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Change the world


This article appeared in the Weekend Post of 28 July 2018 written by Odette Parfitt.

Nelson Mandela University is equipping its computing science students to work with technology that is revolutionising several industries.

The university announced this week that it was offering a module in blockchain technology as part of its honours programme.

The first classes for this module began last week.

The course, which will include elements relating to blockchain concepts and cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, was developed by Professor Andre Calitz of the university’s department of computing sciences.

“A blockchain is a set of distributed databases known as blocks that contain records of digital transactions,” Calitz said.

“These interconnected blocks support the decentralisation of systems and ensure that data is securely distributed and publicly visible.

“A blockchain is generally referred to as a public distributed ledger [and it] contains an uneditable record of all the transactions made.”

Calitz believes this is the first module of its kind in the country.

“I have looked at the websites of some of the other universities in South Africa and could not find any computer science department offering a blockchain honours module. We are the first in South Africa offering such an important course.” The module will consist of theoretical lectures and practical blockchain programming, presented by department alumnus Martin Stolk.

“The new module furthermore complements different postgraduate research conducted by different students in our department.

“One honours project is looking at using blockchain-associated technologies to create a supplementary tool for web archiving.

“Students are further conducting industry-related blockchain projects, specifically in the agriculture industry – in terms of tracking animals – and in the automotive industry, for recording a vehicle’s track record.”

The module would also include a real-world project implementation, Calitz said.

“We are working with BKB and implementing a real-world [project] in the agricultural sector.

“The idea behind this is that when a customer purchases a product, the customer can scan the product code and access the blockchain for that specific animal and see when it was born, where [and how] it was raised, how it was slaughtered and processed, right to the packaging, distribution and placement on the shelf.”

Chief executive of the Baybased start-up Avocado Chocolate, Cornelius Greyling, said: “We started researching the power of blockchain in 2017.

“Blockchain is on the cutting edge and for companies like ours to grow, we need to find talented staff who understand the basic principles of blockchain. It is great that our local university is offering [this] course.”

BKB’s general manager for information and communication technology, Jaco Maass, said blockchain technology, and graduates who are equipped to work with it, would also be useful for agricultural purposes.

“At BKB we believe that as an agri-business integrated in the value chain, we have a responsibility to the producer, processor and consumer with regard to commodities that are processed and products offered to the consumer,” Maass said.

“The blockchain creates the opportunity to share this relevant information across databases and systems, which are beneficial in the creation of value to the producer, processor and consumer.”


Contact information
Prof André Calitz
Emeritus Professor
Tel: 27 41 504 2639