Q&A: Cloud, freedom from legacy IT can spur blockchain in Africa

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Check out my CIO Online interview with Chief Technology Officer, IBM Blockchain Services for Middle East & Africa, Anthony Butler. In this feature the IBM Distinguished Engineer highlights how distributed ledger technology is transforming multiple industries.

Originally published here. Copyright 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.


What are some of the challenges you’ve faced from a business and technical perspective trying to develop some of your blockchain solutions?

Developing or implementing blockchain-based solutions requires collaborative effort. The biggest challenge is usually when you need to pull together the business network and encounter members in that network who may be competitors or are not used to sharing. To be successful, a fundamental shift in the way in which most businesses think about business intelligence and how they interact with the broader ecosystems needs to take place. For this reason, we see governance as one of the most significant business challenges. If you have, for example, all the banks in a market in a network, who is then responsible for deciding who joins and who leaves, who decides what changes get made, who owns the data, etc.? So there is a long list of considerations that have to be taken. On the technical side, I think the biggest challenge is that this is a new technology.

What do you look for in terms of skills or qualities for your blockchain teams?

Different types of skills are required to execute a blockchain project. We need consultants who can think about network problems and help clients translate these into blockchain-based solutions. We need architects who, whilst they should have deep knowledge of different blockchain protocols, should understand that 80% of work in any blockchain project is traditional application development work, such as designing integration layers, microservices, etc. Then we need developers who can work with the different protocols, and write the smart contracts and integrate these with the rest of the solution. As blockchain is obviously a new technology, it’s unreasonable to expect people with 10+ years of experience in the field but rather we look for people with strong general application development experience and, most importantly, an understanding of distributed systems design and implementation, cryptography, and people who understand the data structures and algorithms that underpin the blockchains.

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