The Blockchain Workshops came to Nairobi for the first time in December 2016.

Enthusiasts flocked to the event at Strathmore University. The attendance was made more of blockchain techies, programmers, lawyers, and bounty hunters :). Well, most of us just had a vague idea of what blockchains were. Maybe they are bitcoins, or are they crypto-currencies? And of course 99% though of them as alternative currencies.

What we refused to understand is that blockchains is a technology that allows distributed immutable smart contracts. The nodes performing the distribution get points for participating in the blockchain grid. And those points are what are generally called crypocurrencies. And the process of writing the distributed ledger for any blockchain transaction is what is called mining. You get some sort of points when you mine. Depending on the network you use, the point can be called a bitcoin, an ether, etc. Well easy, is it not?

Well, my explanation my be off hook. So here is what Wikipedia has to say; “Blockchain is a distributed database that maintains a continuously-growing list of ordered records called blocks. Each block contains a timestamp and a link to a previous block. By design blockchains are inherently resistant to modification of the data – once recorded, the data in a block cannot be altered retroactively”

Prof. Nii Quaynor, one of the Internet Pioneers in Africa set the scene by showing how adoption of new technology happens around the world. It seemed just like in the adoption of the internet, Africa was alos lugging behind in embracing blockchain technology.

The blockchain legends were around. The one who generated the most interest was Vitalik Buterin, the 22 year old co-founder of Ethereum. Ethereum is a publicly assessable, distributed blockchain computing platform that implements smart contract functionality.

So I had to engage Vitalik. “What is your take on hard forks, especially the hard fork that was done on Ethereum when DAO was hacked. Does that jeopardise the credibility of blockchains which are billed to have distributed immutable transactions. Example if we implement a banking platform, or land registry system using Ethereum, the public will just claim transactions are reversible”.

Vitalik’s answer was measured and calm, very pragmatic I must say from a 22 year old. He said that systems have to be adaptable. And as the popularity of blockchain technologies mature, including ethereum, it will be more difficult to apply hard forks. And hard forks are a matter of political decisions.

The public was surprised to learn from the government of Kenya, through a statement read on behalf of the Minister of ICT Joe Mucheru that the government is working with IBM to deploy blockchain applications in government service. Three areas they are working on is land, education, and medical records.