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South African Blockchain Startup Custos Media to Tackle eBook Piracy

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custos media

On September 13, 2017, South African blockchain startup Custos Media announced that it would take part in the new anti-piracy blockchain solution for eBooks. This follows a recent announcement that eBook publisher Erudition and Digimarc will be joining forces to work on a blockchain-based solution for the piracy of eBooks.

The new partnership kicks off the fusion of the infringement detection technology by Custos Media and the digital documents Barcode by Digimarc. The combination of the two forces is set to provide a more powerful and reader-friendly way of dealing with eBook piracy.

It’s not the first time that Custos and Erudition will be working together. Over the past year, they have enjoyed a close working relationship. The South Africa-based startup has been providing technology that allows for the addition of bitcoin deposits to eBooks. Referred to as digital bounties, these deposits have enabled Custos to quickly detect pirated content after the first copy of an eBook has been shared.

eBook piracy has been a major setback for publishers across the globe with existing solutions falling short of providing the needed content protection. A good example is the hard Digital Rights Management (DRM) that at times inconveniences genuine readers by denying them access to their books or making them lose ownership if the platform gets terminated.

Digimarc and Custos Media, however, provide a functional solution. Digimarc’s Barcode allows for a non-intrusive method by placing an invisible watermark on every eBook copy. On the other hand, Custos supplements this amazing technology by quickly finding copies of leaked watermarked eBooks even as pirates continue to share them on the dark web, which is hard to prod from the outside.

For Erudition, settling on the two companies was a no brainer. The patented technology by Custos that relies on superior watermarks and is unique for each type of media combined with Digimarc’s Barcode gave their eBook distribution platform an unrivalled solution for dealing with piracy.

Custos approach is unique because of the hidden bitcoin deposits tied to each eBook copy. If an eBook is solely being controlled and used by the intended recipient, then the deposit stays intact. If, however, the eBook gets circulated within any piracy network, the bounty bitcoin deposits can be claimed from anywhere globally. It takes only seconds for the claimed bounty transaction to be visible on the bitcoin system before the publisher gets notified of the existence of the infringed copy. The embedded bitcoin bounties are unique to each eBook. This, therefore, makes it easy to reveal the identity of the customer making the infringement.

“This scheme improves on existing methods of watermarking files and then crawling various places on the internet to detect those files,” said President of GiantSteps Media Technology Strategies and DRM Specialist, Bill Rosenblatt. “Bounty hunters can find these files in places which those crawlers can’t access, such as password-protected cyberlocker accounts.”

This approach by Custos makes it easy to essentially attack the piracy economy by targeting the file uploaders instead of the downloaders. This scheme plants seeds of distrust among the pirates’ community by turning them against each other. Subsequently, the bitcoin bounty hunting system can infiltrate the impenetrable dark web marketplaces, emails, offline sharing and peer to peer networks. Custos’ recent tests on their system using different media types, revealed that it takes an average of 42 seconds for individuals to claim the unique bitcoin bounties linked to each eBook file immediately after an upload on any social network. The dark webs average detection time is under five minutes.

“This is the perfect play of technologies to protect authors and publishers against the worrisome growth in content theft,” said Custos’ CEO, G-J van Rooyen. “By combining Digimarc’s industry leading watermark with Custos for e-books, Erudition has created an exceptionally attractive platform for e-book retail.”

Blockchain Technology

BanQu is Leveraging the Blockchain to Give Refugees a Digital Identity

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BanQu

BanQu, a software company focused on eradicating global poverty, is leveraging blockchain technology to provide refugees with a digital identity so that they can continue to take part in society.

Linking Refugees to the Global Economy Using Blockchain Technology

Refugees and displaced persons can continue to live their lives independently thanks to the BanQu blockchain-based solution, which allows them to store their information on a distributed ledger. That means that with their information digitally stored and accessible from anywhere, they can look for jobs, apply for loans, and run their own businesses, thereby, contributing to the host country’s economy.

Hamse Warfa got the idea for this solution after experiencing the refugee life in the Daadab Refugee Camp in Kenya. After escaping Somalia with his parents during the civil war at the age of twelve, Warfa knows how it feels like to have one’s life turned upside down so suddenly, Fair Planet reported.  His parents, once thriving business people, were now dependent on charity.

“I want all refugees to be able to build transaction-based economic identities that allow them to thrive, including getting loans, and accessing credit for things like businesses and eventually homes. BanQu is for the world’s poor, refugees, and stateless people so they can live their lives like the rest of us,” Warfa stated in an interview.

How it Works

BanquTo use the BanQu blockchain solution, a user creates a digital profile via a mobile phone where they enter their information. A third party, who must also be verified, verifies this information, which is then stored on the blockchain. A user can access his or her information at any time.

Users can also store their financial transactions, health records, education records, and credit histories on the BanQu app, thereby, enabling them to participate in the global economy.

Furthermore, the BanQu blockchain solution also benefits organisations and governments that interact with refugees. For instance, the BanQu platform allows governments to track aid resources that have been disbursed to the target population.

More than 25,000 people across four continents are using the BanQu solution and the company is striving to reach more than 100 million underprivileged people by 2028.

Dr Riby Okoth, a lecturer at the School of Security, Diplomacy, and Peace Studies at Kenyatta University in Kenya, said: “Having the refugees, for example, use their digital footprint to access financial services or job opportunities as the rest of the population not only reduces the culture of dependency but also opens up the global economy to more participants who are growing it rather than depending on it.”

According to the UNHCR, there are about 68.5 million people displaced from their homes and among them about 25.4 million refugees and approximately ten million stateless people.

With BanQu’s blockchain solution, these people could have the chance to live normal lives where they can access education, healthcare, loans, and employment.

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Blockchain Technology

Vodafone Ghana Introduces Blockchain Programme for Technology Students

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Vodafone Ghana

Vodafone Ghana in collaboration with IBM, HackLab Foundation, and Stanbic Bank has introduced a blockchain technology programme for technology students at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). The aim of the programme is to promote digital innovation in Ghana.

The Hacklab Foundation Hackathon

The blockchain programme took place at Hacklab Foundation’s hackathon held on April 19, 2019, at KNUST. The programme was based on the theme: “Can blockchain technology transform the services sector?”

Hacklab Foundation is a non-profit organisation based in Ghana that instills skills in the youth in preparation for the job market while connecting them to potential employers.

Vodafone GhanaAs GhanaWeb reported, the hackathon attracted 600 developers from more than 18 institutions across Ghana with the purpose of finding blockchain-based solutions for the country’s market and for the entire continent. Vodafone Ghana will help the developers that had the best solutions from the hackathon to execute their ideas.

“Our status as a leading telecom company in Ghana means we have the power to drive change in our society and this is one of the many avenues we are deploying to accelerate Ghana’s digital journey,” said Vodafone Ghana’s Enterprise Business Director Angela Mensah-Poku.

According to a statement from Vodafone Ghana, the blockchain technology programme will revolutionise how student developers think.

“Blockchain technology is a very fascinating concept which has captured the attention of the world and this hackathon is a demonstration of our commitment to lead a digital revolution in Ghana. We are always excited about the opportunity to unearth young talents in the digital technology sector,” Angela added.

Promoting the Digital Revolution in Ghana

Vodafone Ghana has been promoting the digital revolution in Ghana for more than three years, the telco company said in the statement. This has been done through the implementation of a digital strategy that is all-inclusive. Vodafone implements its strategy through annual hackathons, national digital coding, and the youth skills and jobs portal.

Vodafone Ghana was recognised as a digital leader at the Ghana Business Awards in 2018.

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Blockchain Technology

Mauritius-based Horizon Africa Launches Blockchain Education Platform for Africans

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Horizon Africa

Mauritius-based technology firm Horizon Africa has launched a new platform aimed at educating Africans about blockchain technology and encouraging startups, corporations and public sector institutions to utilise it.

An Ethereum-based Network for Africa

Horizon AfricaHorizon Africa is an Ethereum-based blockchain platform that offers blockchain solutions and facilitates DApp development. The Horizon Africa Blockchain Network (HABN) aims to apply blockchain to a number of industries including fintech, digital healthcare, education, governance and more.

According to the company’s co-founder, Suyash Sumaroo,

“Even though the public Ethereum (blockchain) has been available for years, the blockchain landscape in African countries has not developed much. There is a gap which is being filled by Horizon Africa. Its focus is not about creating a network or increasing the value of its token, but instead to allow people to learn about using the network. Building prototypes and ultimately real solutions is a large part of the mission,” he stated in an ITWeb Africa interview.

To make this dream a reality, Horizon Africa aims to involve African developers in the creation of blockchain solutions. The HABN network will provide a ‘test bed’ for local developers to design and deploy DApps that solve specific challenges in areas such as identity management, land registry, supply chains, gaming, and agriculture.

Sumaroo believes the uptake of blockchain-based products in Africa will increase within five years. He argues that Horizon Africa’s platform will play an important role in enabling African companies, startups and governments to learn about the technology, develop an implement blockchain systems.

Investing in Jobs of the Future

The platform launch comes after comments shared by the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina, at the 2019 Mo Ibrahim Governance Week, where he urged African governments to move away from “investing in the jobs of the past, but rather in the jobs of the future.”

He stated that Africa should position itself to maximise on the opportunities brought by digital technologies such as blockchain, AI, big data analytics, and 3D printing. Sumaroo mirrors the same belief and reiterates that blockchain technology will play a critical role in industries such as finance, agriculture and the public sector in the future of Africa.

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