Wear The Chain
Since time immemorial, interactions between people have required a measure of trust. In Ghana, where records of land ownership are poorly kept, disputes abound around who owns what. The problem is compounded by the fact that land in Ghana has historically been owned by families and not necessarily by individuals or by the state. As anyone who has tried to organize a seemingly innocuous family event will attest, this is a recipe for acrimony. Or worse.
Enter the Land Guard
This gave rise in recent years to the phenomenon of land guards, burly men, bristling with muscle and serious intent, whose job it is to protect the piece of land their paymaster has just purchased. This is evidence of a lack of trust. Land registries are just one area that promises to be overhauled by the blockchain, the technology underpinning the bitcoin cryptocurrency.
Where trust between transacting parties is lacking, centralized organizations have stepped in to act as trusted intermediaries. This allows a bride in Johannesburg to buy a bale of silk from a vendor in Shanghai because of the inherent confidence both parties place in a centralized payments system.
The big idea of the blockchain is that it generates an incontrovertible, consensus based record of ownership. This distributed ledger does away with the need for a trusted third party, such as a bank. It also puts the land guard out of a job.
So how does it work?
The blockchain is simply a ledger or a way to record transactional data. This digital ledger takes advantage of three proven technologies; cryptography (a form of encrypting data), peer-to-peer networking (data sharing between computers on a network), and the blockchain program protocol. When transactions are made, they are propagated to every node in the network and each node then updates the record of events. This built-in decentralization ensures security without having to defer to any one supervising entity such as a bank.
Many other industries that rely on trust can benefit from the adoption of blockchain technology. These include voting, cloud storage, online gambling, cyber security, online music, retail, healthcare and real estate. Land guards beware.