In the last few years, blockchain technology has grown from a digital economy phenomenon to a soft revolution. With use cases ranging from healthcare to personal identity security, the possibilities are boundless.
One famous use case of blockchain technology is the eNaira, a digital currency launched and issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria. Unfortunately, it has failed to attract a larger portion of the Nigerian population. While many believe this is a sign that Nigeria is not ready for a disruptive solution of this nature, the government is not giving up.
Two weeks ago, a colleague reported that the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), a public agency tasked with pioneering information technology, made a statement regarding the use of the nascent technology. According to Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, the Director General, discharge certificates from the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) would soon be issued through blockchain technology.
To the average Nigerian, it doesn’t mean much. But to the tech-savvy demographic, this presents blockchain a terrific opportunity to redeem its image because the eNaira project flopped. Although the integration of blockchain technology in the issuance of NYSC certificates aims to tackle forgery, its potential for opening the door to other use cases is the most relevant benefit.
A step in the right direction only if…
When asked to comment on the prospects of Blockchain in an emerging market like Nigeria, Wahab Ogunnaike expressed optimism. The founder of Regiz, a startup focused on digital documentation, claimed NITDA’s move was “a step in the right direction.” He further stated that it could potentially reduce the trend of fake certificates being used to apply for jobs.
The issue of certificate forgery is a deeply-rooted one. Even politicians have been accused of the crime. NITDA isn’t the only government institution to have certificate forgery on its radar. Last month, the National Examination Council (NECO) unveiled a digital platform called e-Verify. As the name implies, the platform will authenticate results.
As exciting as the impending union between NYSC certificates and blockchain sounds, Ogunnaike believes the exact framework used for the scheme will determine its success or failure. To this end, he asked an all-important question: “How do we identify the authenticity of previously issued certificates?” The NYSC has been operating since the 1970s. While there are no official data that states the number of certificates issued to date, one can assume it runs into millions.
Ogunnaike doesn’t believe the NYSC certificate use case will solely encourage more Nigerians to jump on the blockchain bandwagon. He lists a handful of factors necessary for large-scale adoption.“Real-life use cases, value addition, and most importantly education,” he stated.
Consider the concept of mobile phones. Phones offer communication regardless of distance, entertainment through music and games, information through the Internet, and much more. Those are real-life use cases. Phones have undeniably added value to our lives. Before blockchain can become commonplace in Nigeria or any other African country, it must, as Ogunnaike said, be used for more than certificate issuance.
Blockchain for elections in Nigeria
Since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, its elections have been the subject of controversy. From inciting ethnic-religious clashes to daylight ballot box snatching, the country’s election periods are typically existing, yet dangerous to witness. It’s no wonder why the voter count has steadily declined.
According to research from Premium Times, Nigeria’s voter turnout has been at its all-time low this year. Even now, rivals to the winner, President Bola Tinubu, are still contesting the outcome of the 2023 presidential elections. Even with the introduction of the electronic results viewing register, newspapers and social media were swarmed with reports of result manipulation. Many claimed the numbers being uploaded into the server had been tampered with.
Elections are vital to any country’s democracy. Without free and fair elections, the concept of democracy is flawed. As such, Ogunnaike believes blockchain should be deployed to the electioneering process. Since the technology is notably transparent and tamper-proof, it might be the antidote to a vast problem.
“Adopting blockchain technology for Nigeria’s election process should be the next step. Although it might be initially expensive, it will help save costs in the long run. It’ll also do what’s expected and allow for transparency, security, and real-time display of results,” he explained. Unfortunately, he doesn’t see this happening soon. This is hard to dispute given the government’s nature of abandoning projects.
Perhaps to offer you, dear reader, some hope, the National Blockchain Policy does state that blockchain will be incorporated into voting systems and other aspects of the public sector. When will that happen? No one can say. It may never happen. But what’s certain is that blockchain could be the answer to many problems in Nigeria. It would be ghastly to not explore it widely.
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