Business 28.7.2016 08:56 am

Blockchain in SA – Solving corruption and funding causes

The technology has the potential to make us rethink how we elect government, buy houses, give money and invest.

Blockchain can sometimes be a bit hard to understand and since a lot of people are caught up in relying on systems that are already in place, new technology does not always get accepted. Blockchain has the potential to make us rethink how we elect government, buy houses, give money, invest, and anything else that requires a paper for documentation. For example, the first couple married on the blockchain was in November 2015 through posting vows and a legally binding contract on the blockchain.[1]

Think back to the start of the internet in the 1990s. In the days before the internet launched, most people thought that it was a crazy idea and people were reluctant to think about and accept it. Today, most of us could not imagine our lives without the internet. But even for those of us who do not use the internet daily, there is most likely something that relies on the internet. Banks are an example. Our lives would be very different if the internet was not present.

Paper Plane believes that it is only a matter of time before blockchain achieves mass utilisation. With that as a given, we bend our minds towards the possible uses for blockchain. To illustrate how blockchain might be used to combat corruption, let’s first look at an example of how blockchain is used to transfer information. We will then take a look at how it can solve corruption and then how it can be used for funding causes.

Example:

Let us think of when Mom or Dad gets out their wallet, takes out R200, and gives it to their kids. That money is going directly from their wallet to the child’s, with the actual R200 changing hands in the middle. Now that R200 is in the child’s possession. The paper money is not linked to a bank or entity as our bank accounts are where we keep money electronically. That R200 is completely under the child’s control.

Now, think of this same process but replacing the wallets with phones or computers. Replace the changing of money through the hands with pushing a button on your phone. Money is not transferred from one bank to another but from one person’s wallet to another. That, in a nutshell, is how blockchain would operate to transfer money. However, there are several safeguards put in place to protect your information (in this case the information is a monetary value) along with anything else you transfer. Whether it be money, a vote, a deed to a house, or a title to a car, it is all thoroughly protected and arguable more secure than a bank or even under your mattress, and there is nobody controlling that money but you.

Blockchain is very simple as a user. One can go to blockchain.info and set up a wallet in less than five minutes online. Another alternative is to download a wallet like Electrum and keep coins on your computer. Currently, a wallet is what you store any online currency, like bitcoin, in. It is completely digitalized and each one has distinctive codes. Imagine it as a virtual wallet for your bitcoins. Once you have a wallet set up, you are able to purchase bitcoin through an online exchange like cex.io. You can then transfer your funds to a wallet on your computer or invest through a website like cryptrader.com. Blockchain provides the platform through which that currency is moved.

Blockchain technology is used for each transfer. You are able to see a live stream of transfers on blockchain.info. Identities are kept anonymous for mostly all transfers at this time. Going forward, if corporations or governments were to be on the blockchain, a public wallet name would have to be required to see their ledgers. Blockchain has six steps. User A puts a request to send money to User B. Afterwards, the transaction is sent and represented online as a “block”. That “block” is broadcast to every user in the network. Those users then approve or deny the transaction based on availability of funds. If approved, the “block” can be added to the chain of all other transactions, which provides a transparent record of transactions. After the “block” is added to the chain the request goes through and the money is then transferred.[2]

To sum it up, one would go on their computer and either launch the application on the desktop with their bitcoins or go online to their online wallet (blockchain.info). They would then select a send option and put in the wallet’s code they are sending to. Once you send money to another wallet the request to send goes to a network of users. They check the balance of your wallet and if it has sufficient funds they will approve it. The money will then change wallets and the transaction will be recorded on the public ledger visible on blockchain.info. You will have a record of sending the money to the wallet, the funds will be deducted from yours, and then will be added to the other party’s wallet.

African countries top most of the lists of the most corrupt places on earth and it is no secret that the internal theft of funds has hamstrung many governments and municipalities. Corruption is made possible by money being dispersed behind closed doors only for those involved to see it and cover it up. If the government decides to implement blockchain technology, all transactions have to go through the public approval process. It is part of the six step process of a blockchain transaction. Since blockchain transactions need to do this, the public has power whether a transaction is valid. The government needs to have the sufficient funding to be able to send the resources. Afterwards, if approved, it will be visible on the public ledger. People would know immediately when an action was taken in the government. They will also be able to tell if the transfer was of actual government business or it is of corruption. This would make corruption a difficult thing to keep secret as public ledgers can be analyzed from people all around the globe. The whole idea of blockchain is to have all records be open to the public. Blockchain technology can lead us to start taking steps away from banking systems, clarify where company money goes, and also get rid of international fees. It is the ultimate transparency of transaction mediums.

According to Charitysa.co.za, there are over 1200 registered charities in South Africa.[3] The sheer amount of charities leads to competition between them for all the same money that is available. Due to money laundering and corruption, there were laws put in place by the South African government to curb some of the acts in 2015.[4]Blockchain can solve one of the major underminers of progress in developed and underdeveloped countries: Budget allocation and expenditures. With blockchain we can have a precise, transparent, and flawless record of money. Imagine a world where you can see resources moving in real-time. When it comes to charities you are able to see money be transformed into something tangible that benefits the population.[5] Interesting innovations are being made where excess processing power can be sold from internet connected microwaves, fridges, and toasters to the blockchain in exchange for bitcoin. Basically, these devices have spare processing power which can be used to mine bitcoin. Many people are deciding to set up an automatic contract to make all the extra go to a charity of their choice. Everything would be transparent, and it would take no effort from a user besides the initial set up.[6]

Blockchain has the ability to curb most of the issues tied to money laundering. Also, it has the ability to make funding charities much easier for organisations. It is very easy to send money once you have your wallet set up and funds added. There could easily be an online forum for all charities to register on. A filter system could be used to narrow down what charitable cause you want to donate to. A list of charities would appear that match your filters. Charities could be ranked by the quality of their relationships with donors. We could see how well they do work before donating our money. Of course, each and every charity’s ledger would be for transparent public view through the blockchain.[7] Public approval is an automatic process through the blockchain and people could go back and view where the company has been sending their money. The combination of having charities showing you where they spend money and posting things they are doing with it will build trust with the donators and the charity. It can lead to a long lasting partnership between the two. Knowing that your money is actually going to good use is massively important. It will solve a problem that a lot of donors have now: once you send your money to a charity, you do not know where it is making an impact. The charity will get much more of the full donation you send, instead of the remainder after heavy transfer fees are deducted.

We believe blockchain has the ability to change the world that we live in. Only a few topics have been explored so far but the possibilities are seemingly endless. How do you think blockchain can be used to revolutionise transacting?

Brought to you by Moneyweb

[1] Woods, Tyler. “This Couple Got Married on the Blockchain.” Technically Brooklyn. N.p., 11 Nov. 2015. Web. 08 July 2016.

[2] Wild, Jane, Martin Arnold, and Phillip Stafford. “Technology: Banks Seek the Key to Blockchain.” Financial Times. N.p., 1 Nov. 2015. Web. 05 July 2016.

[3] “Alphabetical List of Organisations.” CharitySA. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 July 2016.

[4] “Anti-money Laundering Rules Rock the NGO Secto.” Ujuh. N.p., 22 July 2015. Web. 8 July 2016.

[5] Gomez, Eduardo. “Blockchain and Biometrics Can Reduce Rampant Corruption.” The Merkle. N.p., 7 May 2016. Web. 08 July 2016.

[6] Maras, Elliot. “Report: How The Blockchain Will Revolutionize Charitable Giving.” CCN.LA. N.p., 17 Dec. 2015. Web. 8 July 2016.

[7] “Giving Unchained: Philanthropy and the Blockchain.” Charities Aid Foundation (n.d.): n. pag. Dec. 2015. Web. 8 July 2016.

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