The recent Transform Africa Summit (TAS 2017) hosted by Mr Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda and held in the capital, Kigali, from 10-12 May 2017 took place under the theme: “Smart Cities: Fast Forward,”—a topical theme—as the next wave of innovative, integrated technologies is already helping cities around the world to become self-reliant and sustainable.

One of the most significant and even revolutionary technologies today is the Blockchain, as it is the technology most likely to have the greatest impact on the future of the world economy. Smart cities can use information technology to integrate and manage physical, social and business infrastructures to provide better services to city citizens while at the same time ensuring the efficient and optimal utilisation of the available resources. With the proliferation of technologies such as Internet of Things (IOT), cloud computing, and interconnected networks, smart cities can deliver innovative, better and more efficient services to their citizens.

Laurent Lamothe, former Prime Minister of Haiti, chairman of the Board of Directors of Global Voice Group, distinguished entrepreneur and champion of socio-economic development in emerging economies through Innovative Financing for Development (IFD), spoke at the Summit in a session: “Internet of Value: Blockhain and the Internet of Things (IOT)”

Against the background of the Summit and its underlying theme, this session was particularly pertinent as Lamothe believes the combination of Blockchain and the Internet of Things has the power to ignite socio-economic development in African countries. In his address he went even further—to say: ”If your government, county, municipality, town, city or jurisdiction is not thinking about the Blockchain, they should be.”

He highlighted what cities and countries have already done using the most obvious and immediate application areas for the Blockchain:

Delaware is moving its archives into an open transparent ledger on Blockchain
Singapore is developing initiatives using Blockchain to prevent traders from defrauding banks after a major incident where traders got away with over 200m dollars
United Kingdom—initiatives to manage the distribution of grants through Blockchain to mitigate potential fraud and abuse
Estonia has developed the e-Residency programme using Blockchain—anyone in the world can apply to become an e-resident of Estonia which gains revenue through the various initiatives linked to this and—a healthcare initiative on Blockchain to track medical records—putting patients in control of their own data and giving them transparency about their own medical care
Ghana—28 communities are experimenting with land titles on the Blockchain

Most importantly, perhaps, Lamothe covered how the Blockchain can bring about better government service delivery—often a bone of contention for the citizens in many cities around the world.

What can a government entity do with the Blockchain? The Blockchain is the perfect keeper of the chain of custody for any physical asset. There are four main categories of activity relating to:

verification (licences, proofs of records, transactions, processes or events)
the movement of assets (transferring money from one person/entity to another, and enabling direct payments once work has been performed)
ownerships (land registries, property titles and any type of real estate ownership)
identities (an e-identity would allow its holder access to a variety of services and rights that need verification e.g voting)

He called on government leaders to get up to speed on the Blockchain and commit to exploring its potential. A dedicated effort needs to be made to develop a Blockchain strategy and government must be commit ted to introducing innovative Blockchain-based solutions to cut costs and provide more efficient services for citizens.

Coupled with Blockchain, the IOT—the inter-networking of physical devices, buildings and other items embedded with electronics and network connectivity—enables data collection and exchange. The IOT has tremendous potential for cost containment and encompasses technologies such as “smart grids”, virtual power plants, smart homes, intelligent transportation and smart cities. African—and cities in general— must continuously seek to establish new infrastructure and city systems so as to position their cities as next generation cities.

The Summit focused on the role of technology in delivering the urban infrastructure and solutions to ensure economic success and prosperity for Africa now.

by Jenny Planter