ArabianChain, why the Middle East needs home-grown blockchain

Adrian Bridgwater looks at the newest revolution in technology and how it could impact the Middle East.     

Ancient Sumerians and Egyptians were known to use rudimentary versions of the abacus as a counting mechanism over 4,000 years ago. It is perhaps fitting then to see a healthy amount of early stage adoption and development happening with blockchain here in the Middle East.

Initially conceived as the ledger system to underpin the cryptocurrency bitcoin, a blockchain (in the simplest terms possible) is a electronic record book to log transactions between two or more parties.

A blockchain’s special function lies in its permanence (we more often use the term immutability) and its verifiability, which is achieved through being distributed (by which we mean it is stored on a shared basis across more than one computer).

So blockchains are accounts systems for the electronic world of online business and Arab enterprises, governments and other local market organisations can use them in just the same way as everyone else in the world, right?

Yes and no. A blockchain in Muscat is very much the same as a blockchain in Mumbai; but on its own it isn’t really fulfilling its potential until it can be verified for correctness and then successfully integrated into systems in use by local businesses.

ArabianChain

ArabianChain Technology is a UAE-based venture that is aiming to help engineer blockchain use for the local Arab market. The company has developed its own software connectors (known as APIs) to help companies across the MENA region to integrate blockchain technology into their businesses.

According to ArabianChain CEO Mohammed Al Sehli, rather than giving users a set of predefined instructions (like bitcoin does), ArabianChain allows Arab market users to create their own instructions at any complexity level they wish. These ‘instructions’ govern the way digital blocks of data are woven together to form the blockchain itself.

The business argument is, if we can form the shape of our own blockchain services here in the Middle East (as opposed to using templates borrowed from elsewhere), then we can more accurately shape our Arab blochains to the nuances, preferences and particularities of business here in the region. There are many reasons why this could be important, not least of which is the fact that Islamic banking practices are not widely prevalent or practiced outside of the Middle East.

Smart contracts

ArabianChain promises that its technology can be used for more than just cryptocurrencies. Arab firms can use this home-grown software as a platform to build other decentralised software application that straddle a number of computers and computer networks.

This decentralised stance can also help create what are known as self-executing globally accessible smart contracts. This means that firms in the Middle East can build software applications to process customer payments that use digital tokens, which can be transacted, tracked and safeguarded over a network of thousands of connected distributed devices.

Since its launched in April 2017, ArabianChain has worked with international firms including Microsoft, Dell-EMC, Ericsson and Oracle. It has been used by financial traders working with the DBIX cryptocurrency in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

CEO Al Sehli has been quoted on Entrepeneur.com saying that “Blockchain is an emerging disruptive technology that is transforming how we work and operate across industries. It has evolved to transform areas of business such as transactions, value storing, contracting, data management, security, communications and more. Basically, blockchain technology is like the Internet and most of the renowned companies are well-aware of its capabilities.”

Why is all of this important, you may well very justifiably still be asking? Because as the world shifts to e-commerce and cloud computing based systems that are heavily characterised by their connected services layers, we want to be able to our usage of these technologies here on home Arab soil - or indeed sand.

Use of blockchain to build the Middle East’s next era of smart business demands localised development and tuning, but at a level that is compliant with internationally formalised code verification techniques to ensure optimal quality and security. We can only do this if we build it here