Bank Windhoek recently hosted an information session on Bitcoin and its supporting blockchain technology, which was attended by 400 people.
Cryptocurrency expert, Gavin Marshall, from Blockchain Academy in South Africa, enthralled the audience with the origin and workings of Bitcoin.
“The purpose behind us inventing numbers is so we could trade. As human beings, we have been trading for a long time,” Marshall explained.
“The trusted third party has always been the verifier and authority over the debits and credits – or deposits and withdrawals against an account or ledger. In the current context of digital trade and easy internet access, the concept of trade and compensation has taken on a radical shift.”
“Now, we have a money system that is actually designed for the digital age. Bitcoin is the most secure database in the world with everyone in control. Self-regulatory by nature, it offers a secure platform to trade within seconds anywhere in the world. Blockchain and Bitcoin also open the world of digital money to anyone who has access to technology. It is a mechanism for economic inclusion,” Marshall said.
He explained that cryptocurrency originated with the cypherpunk movement in the late 1990s experimenting with using various cryptographic technologies to create alternate ways for people to transact with each other without needing a trusted third party to safeguard the ledger.
According to Marshall, Nick Szabo, Adam Back, Hal Finney and Wei Dai were all pioneers in this field, with the Bitcoin whitepaper being released in October 2008 by someone - or a group of people - with the pseudonym of Satoshi Nakamoto.
The first version of Bitcoin was released early in 2009.
“Every now and again a technology comes along and changes everything. Blockchain is one of those technologies,” Marshall said.
Blockchain is one part of a suite of technologies that enables us to secure a decentralised, distributed ledger.
A block holds batches of valid transactions that are hashed and encoded into a Merkle tree. Each block includes the cryptographic hash of the prior block in the chain, linking the two. The linked blocks form a chain and confirm the integrity of the previous block, all the way back to the original genesis block. This chain of validated transactions forms the basis of cryptocurrencies.
Speaking at the same event, Bank Windhoek’s Managing Director, Baronice Hans, said it is important for the bank to open the discussion on this much publicised technology.
“The aim of this information session is to educate and inform the Namibian public on the impact that this technology may have on society,” she said.
Bank Windhoek’s Chief Financial Officer, James Chapman, said there is a need for more debate and knowledge sharing on the topic.
“Only then will we be able to fully understand the impact and benefits these types of technologies can have on our daily lives. And with the intense media coverage of cryptocurrencies in recent weeks, this type of information sharing is long overdue for consumers in our country,” he said.