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Blockchain Africa 2019 - Johannesburg Day 1


Today I attended the first day of a 2 day blockchain conference. Blockchain Africa is an annual conference held in South Africa where the talks are generally from people working on blockchain related work from within the South African community.

The overarching themes from the conference today were of permissioned chains and their use in corporates (with speakers from Hyperledger and Sovrin) as well as self sovereign identity. My key takeaways from the day are below.

Scaling - Comparing Apples and Apples

People often knock Bitcoin and other crypto saying how they cannot handle the same number of transactions per second as traditional payment methods like Visa which is true due to the scaling trilemma where cryptos opt for more decentralization and security at the cost of speed/scalability.

But one thing Bitcoin does is have significantly faster settlement times for payments. You need to wait the required number of confirmations to be sure the payment is on the longest chain. The recommendation is 6 confirmations which takes about an hour.

Now contrast this to credit cards. The payment may look like it goes through immediately but in actual fact it can take multiple hours, days or a week for it to actually settle. Think about it, I am sure you have paid for a meal at a restaurant only to see the payment actually go off your card a few days later.

Blockchain UX

The user experience in using Bitcoin and other crypto is not intuitive or user friendly at all. You have to worry about public and private keys. If you lose your private key you lose everything and the UI for many of these exchanges have long multi step processes to sign up. After which you normally have to provide them with KYC information in the form of your driver's license or identity document. All this just so you can buy your first crypto and start to use it. Contrast this with the sign up to a social network where you simply fill in maybe a 6 field form, choose a username and password, confirm you own the email you provided by clicking a link and then you're good to go.

In order for crypto to gain mainstream adoption where your granny could use it, a lot of work is needed to significantly improve the user experience for it. Nick Saponaro the CIO of the Divi Project delved into this topic at length and explained how this is one of his companies main goals - to make crypto more accessible by making it as easy to use as PayPal.

In general people do not give a damn about the underlying technology of a product. If the product makes their lives simpler or something cheaper and easier they will naturally gravitate towards it. This is what crypto needs to get proper main stream adoption.

Blockchain Africa 2019