Kenya Looks to Blockchain for Affordable Housing Project 9 11314

The “Silicon Savannah” is moving deeper in direction of tech. The Kenyan government has announced a plan to manage the property allocation and funding of 500,000 affordable housing units with blockchain technology.

The units, which the government aims to build by 2022, will be set aside for households with an annual income below 100,000 Kenyan Shillings, about $990 USD. The World Bank estimates Kenya’s gross national income per capita at $1,290, according to Business Daily.

Blockchain will help ensure that the affordable housing is in fact going to those who fall below the average income bracket. Land title fraud has caused problems for Kenyans, as land grabbers target homes and even schools for illegal sales and development. Blockchain’s ability to store verifiable proof of title could help safeguard against fraudsters.

“Kenya will use blockchain technology to ensure the rightful owners live in government funded housing projects,” said Principal Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Charles Hinga, speaking with the World Bank on Monday.

Hinga said the plan will be financed by the National Housing Fund, which will raise over $59.5 million per month to get the project underway. But Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development James Macharia said it will take $31.7 billion to build a million homes, each of which will cost between $3,000 and $30,000. Macharia called for support from private sector financing.

Under the financing plan, working Kenyans will contribute 1.5 percent of their salary, which will be matched by their employers. “On affordable housing one should not spend more than 30% of their disposable income for housing,” Hinga tweeted yesterday. “Anything above 30% is not affordable.”

A Trustless Relationship Between People and Government

The initiative represents a considerable push to solve housing and title problems for the nation’s lower income families. But how will the government decide to whom the housing units will go? With so much talk about financing underway, people are already calling on the government to outline a plan for how they’ll distribute the affordable housing units.

The government will need to deliver the housing projects in a time when, Hinga acknowledges, the public is skeptical. Earlier this year $78 million went missing in a corruption scandal involving the National Youth Services. Where there is little trust between the people and their government, Kenya hopes to establish transparency through the blockchain’s distributed ledger system.

Kenya’s Move Toward Tech

In March, Kenya’s Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology appointed a blockchain taskforce to explore the ways the nation could use blockchain technology in the public and private sectors. They called it the Distributed Ledgers and Artificial Intelligence taskforce, and by September its chairman, Bitange Ndemo, was calling on the government to tokenize the economy.

Ndemo also proposed government implementation of blockchain to certify the authenticity of retail goods, so consumers can be sure of where their food is coming from, for example.

Governor of Kenya’s central bank Patrick Njoroge has also voiced support for the use of blockchain technology to strengthen service delivery, although he’s opposed the use of tokens and digital currencies.

But the affordable housing initiative could be the Kenyan government’s first real world implementation of the blockchain.

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I grew up in the Silicon valley under the technological mentorship of Steve Wozniak. I'm a proud member of the Choctaw Nation, I've lived, worked and traveled all over the world, and I now write in the Pacific Northwest.

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Amazon Introduces a Service for Building Your Own Blockchain Networks 1,054 20507

Ah, what a year. Bitcoin, which dipped below the $4,000 mark this week, has lost more than three quarters of its value over the course of 2018. Crypto has had a rough go this lap around the sun. But as the end of the year approaches, the ‘blockchain not bitcoin’ bandwagon is still going strong.

Despite some negative headlines criticizing blockchain’s inability to keep up with or deliver on the hype, blockchain as a service (BaaS) continues to find courtship with leading tech giants.

Amazon Web Services, or AWS, has just announced their own fully managed blockchain service, Amazon Managed Blockchain. They say it “makes it easy to create and manage scalable blockchain networks.” And it could be the push that brings the powerful potential of distributed ledgers to the layperson “with just a few clicks.”

Setting up a blockchain network independently requires a lot of costs, labor, equipment, and expertise. BaaS platforms like Amazon Managed Blockchain cover all those bases for their subscribers, and simply give you the tools to build a distributed ledger for your business.

Amazon’s Not Resting on its Laurels

Despite being a nightmare for working people with hair-raising reports of foul and dangerous working conditions to salt the wounds opened by their low wages, and despite pushing for widespread gentrification in the Bronx with the opening of its “extremely concerning” HQ2, to the outrage of local communities, Amazon is coming off of a killer year. They followed their 2017 possession of Whole Foods with Jeff Bezos’ coronation as the wealthiest anything anywhere ever. And AWS CEO Andy Jassy seems confident that the momentum will keep up.

“We don’t build things for optics,” he said at the re:Invent conference, which AWS hosted in Las Vegas. He says that AWS, which represents 9.8 percent of Amazon’s total revenues, is a $27 billion business growing 46 percent year-on-year. But despite the size of the company, he said “it’s still relatively early days.”

Early because blockchain still hasn’t taken a form that the public can use as freely and easily as, say, the internet. A Cowen report projected widespread blockchain implementation is still 5.9 years away, based on a survey of industry leaders. “We’re still in the early stages of the meat of enterprise and public sector adoption in the US,” Jassy said, adding that he considers other countries to be 12 to 36 months behind.

AWS Joins Microsoft, IBM With BaaS

Amazon Managed Blockchain is built on Ethereum and Hyperledger Fabric. It’s not the first of its kind. IBM also uses Hyperledger Fabric for its BaaS, and Microsoft offers Ethereum-based BaaS on Azure, its cloud service. What is Amazon bringing that these companies aren’t? We don’t really know yet.

But in addition to Amazon Managed Blockchain, AWS introduced the Amazon Quantum Ledger Database, a “fully managed ledger database” that “allows you to easily analyze the network activity outside the network and gain insights into trends.”

The ledger database works in tandem with Amazon Managed Blockchain to document businesses’ blockchain activity. Together, these tools could be the thing to finally kick blockchain into the mainstream.

Freelance Terrorist Carried Out Hundreds of Bomb Threats in Exchange For Bitcoin 45 6711

An American-Israeli teen is sentenced to a decade in prison after a Tel Aviv court convicted him for a series of fake bomb threats he carried out in exchange for Bitcoin.

The 19 year old began making threats professionally at the age of 16. He is convicted only for crimes committed while over the age of 18. These include making false threats and reports, extortion, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit a crime.

While the Israeli courts withheld the defendant’s identity because some of his alleged crimes occurred while he was a minor, the Guardian identified him as Michael Kadar at the time of his arrest. He was originally indicted for over 2,000 bomb threats, carried out between 2015 and 2017.

Kadar Targeted Children and Jewish Community Centers

The targets of Kadar’s threats included Jewish community centers, the Israeli Embassy in Washington DC, elementary schools, shopping centers, hospitals, law enforcement agencies, airports and airlines.

A threat to an El-Al flight resulted in the deployment of fighter jets for an escorted emergency landing; another threat to a Canadian airport left six people injured during emergency disembarkment; a Virgin flight dumped eight tons of fuel before landing because of a threat; and another threat went to a plane carrying the Boston Celtics.

Kadar also targeted Republican Delaware state senator Ernesto Lopez, who he threatened with blackmail and the murder of his daughter. After Lopez ignored the demands, Kadar ordered drugs to have sent to Lopez’s residence.

Dealing Terror From Mom and Dad’s Apartment

His reign of terror operated from his parent’s fifth floor apartment near the beach in a posh neighborhood in Ashkelon, about 30 miles south of Tel Aviv. But his threats landed in over a dozen countries, including Ireland, New Zealand, Germany, Denmark, Great Britain, Belgium, Australia, Norway, Argentina, Israel, the United States, and Canada.

“One can easily imagine the terror, the fear and the horror that gripped the airplane passengers who were forced to make an emergency landing, some of whom were injured while evacuating the plane,” read the verdict by judge Zvi Gurfinkel, “and the terrified panic caused when there was a need to evacuate pupils from schools because of fake bomb threats.”

The Judge also divulged Kadar’s fees for his services: $40 for a threatening phone call to a private residence, $80 for a bomb threat to a school, and $500 for an airplane scare. Kadar operated on the dark net and disguised his IP address, using a powerful self-installed antenna to tap into remote networks, and software to mask his voice. According to an indictment filed against him in Florida, he spent some of his calls going into graphic detail threatening the deaths of children in American Jewish centers.

A Small Fortune in Bitcoins

At the time of his arrest, Kadar had amassed around 184 Bitcoins for such services—about half a million dollars at the time, and closer to $680,000 today. He also dealt in bomb making manuals, drugs, and child pornography.

Kadar is the son of an American mother, and his father is an Israeli engineer, and has dual citizenship. The US Department of Justice has also indicted Kadar for 32 crimes, including hate crimes, cyberstalking, giving false information to the police, and making threatening phone calls to around 200 institutions. A separate indictment also accuses Kadar of threatening the children of a former CIA and Pentagon official with kidnapping and murder, and links him to over 245 threatening calls.

When Kadar was arrested, he tried to escape by grabbing a pistol from a police officer, but was wrestled to the ground. Thursday’s conviction follows a cooperative investigation by the FBI and Israeli authorities, who have not been able to recover Kadar’s Bitcoins.

Teen’s Mother Calls Conviction ‘Cruel’

Kadar’s mother spoke outside the courtroom after her son’s sentencing, saying “This is the most cruel, cruel thing in the world. I’m very sorry, but I am ashamed that the country acts this way.” She insisted that her son needed treatment, not prison.

In an earlier interview she told Israeli TV her sun was suffering from a brain tumor, which made school difficult for him. Because of this and his autism, Kadar was homeschooled.

Defense lawyer Shira Nir said these conditions made Kadar unfit to stand trial, as he could not distinguish right from wrong. A medical panel confirmed the defendant’s autistic condition, but concluded he was capable of understanding the consequences of his actions. Judge Gurfinkel said Kadar’s conditions were taken into account, lessening the sentence from 17 years in prison to 10.

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