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GITEX: Nigeria closer to wide-scale Blockchain technology adoption – Pantami

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Efforts are being made by the Nigerian government to provide frameworks, guidelines, standards and regulations towards wide-scale adoption of blockchain technologies in the country.

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, dropped this hint while speaking during a panel on ‘Blockchain – The end of unearned education’, at the ongoing Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX), Dubai.

The leader of the Nigerian delegation to GITEX 2020, told participants at the panel discussion that relevant agencies have issued cautionary notes to the public and banks to protect consumers while working on regulatory policies and guidelines.

He said that, submissions from private businesses and professionals have reinforced the fact that blockchain technology, virtual currencies and digital assets have come to stay in Nigeria and globally.

This has triggered active participation of the Nigerian startups in the new ecosystem and value chain created by this technology.

The Minister, singled out education and financial sectors as those with immediate cravings to follow the steps of the Nigerian Customs Service blockchain technology adoption.

“Government’s role in Blockchain technology adoption is strategic. It requires that government at different regions should come up with policies to support Blockchain deployment. In Nigeria, we are already doing that.

“As a country, Nigeria is working towards becoming the leading nation in the Digital Economy. The Federal Government of Nigeria has developed a Digital Economy Policy that has eight pillars that crave for investments and Pillar seven which speaks about ‘Digital Society and Emerging Technologies’ and addresses issues around Blockchain Technology”, Pantami said.

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The Minister, however, said that creating awareness matters a lot for the citizens and institutions to understand why such technology should be deployed, especially in the education where the integrity of a certificate paraded by a supposed student of an institution, must not be compromised.

Blockchain

The Moderator; Abdulqader Ali (Smartworld); Aly Madhavji (INSEAD); Minister of Communications and Digital Economy (Nigeria), Dr. Isa Pantami; Anna Juusela (Encourage.fi) and Dr. Maria Papadaki (The British University in Dubai) who served as panellists at GITEX 2020

The challenges posed by COVID-19

When asked how COVID-19 has aided technology adoption in Nigeria, the Minister said:

“As we all know, the pandemic came with many challenges, but there the ICT sector recorded many positives and lessons. Many decision-makers started appreciating the importance of ICT tools.

“We have seen a surge in the adoption of technology in adherence to the new normal like virtual meetings, e-Governance. The entire digital and emerging technologies show that COVID-19 was a blessing in disguise in some areas”.

“As a country, during the lockdown, we established a Digital Academy that offered citizens skills and capacity development opportunities in the areas of cybersecurity, and other relevant tools.

“More than 120,000 participated and over 80,000% have been certified. That is why I believe that COVID-19 isn’t good for the world, but it really promoted the ICT sector, especially in Africa.

When asked about the timeline with regards the wide-spread adoption of emerging technologies like the Blockchain, by the Nigerian market, the Minister said:

“Technology is becoming highly unpredictable due to the rapid growth. What I want to see happen with Blockchain is when it will dominate education, finance and other sectors especially where we need to save the integrity of documents and transactions and provide interoperability for seamless operations.

Blockchain

Cross section of participants

“My prediction is that Blockchain will be adopted across the world in the next few years. The future is that it will dominate every sector in no distant time”, Pantami predicts.

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In his contribution, Abdulqader Ali of the Smartworld, said that for a business person, “he looks for solution that is secured and that is what Blockchain offers. You wouldn’t want to transfer or wire money via a channel that has been breached over and over. You look for alternative.

“Blockchain will have to disrupt a lot of industries. So, you can verify someone’s degree from any part of the world as Blockchain technology will empower you to do that

On setting global standard for Blockchain Technology, Ali said that it will be difficult to point at a particular country as the leader on blockchain standards presently as each country has peculiar challenges they want to solve with Blockchain.

“The only way we can set standard is by tasking the leaders to understand the importance and give more credence to its adoption. Security is one big issue companies face today. A company with $100 budget, today, spends close to $80 solving security related challenges.

He nodded in agreement to Pantami’s submission that stakeholders should work towards open standard for interoperability for seamless operations and understanding. 

To Aly Madhavji of INSEAD, the scandalous cases of fake degrees associated with highly placed institutions give credence to why Blockchain Technology needs wide-spread adoption.

“The cost of hiring fake certificate holder is huge. That is why companies are looking at solutions to ensure academic credentials are not compromised. The higher institutions need to embrace this technology more because it aims to solve their immediate challenges.

Blockchain

R-l: Dr. Pantami and Aly Madhavji (INSEAD) during the panel discussions on Blockchain Technology at GITEX 2020.

“One of the things that excite us is that we can image a situation where all those credential on LinkedIn can be verified without hassles”, he added.

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Anna Juusela representing Encourage.fi, shared success stories of leveraging Blockchain Technology to bring succour to girls in forced-marriages.

In her words, “We are providing incentives for them to recover and get back to school. Blockchain can work as long as we create it. For example, we can bring girls back into the academics and get them to study to receive certificates at the end of the day. The underlining advantage of the technology is the revolution it brings to the society. There are so many opportunities that blockchain offers such as remote learning. It removes a lot of risks for us. It helps you to bring education closer to the people.

“I see the opportunity where we can keep all the important documents in a safe place using the blockchain technology. It requires the leadership to ensure this becomes the reality”, Juusela said.

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