'Blockchain' is a term that is shrouded in mystery. What is it really? Imagine a technology that will solve the problem of 'double spending' by enabling a decentralized system through 'distributed ledger', protected by key signature and which will be widely applicable outside of financial transactions. That is perhaps the kind of explanation that turns people off permanently from trying to understand the concept. It is not easy to describe in one sentence or two, and Shamma M Raghib agrees. But the workshop she was speaking at wasn't for simply explaining what it is.
One of the founding organizers of 'Data Pioneers', a global grassroots level group of data professionals, Shamma conducted the workshop on blockchain while visiting Bangladesh. Organised by Dnet in Dhaka's Mohammadpur area, the workshop happened unexpectedly for Shamma, as the MIT trained fintech expert was visiting her home country only for a vacation.
Shamma Raghib underwent training at MIT on 'Fintech Future of Commerce', specializing in blockchain and future payments infrastructure. Since then she has been training online and offline, at local and corporate workshops to make people more aware of blockchain technology and the future applications of it.
Titled 'Blockchain Dissected', the workshop was mainly attended by people who are already in the finance and IT industry in some capacity, or otherwise familiar with the basics of blockchain. The four-hour long workshop focused on Bitcoin, crypto-currencies, how Bitcoin is mined and what the underlying technology of Bitcoin is. Shamma also discussed blockchain applications and use-cases in different industries like supply chain, governance, healthcare, the creative industry, finance and fintech. In short, its applicability in all data driven industries.
“For the sake of simplicity and further curiosity, let us say [blockchain] is a "Distributed Trust Platform" which can be verified by anyone who is part of that particular blockchain network,” Shamma explains.
First conceptualized in 2008 by Satoshi Nakamoto, an anonymous person or group, the blockchain technology was what gave birth to Bitcoin, the most well known crypto-currency. Crypto-currency is a digital form of money that does not need a central authority for managing it. In other words, it eliminates the need for a central bank to keep record and manage a national currency.
Naturally, the participants in the workshop were most interested in Bitcoin. “Somehow everyone was most interested about Bitcoin mining. This shows a lot of entrepreneurial spirit which is essential for any project to be successful.”
Bitcoin mining is basically providing a specialized computer platform that will connect to the network and help keep track of the 'chain' in the blockchain. In return miners can earn cryptocurrency without having to put down money for it.
Shamma, however, talked about a whole lot more than just Bitcoin mining. She explained how the technology can be used to have transparency and efficiency in many different sectors. But with crypto-currency currently illegal in the country, how can banks and non-banking financial institutions (NBFI) benefit from it? This is particularly important for businesses, specially small and medium enterprises, who are invariably very much reliant on banking and NBFI services/products.
“In the banking sector blockchain based payment solutions, know-your-customer requirements may potentially have a great impact,” Shamma said. And in NBFI, blockchain based investment records, settlement and clearance and trust based smart contracts and digital identity can enormously boost efficacy in an unprecedented manner.
Shamma was thrilled to see that the workshop helped participants gain a more practical understanding of blockchain. “The most important thing I wanted to convey was to allow them to take home a business case that they can build themselves, based on blockchain application. Anyone can build a blockchain application, but it is not easy to build a strategic business case given that we do not have a lot of data in such an emerging technology,” she added.
Currently based in Sydney, Australia, Shamma is equally psyched about the prospect of similar future events in Bangladesh, after receiving very enthusiastic and a massive response to the workshop. “I am looking for potential sponsors for a two-day blockchain event with experts from home and abroad,” she told Weekend Tribune. She encouraged interested promoters to contact her on Linkedin.