Blockchain Education: Misconceptions and Challenges

There is a lot of misconception about blockchain in most parts of the world, and not just Africa. In the minds of most people, there is a lot of uncertainty wrapped around the concept of blockchain. Speaking at the ongoing African Blockchain Developers Call series, Amando Boncales, CEO of AltHash Blockchain, says the first thing people think when they hear the word: “blockchain” is bitcoin and cryptocurrency. 

Blockchain is not bitcoin

Perhaps, the most popular misconception about blockchain is that blockchain is bitcoin or its only application is in cryptocurrency. Explaining what blockchain is, FT Technology reporter, Sally Davies, explains it as “Blockchain is to Bitcoin, what the internet is to email. A big electronic system, on top of which you can build applications. Currency is just one”. With simple explanations like this, one could say that the misconception stems from the fact that cryptocurrency is one area where the system is mostly applied. As such, making the usage of blockchain popularised in other sectors like Healthcare, for example, could clear the misconception.

There are more misconceptions about the blockchain system that signifies the level of global ignorance about the technology. The belief that blockchain is some kind of magical database or smart contracts are contracts written and signed by AI, shows how far away the technology is from becoming widely adopted. 

Blockchain is more than financial technology. Amando Boncales believes limiting the technology to finance, alone is a great injustice to its potential. 

READ ALSO: Why Africa Needs Active Blockchain Education

The misconception is quite understandable, as Blockchain was released into the mainstream because of bitcoin, and the two are basically inseparable in the minds of many. To increase interest in blockchain, it needs to be separated from bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. When people’s interest in blockchain is tied to cryptocurrency, then their interest in the technology will be as volatile as cryptocurrencies.  

The key to nullifying the “blockchain equals digital assets” equation, is to apply the technology to other things or like the blockchain evangelist, Amando, will put it, “to further professionalize the blockchain space, we have to venture into other applications of blockchain”, giving examples such as supply chain and governance. 

The need for blockchain professionals.

The internet is one revolutionary technology that has transformed almost every aspect of human life for over forty years. From how we work to how we interact, the internet is one piece of technology that has become ubiquitous in this current dispensation. Blockchain technology has been compared by some to the internet. John Zanni, president of the Acronis foundation, says, “we believe that blockchain will be transformative in the tech and IT sector in the coming years, similar to what the internet did for the world back in the ’90s and early 2000s.”  Though surrounded by a lot of doubts and misconceptions, the disruptive technology continues to gain momentum. Analyst firm, Gartner, predicts that the technology will be worth $10 billion by 2022, and by 2030 the business value would have grown by $3.1 trillion.

With such numbers, blockchain technology will require a lot of workforce, and Africans need to be ready. 

 Institutions such as the Africa Blockchain Institute and AltHash Education are already educating students, developers, programmers and enthusiasts, towards becoming professionals in different blockchain fields. However, to cope with this fast changing environment, a lot needs to be done. 

Integrating blockchain studies into the educational system

Infusing blockchain studies into the educational  system could lead to a rapid mainstream adoption of the technology. There could also be an unprecedented influx of blockchain professionals into the blockchain space. 

However, the process of integrating blockchain studies into the educational system will take a very long time. According to Amando Boncales, adoption of innovation in any educational system of the world takes a very long time. Aliyu Musa, a panelist during the  blockchain in education session of the ABDC boot camp, says it could happen, but proper infrastructure and awareness are factors which are still not in place. Asides a sluggish bureaucratic system of reforming policies especially in some African countries, lack of facilities is a real challenge to infusing blockchain into the curriculum. 

The obstacles that stand against integrating blockchain into our educational system can be conquered, but it will take a long time. Institutions and platforms created by blockchain enthusiasts, educators and professionals, seem to be the only sustainable means of educating people on blockchain technology. These institutions, however, equally have their own challenges. PesaBase Director of growth and user acquisitions, Roselyne Wanjiru, mentions some of these challenges at the ABDC series, during the blockchain in education panel session. The challenges range from getting students to actually sign up, training staff, to getting and utilizing funds.

The challenges faced by these institutions, though acute, have not stopped these institutions from making gradual progress in educating students about the technology of the future.  Managing partner at the Africa blockchain institute and convener of the ABDC series, Adedayo Adebajo, shares some of the success stories of the institute during the ABDC call series. Starting out by delivering workshops in universities across universities in Nigeria, the institute has gone beyond the shores of Nigeria, spreading the blockchain gospel and creating Blockchain professionals and enthusiasts. 

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