Blockchain is the brainchild of a person or a group of people who go or goes by the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. Originally devised to support digital currencies such as Bitcoin, blockchain has quickly evolved into something more, with the technological community finding other potential uses for the technology in many industries.
Blockchain can be defined as an incorruptible virtual ledger of transactions programmed to record these transactions along with every other item that may be deemed valuable. It is basically time-stamped series of non-modifiable records, and it is managed by a network of computers that are not owned by one entity (this is the block). These computer networks are secured and grouped together using complex cryptographic principles (this is the chain). Blockchain works because of principles of openness, transparency, accountability and most importantly, trust. The genius of blockchain also resides in the fact that apart from the infrastructural cost that supports the technology frame, there is no actual fee for the transaction. One party initiates the process by creating a block, and only after this block is successfully verified by a predetermined number of computers is it added to a chain. The integrity of the whole chain is dependent on this single block, and because there are so many blocks in the chain, the corruption of a chain is pretty much impossible since the whole chain would have to verify a fraudulent process.
Interestingly, a rudimentary version of blockchain has always existed in Botswana through the culture of BOTHO. BOTHO is based on the principles, having been defined as an example of a social contract of mutual respect, responsibility and accountability that members of society innately have towards each other and a process of earning respect before giving it, and to gain empowering by empowering others. Batswana believe that KAGISANO (Harmony) an only be maintained through mutual respect, honesty, transparency and accountability, the very principles used in blockchain technology. This paper aims to deconstruct blockchain and insert BOTHO principles within it to make in a viable option in sustainably developing Botswana's economy and driving this economy into the 4th industrial revolution.
DEFINTION OF BOTHO AND ITS HISTORICAL CONTEXT
Botho is a construct that is as old as humanity itself, and is applied that world over in one way or the other. The word Botho is a Setswana term used to express a way of living that is universal. Although there is no clear definition of the word, we are told by Dolamo (2013), that ‘the concept of Botho defines cultural values such as compassion, reciprocity, harmony, humanity and dignity of community for the purpose of building and maintaining that well-being of the said community. These values are expressed in terms of the dependence and interdependence among individuals and groups for the benefit of the collective. This is clearer in the principle of “motho ke motho ka batho ba bangwe”, which translates into “a person a person through his/her people”. This means therefore that what goes into making a human being is other human beings, more specifically those that are connected to that human being.
According to Broodryk (2008), the notion of Botho started in Egypt as far back as 1500 BCE, and involved seven cardinal values being truth, justice, property, harmony, balance, reciprocity and order. The above were used as yardsticks for judgement of good behaviour and righteousness. A large number of these beliefs were transmitted to other African regions during migrations to southern parts of the continent. As the empire of Great Zimbabwe grew in power around the 14th century, Sotho-Tswana people went on to settle in the areas of southern Botswana and Northern South Africa. While customs in most of Southern African were mixed, diluted and eroded by wars and colonization, the migrations of the Tswana and the evolution of their culture and … traditions can be tracked over an uninterrupted period of nearly six centuries into the present (Steyn, 2012).
In Botswana, Botho has played a major role in the development of the country from being one of the world’s poorest to a middle-income nation, and one of Africa’s most stable economies. Despite rapid urbanization, the ideology of Botho has continued to survive though the kgotla (a community council set up to deal with disputes and problems its constituents may be going through) and the family home. One of the most beautiful definitions of Botho can be found in Botswana’s Vision 2016 and states, “a process of earning respect by first giving it, and of gaining empowerment by empowerment others.” Furthermore, the country has experienced major economic success by following the concept of a consensus-based community structure (kgotla), instead of the African norm that often disregards the welfare of ordinary citizens. The development plans of Botswana have always been based upon the five national principles, which are Democracy Development, Self-reliance, Unity and Botho (United Nations, 2008).
In the context of modern Botswana, Botho is therefore understood to mean, as stated by The University of Botswana (2012), “a social contract of mutual respect, responsibility and accountability”, intrinsic to a philosophy – a world view – that demands interdependence, communalism and the subservience of the individual to the welfare of the community as a whole.
The above definition shows how much of an opportunity there is in redressing the current state of economic trade, and will be referred to whenever Botho is mentioned within this article.
BLOCKCHAIN: DEFINITION AND BRIEF HISTORY
Blockchain is the brain child of a person or a group that goes under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. It was introduced in a 9 page white paper published in 2008 entitled ‘Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System’. The paper outlines how it is possible to come up with a completely new cryptocurrency based on a complex formula and a robust architecture of distribution. An excerpt from the paper states:
“The only way to confirm the absence of a transaction is to be aware of all transactions. In the mint based model, the mint was aware of all transactions and decided which arrived first. To accomplish this without a trusted party, transactions must be publicly announced, and we need a system for participants to agree on a single history of the order in which they were received… (Nakamoto, 2008)”
A blockchain at heart is therefore a structure in which every modification is agree upon by participants on a network (Pisa and Juden, 2017). Once alterations made have been agreed to, these are combined into a “block”, which is then attached to a “chain” of other blocks that were previously agreed to, thereby negating the need for an intermediary and creating a complete record of all alterations that have ever occurred. These time-stamped series of records cannot be modified, and is managed by a cluster of computers not owned by a single entity. This also means that no new alterations can be made without detection. Participants can therefore have faith in the fact that the data held in a blockchain without having to trust each other and without the reliance on a central authority (usual intermediary) such as a bank or a government. The Economist (2015), refers to blockchain as a “trust machine”.
Originally derived to support the digital currency ‘Bitcoin’, the technology has quickly evolved into much more, with various industries looking into how to integrate it with operations.
A cryptocurrency is a digital currency that relies on cryptography to secure the creation of new currency and transfer of funds, removing the need for a central issuing authority such as a central bank (Knight, 2017). ‘bitcoin’ is the most famous of cryptocurrencies, and what made it so famous is the underlying technology that ensure that before any data modification are accepted into blocks that become part of the blockchain, a majority of nodes (computers) on the same network must first agree that these modifications (or transactions) are valid. This is achieved through a mechanism, which outlines rules to be followed in order for the agreement to be reached. There is theoretically no need for an authorized intermediary to confirm these transactions, the result is there a decentralized database of ledgers with a consistently growing record or transactions.
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Figure 2 Adapted from OECD
Decentralized networks can be modified for any kind of decentralization based on user access and usage rights. Most networks occur in one of these formats:
- Permission-less (Public) Blockchain: where there is no one owner or operator and anyone is able to freely enter or exit. Anyone on a ledger ha access to the exact copy of that ledger. Bitcoin applies this.
- Permissioned (Private) Blockchain: where there is one or more owner(s) who give access to users. Only those with permissioned access possess a copy of a ledger. Most financial institutions utilize this kind of setup.
Some blockchains also have in their ledger computer script codes created to automatically run under a set of pre-determined conditions. These codes, called smart contracts can be used for example to guarantee insurance payments to a set of farmers under particular weather conditions (Pisa and Juden, 2017).
BLOCKCHAIN: SOME USES
1. Financial sector: Disberse provides an alternative infrastructure for the aid industry that is built on blockchain technology, providing real-time end-to-end tracking, data for reporting, as well as auditing and compliance trails.
2. Digital Identity Provision: Various firms have been trying to deal with challenges in the provision of decentralized identity management systems. IBM through its Blockchain Trusted Identity is working on creating a decentralized approach to identity that utilizes blockchain built atop open standards. BanQu has also created what is called the Economic Identity Platform that allows a secure and immutable network used to create bottom-up economic opportunities from the bottom of the pyramid.
3. Education sector: Learning Machine creates a lifelong learning records complete with verifiable and tamper-proof certification and documentation, facilitating instant decentralization verification. UNICEF has also developed The Amplify application platform as a replacement of the existing paper-based system used to register children for government funded pre-school subsidies in South Africa. This specific application provides a real-time service monitoring that includes verifiable digital identity registries for agents and children. It also claims to reduce costs of program administration.
4. Gender Equality and women empowerment: UNWomen along with partners such as Innovation Norway is exploring how blockchain technology could assist refugee women that are migrating by storing and securing their identity papers, medical records and documents that prove ownership of assets.
5. Logistics Sector: Modum combines Internet of Things sensors with blockchain technology to provide data integrity for transactions that involve physical products.
6. Health Sector: Minthealth allows patients to manage their health proactively by creating a self-sovereign health record and a global unique identifier that eases the seamless and secure transfer of clinical and behavioral data between patient-authorized stakeholders.
7. Insurance Sector: Allianz Risk Transfer and Nephila have managed to pilot blockchain technology for catastrophe swap, and according to Allianz, the exercise demonstrates that transactional processing and settlement between insurers and investors could be accelerated substantially and simplified by blockchain based contracts.
8. Retail Sector: the Everledger is an initiative that is working on traceability solutions for the diamond sector that are built on blockchain-based platforms. The same is being piloted in the agricultural sector in order to track products based on Geographical Indicators and other markers so as to empower consumers and to provide a way to encourage and reward good practices.