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How The Blockchain Can Eliminate Academic Fraud in Africa

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blockchain academic fraud

A major issue that African countries have been grappling with is academic certificate fraud. One country that makes for a good case study is Kenya where even members of parliaments, senators, and governors have had their academic credentials questioned, revoked, and ridiculed.

Last month, a Kenyan Senator was deregistered from the University of Nairobi for using forged certificates to gain acceptance into the university. His case, like that of other political leaders and ordinary Kenyans sitting in executive offices with fake certificates, brings to light the need to have proper structures put in place to curb such cases. While unemployment is rife in Kenya, fake credentials are not just used when seeking jobs but even when applying for admission to higher learning institutions.

In Kenya alone, there are hundreds if not thousands of people running businesses that are purely meant to generate forged certificates for those who need it and can pay for it. This means that it is quite fast and easy to secure a fake academic certificate in the country. The fraudsters take care of all the paperwork including signatures and charge depending on whether one wants a bachelor’s, master’s or a Ph.D. Once armed with the fake certificates, individuals can join hardworking Kenyans looking for jobs and admission to universities.

Vulnerable Systems

The systems put in place in Kenya are vulnerable hence the reason why there is a rampant increase in the use of fake certificates. Most employers do not run academic background checks on their potential employees, which creates this loophole. According to the Daily Nation, the authentication and verification of certificates is a time-consuming process that some employers simply do not want to undertake.

Most developed nations have data protection laws that guard a student’s private details against third parties. That means that their academic information cannot be shared unless the student approves. The case, however, is different in Kenya as the process is manual and tedious. At the same time, employers rarely get the full details needed from the universities as they are grappling with other matters.

The Use of the Blockchain in Eliminating Academic Fraud

Blockchain technology is an immutable distributed digital ledger used to process and record transactions in real-time across a network of computers. This allows users of a blockchain network to securely record and store data that cannot be tampered with and can only be accessed with the right permissions.

Universities in Africa can leverage blockchain technology to record details about a student’s academic certifications. Students can then have access to their credentials and would be able to share them with institutions of higher learning as well as hiring managers at the companies they are applying to.

As data stored on a blockchain is immutable, there is no feasible way that one can forge a certificate. Such a blockchain system would be private and only with the right permission one can decrypt, view and verify students’ details. Moreover, if a university was to get shut down or face other issues, student credentials will forever be recorded and available on that blockchain network.

So far, the University of Melbourne and MIT Media Lab are exploring the said approach. As blockchain technology continues to revolutionise many industries globally, the academic sector is definitely one where Africa should pay attention to when it comes to leveraging this new technology.

Blockchain Technology

How Kenya’s ICT Ministry is Embracing the Blockchain

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Kenya's ICT Ministry

Kenya’s ICT Cabinet Secretary, Joe Mucheru, recently announced that his ministry is in the process of creating a blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) task force. The main objective of this task force is to promote efficiency and transparency in the public and private sectors.

The blockchain, which is bitcoin’s underpinning technology, is a decentralised digital ledger that securely and transparently records, stores, and transfers data in an immutable manner. Artificial intelligence (AI) allows machines such as computers to learn from experiences and carry out human-like tasks with the knowledge they acquire.

The Task Force and Creation of Digital Jobs

According to a report by Kenyan Wall Street, the task force will comprise of “local blockchain startups, experts, academics, researchers, local ICT experts, various regulatory bodies, lawyers, and representatives from a number of corporates including IBM.”

The task force will be expected to promote and adopt the blockchain and AI. The comprehensive strategy, which is the guide for the task force, will research and test the different applications of the blockchain and AI. The government expects to use these applications to increase efficiency and transparency in product and service delivery. In addition, the task force will offer support to blockchain startups as well.

“We are an enabler, so we allow technology to create efficiency, transparency, and even innovation. I also want to make sure even as we look at the future, we are not left behind in such an area. For instance on the blockchain, […] or the hashgraphs. We want to be part of that growth. We missed out on the internet, [but we shall not miss out on the blockchain],” CS Mucheru stated during an interview with Citizen TV.

As reported by KTN News, CS Mucheru also mentioned plans by the ministry to create digital jobs for Kenya’s youth and to instill the relevant skills to enable them to work on digital tasks remotely.

The Blockchain is Slowly Going Mainstream in Kenya

The Ministry of ICT is not alone in its interest towards the blockchain. Several banks, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Lands are already testing the technology. Additionally, the governor of the Central bank of Kenya, Dr. Njoroge showed support for the technology during a press briefing last year.

But What of Digital Currencies?

Blockchain technology could be going mainstream in Kenya, but regulators are still adamant about digital currencies. However, a recent report by Citibank ranked Kenyans fifth as the largest bitcoin holders per capita in the world. These statistics could be an indication that bitcoin is also going mainstream.

In an interview with Citizen TV, CS Mucheru said that he is an advocate for digital currencies.

“I think [the Central Bank of Kenya has] a role and a responsibility to play and I do not think we are going to be fighting about it. […] Whether we want to be a part of it or not, it is not our choice; the world is already moving in that direction. […] We need to take that risk,” he stated.

While testing the applications of blockchain technology in the public and private sector is a huge step for Kenya, implementing these applications could have a great impact on Kenya’s economy. What’s more, continuous research and experimentation in blockchain technology beyond the five-year term of the current government should be prioritised.

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World Blockchain Summit to be Held in Nairobi on March 22-23

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World Blockchain Summit

Nairobi, Kenya will host the World Blockchain Summit on March 22-23 2018. The conference aims to connect global blockchain experts, investors, and startups in the space, to discuss the nature of blockchain technology and its many possible applications in various sectors.

Kenya plays a pivotal role in the cryptocurrency and blockchain space with a number of local startups leveraging the technology to offer financial services. In addition, various government agencies are experimenting with the open source distributed ledger technology in sectors such as transport, health and land for digital identity verification, proof of land ownership, and authentication of records.

Topics Discussed and Key Speakers

The conference will focus on a number of topics that are crucial to the development of blockchain technology in Africa along with use cases from other parts of the world. Some of the discussions will touch on the blockchain proof of concept, impact of blockchain technology in private and public sector, the benefits of smart contracts, blockchain disrupting retail and supply industries, and blockchain in healthcare to name a few.

The keynote speakers confirmed for the event are the founder of Naked Technologies Marco Robinson, marketing and communications expert, Danielle Di-Masi, Technical Consultant/Systems Integrator National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) Tunji Durodola, founder & CEO of Feelogical Solutions Muhammad Salman, and Michael Kimani, founder of the Kenyan Blockchain Association.

For more information about speakers read here.

Pitching Competition

In addition to the conference, there will be a pitching competition. Emerging startups from around the globe will have an opportunity to introduce their solutions by delivering a six-minute elevator pitch and compete to win the best blockchain technology idea. Selected companies will then compete in the Startup World Cup finals which will be held in 2019 in San Fransisco, for the grand prize of a $1,000,000.

The summit is also happening in nine other countries with government partnerships and private sponsorships. These include locations such as Moscow, Singapore, Malaysia, India, Frankfurt, Rio, the Middle East, with Philippines and Vietnam still at the planning phases. Event organisers Trescon Global have 600+ delegates, 40 speakers, 25 sponsors and 20 startup exhibitors who have been part of the previous events and are now expecting to get a similar response for the Nairobi Edition.

Buy Your Ticket Now

Booking for super early bird tickets will close on 20th January 2018, and go for $295. Early bird tickets will close on 20th February 2018 and go for $495. Standard tickets will go for $695 thereafter.

For more information about the conference or to buy tickets, visit nairobi.worldblockchainsummit.com.

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How the Blockchain Can Prevent Drug Counterfeiting in Kenya

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Drug Counterfeiting Kenya

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a counterfeit medicine as “one which is deliberately and fraudulently mislabelled with respect to its identity and/or source. Counterfeiting can apply to both branded and generic products and counterfeit products may include products with the correct or wrong ingredients, without active ingredients, with insufficient active ingredients or with fake packaging.”

The port of Mombasa has been a point of entry for counterfeit drugs in Kenya and the East African region. According to a report by the Daily Nation, “the value of potentially dangerous pharmaceutical products sourced mainly from China and India is estimated at six billion Kenyan shillings.” The most commonly counterfeited drugs are antimalarials, morning-after pills, antihistamines, cough syrups, antibiotics, and viagra.

Counterfeit drugs are not only a health risk to patients but also increase the cost of getting better. According to IBM, over 122,000 children under the age of five in Africa die because of counterfeit anti-malarial drugs. Therefore, the IBM lab in Haifa, Israel is researching the use of the blockchain in preventing counterfeit drugs.

How the Blockchain Can Be Applied in the Pharma Supply Chain

The blockchain is a decentralised digital ledger that records and transfers data in a fast, secure, and transparent manner. When applied in the pharmaceutical supply chain, the blockchain tracks the drugs at each stage from the pharmaceutical company to the patient.

The IBM research solution involves a permissioned blockchain and a mobile interface. Every party on the network is certified and authorised to initiate an action and complete, track, and verify their transactions. Here is a breakdown of the different functions that the blockchain offers:

Trust: the blockchain comprises of a trusted network of pharmaceutical companies, delivery carriers, chemists, hospitals, and clinics. For example, the pharmaceutical companies on the blockchain are trustworthy and offer authentic drugs. Therefore, any person ordering drugs on the blockchain-based network is assured of getting industry-approved products.

Registration: every order that is made is registered on the blockchain for easy tracking and tracing.

Authentication: at each stage of the supply chain, a party’s’ identity is authenticated using the blockchain to enable him/her to carry out a transaction.

Verification: when drugs are being transferred from one party to the other, verification is important. That is to say that the blockchain will verify that a carrier has received the delivery from a pharmaceutical company by confirming that they are in the same location. Verification is also done by scanning the QR codes and the serial numbers of the drugs.

Recording: every transaction that takes place is recorded on the blockchain ledger. A record is taken when, for instance, the clinic accepts the delivery transfer from the carrier. In addition, the recording process ensures that the pharmaceutical company can check the delivery status of the daily orders made.

Ratings: ratings are given to carriers and pharmaceutical companies depending on their ability to deliver quality services and products to hospitals and clinics. Consequently, every party on the network will strive for high ratings in order to increase their chances of getting more business.

Tracking: the clinic or hospital that has made the order receives a tracking code to their phone via SMS to enable easy tracking of the delivery to their doorstep.

The Benefits of a Blockchain-based Pharma Supply Chain

Reduced health risks

The blockchain brings together a network of certified parties. That means that drugs are sourced from legitimate pharmaceutical companies that manufacture drugs according to industry standards. As a result, patients stay safe because the drugs they consume are also safe.

Decreased costs

Counterfeit drugs increase costs because they lack the active ingredient needed to cure diseases. However, authentic drugs work as they should hence curing patients within the expected time period.

Faster orders

The blockchain makes the process of finding trustworthy pharmaceuticals easy and fast. Additionally, a pharmaceutical company can view on the blockchain which carriers are available to make deliveries immediately.

Increased transparency

At each stage of the supply chain, parties authenticate using the blockchain and the drugs are verified through QR codes and serial numbers. In addition, every transaction is recorded on the blockchain and it can be traced and tracked. Therefore, the possibility of getting a different package from what was registered on the blockchain by the pharmaceutical is effectively non-existent.

The war against counterfeit drugs in Kenya might seem difficult but with the implementation of the blockchain in the pharmaceutical supply chain, it can be won. In a sector where it is difficult to know who you can trust and who you cannot, the blockchain creates trust.

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