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Blockchain Education: Misconceptions and Challenges

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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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Bolu Abiodun is a recent graduate of Theatre and Media Arts, Federal University Oye-Ekiti. A journalist with over a year's experience on the job. A former editor at American Media company Project Forward, he is a skilled content creator, social media manager and digital marketer.

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Jack Dorsey‘s Square to develop open source Bitcoin mining

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Jack Dorsey Bitcoin

On Friday, October 15, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced that American fintech company, Square, would be looking to get into Bitcoin mining. Jack Dorsey who is also Square’s CEO announced this on Twitter which subsequently sent waves through the bitcoin market, surging its price to almost a record high, rising over $62,000 over the weekend. According to the Twitter boss, Square is looking to building an open source Bitcoin mining system that would be available to individuals and businesses.

Sharing his thoughts further on the initiative, he stated that “Mining needs to be more distributed” and that “the more decentralized [mining] is, the more resilient the Bitcoin network becomes. He also mentioned the apparent inaccessibility of mining stating that “Bitcoin mining should be as easy as plugging a rig into a power source.

Dorsey also believes that bitcoin mining “needs to be more efficient and that “clean and efficient energy use” would be undoubtedly beneficial to the digital currency in the long run.

Dorsey ended the thread by saying that a “technical investigation would be undertaken by a Square team led by Jesse Dorogusker, Square’s hardware lead. If successful, this initiative would be another of Square’s bitcoin focused projects which includes a Bitcoin hardware wallet.

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Financial Leaders from G7 Release Guidelines for Central Bank Digital Currency

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Source: World Atlas

At a meeting that was held in Washington, yesterday, October 13, G7 leaders discussed central bank digital currency and endorsed 13 public policy principles with regards to their implementation. The financial leaders from G7 agreed that CBDCs would complement cash and should not be detrimental to the monetary system. The G7 leaders have been discussing CBDCs this week concluding that they should do no harm and meet rigorous standards.

It should be noted that G7 includes finance leaders in advanced economic nations comprising of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.S and the U.K. the G7 leaders make it mandatory that any newly launched CBDC should not harm the central bank’s ability to perform its duty of maintaining financial stability. In a joint statement by the G7 finance ministers and central bankers, they said that, 

“Strong international coordination and cooperation on these issues help to ensure that public and private sector innovation will deliver domestic and cross-border benefits while being safe for users and the wider financial system.” 

The joint statement further states that CBDCs are complements to cash and could serve as a liquid or safe settlement assets with an added advantage of anchoring existing payment systems. CBDCs issuance should be entrenched in a long-standing public commitment to transparency, rule of law, and sound economic governance. The statement added at CBDCs must be so efficient that they are fully interoperable on a cross-border basis. 

The G7 leaders agreed that they had a duty to minimize the incidence of ‘harmful spillovers to the international monetary and financial system” 

The G7 statement reiterated a similar statement earlier made by G20 that no global stablecoin project should begin operation until such a token has addressed legal, regulatory and oversight requirements. 

Countries like China and Nigeria are ahead of the pack with regards to the adoption of digital Yuan and Naira respectively. China’s crackdown on cryptocurrency may be a step forward for the country’s plan to promote its digital Yuan. Nigeria, on the other hand, postponed the launch of its eNaira in deference to the 61st anniversary of Nigerian independence on Oct 1. 

However, countries like the US and the UK are dragging their foot with regards to the introduction of CBDCs to their financial system. There are insinuations that America is in danger of being left behind technologically and financially if it doesn’t get serious with the implementation of CBDC in its financial system.

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Learning Guides

Understanding Speculation and Crypto Volatility

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Everyone who dabbles in the crypto industry learns almost immediately that the market is very volatile and oftentimes things can change very quickly. That volatility is the fundamental reason why some investors make absolutely stunning gains in so short a time and others lose a lot of money as well. Trading in crypto is one of the riskiest ventures any person can undertake and as they say, it’s not for the faint of heart. The risks can be mitigated of course and sometimes depends specifically on the coin or crypto asset being traded on, barring general market trends.

Nevertheless, to get to the bottom of the volatility concept, one must understand speculation in the market. To start off, the concept of speculation isn’t limited to cryptocurrencies, on the contrary, speculation has existed for as long as economics and trading has. But it is worth saying that speculation is often a feature of novel sectors, assets, commodities and the like. So, even though cryptocurrencies have been around for more than a decade, they’re still in their infancy as far as markets go. One could say that the market is still trying to find its feet.

One of the fundamental reasons why cryptocurrencies are so volatile is that they are fundamentally backed by nothing of value outside the attention that they get. Unlike many fiat currencies which are either pegged to another currency’s value or whose value is unilaterally determined by a central authority, cryptocurrencies only derive value as a function of how many people are willing to use is to transact, i.e. trust in the asset because other people trust it. As a rule of thumb, the larger the number of people who accept the asset, the more valuable it becomes.

This is one of the hallmarks of speculative trading. In the crypto world or in any market that’s novel and untested, many people are in it to win it which means their strategies in trade has the objective of making as much profits as possible in the short term. Therefore, the market enters a subtly dangerous cycle of rapidly changing prices of assets. Basically, investors typically buy assets when prices are low and wait. As more investors are attracted to the commodity for its low prices, it sets off a cascade where more people buy in, causing the price to steadily rise. 

However, all good things must come to an end and it almost always gets to a breaking point whereupon the price gets high enough for investors to begin to sell. This reverses the earlier cascade and as more and more investors pull out, the prices can fall dramatically causing even more to sell off in fear of losing whatever investments they have left. The prices having fallen resets the game and primes investors to begin buying again.

Volatility has been one of the talking points of many critics of cryptocurrencies often comparing it to a Ponzi scheme. And in certain cases, persons of interest with large pulls and audiences can substantially affect the rate at which prices rise and fall. Other factors include government regulations. Volatility at its core reflects the often chaotic nature of trade and market interactions and human hopes and fears.

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