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Adrian Nyiha: Blockchain Technology and Kenyan Elections

Adrian Nyiha, centre listening to presentations during the research conference.

Blockchain technology is disrupting the traditional way of doing things in key industries although it has been in existence for just a decade. The technology is a brain child of Satoshi Nakamoto, a pseudonym for the person or people who invented it. It is hugely synonymous with bitcoin yet its use lies in many other areas. Here in Kenya, it has been suggested that it can curb graft and solve the long list of problems at the land registry.

What if it were used to run and monitor our elections? Would it entrench the legitimacy so badly needed in the elections? This is what Adrian Nyiha, a second-year Law student at Strathmore University sought to find out in his paper that was presented at the recently concluded research and innovation conference. The paper entitled, ‘A Smart Democracy: Changing Kenyan Elections through Blockchain’ was a combined effort between him and two other Strathmore University Students, Munene Wanjau, also a law student and Dalton Mwandware, a first year Informatics and Computer Science student.

He explains that the study will tackle an existing problem, the lack of integrity in the system, which, if not arrested, will escalate. “The basic idea behind blockchain is that it is a distributed database. Everyone has a record of every transaction that happens, every vote that is cast in this instance, and at the same time no one can alter the votes that are cast. It is therefore completely transparent, anonymous, and immutable.” One of the suggestions given during their presentation and which the trio is currently investigating was to look at the current legislation in the country and see if this technology would fit into it.

This is not the first time Adrian has had a taste of research. He conducted background research together with other undergraduate students for Cecil Yongo’s paper that was presented at Harvard Law School’s Institute for Global Law and Policy Annual Conference. When asked why he chose to take part in the conference he said, “Because I thought it would be an interesting thing to do. Since I joined law school I have been interested in research and writing academic papers. And it is also something that will be a great addition to my CV.”

The decision to pursue law was made after sitting for the KCSE exam. He says, “For most of my high school life I thought I would get into engineering but I later realised it wasn’t for me. I wanted to do something that would enable me to think more, so I thought of doing philosophy. I landed at the law school after I spoke to a mentor who outlined the advantages of being a lawyer. I still would like to pursue philosophy later in life.”

He was among the 46 students who presented during the first two days of the conference. However, it was not a smooth ride because of constraints of time as his degree studies as well as other extracurricular activities were already calling for his attention. Nonetheless, he is willing to do it next year given the chance but he would do a few things differently. He explains, “I have learnt that it is important to look for guidance on how to carry out research and about research methodology. For any other student willing to do research, I would recommend that they bounce their ideas off people who are well read in their area of interest, and also friends and family, who can give an objective view. I would also consider presenting in another area, perhaps in humanities because of my interest in philosophy or in public policy, governance and integrity.”

When he is not carrying out research, he takes part in the Sustainable Development Solutions Network Youth committee for Kenya. Their aim is to carry out projects that will enhance the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals in the Kenyan context. He is currently reading the Latin epic poem, Aeneid, written by Virgil. He enjoys history and occasionally dabbles in playing the piano.

This article was written by Wambui Gachari.

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