchain’s early adopters are turning uncertainty that comes with digital disruption into their unique advantage.
Governments in Africa too can use this unique opportunity to learn, explore and innovate on ways in which Blockchain technology can expedite the realization of their national development agenda.