A case for Cardano as the ideal blockchain platform for Medical Records in Africa
Blockchain: A crowded space
Cardano can secure medical records in Africa (and elsewhere).The blockchain and, more specifically, the cryptocurrency space is getting quite crowded. Nor is there any sign that this trend will even out any time soon. This is undoubtedly a result of humankind’s ingenuity and the entrepreneurship spirit born of the potential opportunity to exploit an exciting new technology. In amongst those scrambling to occupy that space, there are visionaries who view this as an opportunity to make a real difference to humankind. Cardano, among others, appears to be one such project
What is Cardano
Cardano is a third generation blockchain project, a brainchild of Charles Hoskinson and Jeremy Wood. Hoskinson, an American mathematician and tech entrepreneur, is one of the leading luminaries in the blockchain sphere, being a co-founder of Ethereum, the most prominent of the earlier (2nd) generation blockchains. He left the Ethereum project in June 2014 and the following year, together with Wood formed IOHK. IOHK (stands for ‘Input Output Hong Kong’) is a blockchain research and development company which describes its vision simply as to “be a leading institution in the academic study of blockchain”.
IOHK is, in fact, only one of three organisations that constitute the Cardano project, the other two being the not-for-profit Cardano Foundation based in Switzerland and Emurgo based in Japan which oversees Cardano’s commercial ventures. Each of the three is distinct but working synergistically within the project.
The Cardano blockchain is a distributed Applications (dApps) and smart contracts platform. Haskell is the programming language used to create Cardano. There are several different platforms out there aimed at serving similar purposes, each with its own strengths and limitations. Cardano distinguishes itself by being built on scientific philosophy and peer-reviewed academic research. This is meant to remove the ‘take me on my word’ philosophy that appears to form the foundation of many such projects and give confidence in the quality of the code.
In blockchain technology, a transaction is validated through achieving a distributed and decentralised consensus. Cardano is a Proof-of-Stake based blockchain using a protocol called Ouroboros, This is in distinction to Proof-of-Work (PoW) blockchains such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and several others. This is aimed at overcoming the “scalability, efficiency, and composability limitations of the proof-of-work paradigm”. The pros and cons of either architectural approach are explained more elegantly elsewhere.
IOHK describes itself as a “technology company committed to using peer-to-peer innovations to provide financial services to the three billion people who don’t have them”. This may sound ambitious but narrow. Cardano is in fact a lot more than that and as a blockchain platform, its potential goes far beyond what appears in that mission statement. Look beyond that and specifically at the project philosophy and you soon realise Cardano has high ambitions and has set itself a high bar through a set of principles as articulated on its website.
Cardano in Africa
One of the design principles articulated by Cardano is the exploration of social elements of commerce. Whilst that may come across as a broad-brush type of declaration, Cardano has taken steps to give credence to what might be their claim to walk the walk.
In May 2018, Cardano signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Science and Technology to explore training blockchain developers and use Cardano in the Agritech industry in the country. The focus would be on exploring ways that the blockchain could be used to aid all stakeholders right from the small-scale farmer to track coffee along the supply-chain. Also, exploration of using the Cardano blockchain for land registry purposes with land identified using GPS coordinates. Land registry is an area in urgent need of addressing in most African countries, especially in rural areas. In sub-Saharan Africa it is estimated that over two-thirds of Africa’s land is still under customary tenure, with rights to the land neither documented nor legally recognised. Cardano is therefore embarking on a project with potentially far-reaching social and economic benefits for the people of the region.
Rwanda is one of the few countries in Africa which have actively sought to address the chronic issue of insecure land ownership. A few years ago, it embarked upon the programme of land registration. This ran for 3 years and was completed in 2013. At the time of completion, over 10 million plots of land had been registered and around 81% of owners issued with title deeds. This was remarkable and a great success by regional standards. However, as can be gathered, registration is only a first step. The long term requires an effective, reliable and inexpensive way of keeping the register up to date since ownership is dynamic and land ownership changes hands all the time. This is where blockchain technology such as Cardano can come in. With blockchain’s reliability based on immutable records, this would effectively address the spectre of fraud, an ever-present danger.
In March 2018, John O’Connor who is the Director of African Operations at IOHK wrote in a blog post about the ambition of making “Cardano the blockchain used to build land registries and much more” in Africa. O’Connor acknowledged the fact that this was an ambitious project that will take time but was confident of its success if “authorities invest in creating the required legal and regulatory environments”.
Charles Hoskinson, the IOHK CEO attended the Transform Africa 2018 Digital Summit in the Rwandan capital Kigali in May 2018 and once again made stirring remarks demonstrating his passion and commitment to explore and pursue the transformative potential of blockchain. He reiterated his focus on the social impact the blockchain technology can have. Everything points to a convincing case that Cardano can secure medical records in Africa and elsewhere.
Cardano and Healthcare
AfyaRepo is a project with ambitions which are no less grand than the land registry examples sited above. Achieving secure, reliable and instantly accessible medical records and getting that control in the hands of every person would have an impact on individuals and societies that is as profound.
The challenges in the provision of healthcare in developing countries are enormous. The emergence of the blockchain technology holds a promise that is both realistic and within grasp. Cardano has the attributes of an ideal platform for such a programme, not only for this region but in general. It offers efficiency and scalability which are essential attributes. The rapid expansion of mobile telephony and the steady increase in the adoption of smartphones through increasing affordability is creating an ideal environment for success of such a scheme. Cardano has stated as part of its philosophy its commitment to interoperability and mobile device friendliness.
With countries in the East African Community seeking a common approach in their eHealth strategies and Cardano already demonstrating its commitment to the region, it is an arrangement that makes a lot of sense