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African Blockchain Initiative Put Student Government Election on the Blockchain

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African Blockchain Initiative

While cryptocurrencies continue to face resistance from some African governments, the blockchain continues to be utilised in various ways with the latest one being in an election where the African Leadership Academy (ALA) ran its student government elections on the blockchain.

The move by the African Blockchain Initiative (ABI) was influenced by the need to revolutionise elections on the African continent. The African Blockchain Initiative is an educational initiative that aims to boost the understanding of blockchain technologies and cryptocurrencies in the African continent through the services it offers.

The four founders acknowledged that the elections held this year at ALA were interesting based on the fact that they used the ABI voting system, which no one had access to – not even the founders – because of its decentralised nature.

Speaking about the decentralised network, ABI’s CEO, Cyril Michino said: “The internet is most centralised. That means all data goes down to a central point; if you’re on YouTube, all those videos are being managed by one central party. If you’re on Google or any social media platform, all that information and content you have access to is going to a central party. The problem with this is that power is being centralised to one party – it’s not just on the internet, it’s in banking, it’s everywhere.”

He went on to add that the blockchain is a technology that removes power from one centralised point and makes it accessible to everyone. “That’s why, when you talk about blockchain you talk about trust, transparency – because everyone gets access to everything – accountability and consensus; each and every person has a voice, and you get to have consensus on how to run things in a particular way.”

ABI’s Voting System

The Student Government elections at ALA gave the ABI team a perfect platform for the implementation of the blockchain, said Michino, who believed that one should “always leverage their sphere of influence”.

He went on to explain: “Cryptocurrencies are just a small part of the part to the whole blockchain puzzle piece. Blockchain can transform many things. Our big inspiration was to try to show that blockchain has other applications, other than just the bitware because that’s what most people know about it.”

Using their blockchain-based voting system allowed ABI to show how blockchain technology really works.

“We really wanted to find ways on how to implement Blockchain in the school, because a lot of people have challenged us, saying that ‘this technology may be promising and it looks cool – but how can we actually make sure it is implemented in the school, otherwise there is no impact?’,” explained Soufaih.

“We also used to think Blockchain is only used in big projects, and to actually use the technology, we have to think big,” he went on to explain. “But we really wanted to see how this technology works on a small scale, before going big. If you really want to convince your country to use Blockchain in elections, a simple proposal would be less likely to succeed because you don’t have any proof that this has worked, and no country will actually really trust the system if it has not been used before. So we thought of how we could simulate the experience within ALA, with the Student Government. And if it succeeds, it would have huge potential and we could probably convince schools and universities to implement it in their own student governments and, moving forward, to reach national elections.”

That is ABI’s main inspiration and motivation. The ABI team – with all except one member being Kenyan – used Kenya as a case example for the need to have a transparent and secure voting system in the African continent on the recent national elections that were held and marred with a lack of transparency and accountability which eventually led to their nullification.

Power to the People

“The biggest challenge for Africa is transparency. By using blockchain we want to give power to the people; to decentralise the power that the government can have, yet at the same time keeping it secure because everyone has access to the system, but no one has control. The ultimate dream is to see presidential elections on Blockchain – that’s where you have far higher impact and where there is far more at stake,” said Michino. “We were trying to see if this system could be modelled, starting on a compass, to start revolutionising elections on the continent.”

While the student government elections at ALA was small, it was definitely the right step towards achieving ABI’s goal of revolutionising elections in the African continent, said Soufaih.

“It played a role in lessening central power and reducing the role of the Electoral Student Council (ESC), who could oversee the process but not affect it in any way. So the impact is much less than, say, a president who is being privileged by an electoral body in a specific country, where it has much more impact on millions and millions of people. So in this simulation the impact may be limited, but it’s a very important first step for us.”

How it Works

Since there already existed a technological voting system in ALA, it made it easier for the ABI team as all they needed to improve on was the tech that was there. “The language we use is called Solidity.” explained Soufaih. “We wrote a smart Ccontract that takes into consideration many conditions and makes it possible for voters to actually vote – information is kept confidential, no central party has access.”

The elections started at 7 am and closed at 6 pm based on the fact that the system runs automatically. The results were then released immediately with everyone receiving them at the same time – from candidates to the ESC, ABI team and student community. Michino noted: “While voting is open, no one can tamper with the system. Using Blockchain, whenever someone votes, once that vote is in the system it can never be changed – no person in the middle can change it; nobody has power over anything.”

While the blockchain seems like a good solution to the transparency challenges in Africa’s election systems, there is a risk that the system can crash. To this, Michino answered: “Unlike central technology, where once you attack that server everything goes down, Blockchain saves information in every single ledger in the system.” He went on to explain, similar to bitcoin, downloading the application means that every single transaction has to be downloaded to your computer. As such, this makes it difficult to attack the system. However, if one system gets harmed, all the information is readily available on the other systems. “It’s also easy to know which one is corrupt and take it off the system – and It’s hard for anyone to crash a million systems at the same time,” added Michino.

For ABI, the next step is to take their voting system to institutions and schools across Africa. There have already been a number of schools that have shown interest in using their transformative system. Their end goal, however, is to have the system used across Africa for national elections.

“We know that not everyone has access to the internet, but they can have access to the Blockchain system at polling centers, where everyone can then cast their vote,” said Michino. “Whether this can be actualised within the next five or 10 years, remains to be seen, but it’s something we will definitely be pursuing in our Blockchain endeavours throughout our whole life.”

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AI and Blockchain-Powered Project CareAi Could Improve Healthcare in Africa

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CareAi

CareAi is a project of the Joint Research Centre from the European Commission that has the potential to improve healthcare services in Africa through the use of artificial intelligence and blockchain technology.

The open-source solution provides intelligent and anonymous healthcare and can diagnose diseases like typhoid fever, malaria, and tuberculosis within seconds through the use of AI. The aim of the project is to reach out to undocumented migrants, ethnic minorities, and populations secluded from healthcare systems. The anonymous nature of CareAi also allows patients such as migrants to receive a diagnosis without worrying about deportation.

How It Works

CareAi is a machine featuring a finger prick and a lab-on-a-chip technology initiated by a Harvard University chemistry professor called George Whitesides.

To receive a diagnosis, a patient will have their finger pricked and the blood sample is deposited on the chip, put in the machine, and anonymised. Once this is done, CareAi’s AI-powered health assistant analyses the sample by referencing it to a wide range of medical and diagnosing data and then displays the results on a screen and provides a printout for the same.

The results come with actions that the user should take such as getting a prescription from partner chemists or seeing a participating NGO doctor that provides anonymous treatment and who can claim back payment for services rendered.

Additionally, CareAi correlates medical data with records of academic data and journals anonymously. The anonymised data is securely stored on the blockchain while smart contracts manage the rights, permission, and access to the stored health data.

Organisations use a distributed app to access the data through smart contracts. For instance, if a government wants to access the stored data for policy purposes, it has to buy tokens called CareAi Points. These tokens are then used to pay the participating healthcare NGOs and for machine maintenance.

According to a Medium article by Lucas Lorenzo, these points can propel “economic interactions in the form of a valued currency, locally and at scale; exchanging economic value and intelligent healthcare feedback for anonymised data.”

The Possible Applications of CareAi in Africa

CareAiAlthough CareAi targets refugee camps in Europe, the technology could also make a positive impact on the African continent according to the founder of cloud-based health records platform Medcera, Ndubuisi Ekekwe. He believes:

“[…] Products like CareAi could become catalytic when they begin to penetrate into villages and cities across the continent. If AI systems could handle some of the minor healthcare issues, the available healthcare professionals could focus on the most difficult issues.”

Ekekwe also says AI systems, such as CareAi, can enhance drug prescriptions where the medical history of a person is entered into the system. This enables the AI system to confidently prescribe drugs and connect the patient to the right pharmacy.

However, he notes that although AI and blockchain technology could change the healthcare systems in Africa, nations must invest in other areas such as training more healthcare professionals and installing electricity and clean water in all healthcare facilities. He also believes that the challenge of inadequate data has to be solved for AI to have a future on the continent.

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Kenya’s RideSafe to Receive $140,000 in Funding from Aeternity Starfleet Incubator

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RideSafe

Kenyan tech startup RideSafe is set to receive $140,000 in seed funding from the Aeternity Starfleet Incubator, which it partook in earlier this year.

In Kenya, one of the easiest ways to get around is through motorcycles known as “boda bodas.” This subsection of the transport industry has been largely unregulated, creating a myriad of risks for riders and commuters alike. It is, therefore, quite likely to find riders creating associations or small social groups for their collective interests and pooling their resources and support in order to secure solutions for financing, health, and insurance.

RideSafe is a startup that has stepped up to provide health solutions for riders in real-time in case of accidents. Many riders are exposed to hazardous conditions daily. Hence, there is a need for robust solutions to safeguard their wellbeing.

Æternity Starfleet Incubator

RideSafe

Image by RideSafeApp.com

Earlier this year, RideSafe participated in the Aeternity Starfleet Incubator, which is specially designed to empower startups that seek to leverage blockchain technologies. From an initial round of 60 participants, RideSafe qualified for the shortlist of 17 teams, among which Vite and Utu were the only other African startups to participate.

Asiimwe Benson, the CEO of RideSafe, revealed in an interview that he met the Aeternity team at the World Blockchain Summit in Nairobi in early 2018, where he got an opportunity to sign up for the incubator and funding. With the $140,000 prize, the CEO intends to expand operations to serve more riders nationally; ultimately targeting the masses. The funding will also be used to build capacity and secure technical support.

Nikola Stojanow, the CEO of Aeternity Ventures, remarked that the finalists of their training program demonstrated passion, dedication, and far-reaching potential through their ability to take counsel and fine-tune their business models and road maps for best practice.

The ten teams that made it through Aeternity’s incubator have paved the way for other teams and startups to learn and gain meaningful experience in sustainably innovating solutions based on blockchain technology.

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Coinfirm Partners with KAD ICT Hub to Launch Africa Blockchain Lab in Nigeria

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Africa Blockchain Lab

London-based blockchain regtech company Coinfirm and Nigeria’s KAD ICT Hub have launched the Africa Blockchain Lab with the aim of taking up companies focused on creating blockchain-based services and products for African economies.

The new hub based in Kaduna, Nigeria is especially interested in companies that are focused on financial inclusion and has already accommodated one such startup called Kora.

Kora, founded in 2017 by Dickson Nsofor and Maomao Hu, is a blockchain-based infrastructure for an inclusive financial system. According to the Inclusive Growth Forum, “the Kora Network will provide access to identity, secure storage, money transfer, and marketplaces on a low cost, universal access platform accessible via SMS/USSD on feature phones, or with internet access via a mobile app, enabled by blockchain technology.”

CoinfirmCoinfirm’s co-founder and CMO Grant Blaisdell said in a press release: “A Silicon Valley out-of-the-box solution approach has generally not worked in regions such as Africa; it requires a ground-up, organic approach. Coinfirm has already successfully built leading blockchain solutions, the largest structured blockchain database and coverage, and the first blockchain lab for Central Europe. Now, working with KAD ICT Hub, who share our vision of bringing transformative, blockchain-based solutions to African markets, and who have the local knowledge and expertise, we are going to do the same in Africa.” He added:

“We want to work with and provide opportunities for African entrepreneurs working in one of the most exciting and disruptive fields today while bringing our own solutions like our AML/KYC Platform and AMLT Network.”

The KAD ICT Hub

Launched in 2017, the KAD ICT Hub based in Kaduna, Nigeria is an IT innovation hub that receives support from the Nigerian government.

Africa Blockchain LabCo-founder and chief executive of the KAD ICT Hub Yusuf Bashir said: “[…] The transformative potential of blockchain is enormous, and we are confident that, working with Coinfirm, we can provide the testbed and support for today’s leading African blockchain companies, giving them the opportunity to become global leaders. Here in Kaduna, Nigeria’s third-largest state in terms of population, and leading learning and innovation hub, we are extremely fortunate to have a governor who is not only supportive of what we are doing but had ensured we are backed by the Kaduna State Government.”

The hub has been working with Trudatum, Coinfirm’s blockchain-based data document verification platform, which Poland’s largest bank PKO Bank Polski has recently started to use. Additionally, Trudatum could be used in Nigeria to securely store documents in government institutions and universities.

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