In the last four months, the country has been swept up in the shadowy spectre of the coronavirus, snuffing the life out of our near and dear ones before their time. Lockdowns, sanitisers, face masks and social distancing have dominated public discourses of late.
In all this gloom and despair, the news of university students and recent graduates from Bangladesh winning two of the top six awards at the recently concluded International Blockchain Olympiad held in Hong Kong is truly a breath of fresh air.
Blockchain is a very new technology that gained traction globally after Bitcoin—the very first cryptocurrency in the world based on the freshly-minted blockchain technology paradigm—debuted in 2009. Today, there are hundreds of use-cases of blockchain implementation, not just in crypto or digital currencies, but in everything from supply chain provenances, self-sovereign identities, user-centric medical records and even Covid-19 contact and tracing. For those interested in blockchain, a primer on this new technology can be found in an earlier column printed in this daily under the title "Blockchain: Ticket to universality of truths?"
It is absolutely astounding that Bangladesh could join this select group of countries that competed on the international stage to showcase real-world applications of blockchain and bring home two of the top awards on its maiden attempt. To be specific, the International Blockchain Olympiad itself is only three years old, which is organised by the City University of Hong Kong in partnership with the Hong Kong Blockchain Society.
Though new to this field, Bangladesh marked a historic milestone when it held its first national blockchain Olympiad in April this year, bypassing the pandemic lockdowns by going fully online. From organising the event to promoting it and conducting the competition to even holding the award ceremony—everything was done online leveraging all the platforms at the disposal of society today. Emails, Facebook Messenger, Google Meet, Online Portal, WhatsApp, Zoom—the whole alphabet soup of modern tools and apps were put to effective use in planning, mobilising and conducting all aspects of the Blockchain Olympiad Bangladesh fully online, with participation from more than 450 students and recent graduates from all parts of the country and the involvement of more than 60 organisers, jurors and mentors from diverse professions in government, academia and the industry. The Blockchain Olympiad Bangladesh has certainly been a trendsetter in fully-online operations that has already encouraged many other entities to adopt this method in overcoming the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The 12 teams that were finally nominated by the Blockchain Olympiad Bangladesh organising committee to compete in the International Blockchain Olympiad held on July 3 to July 5 in Hong Kong, were intensively mentored and coached by nearly 30 top government, business and academic professionals over a period of one month. This helped the contestants improve and fine-tune their projects to the point where all 12 of them were awarded the certificate of merit—the only country to have been thus recognised.
The outstanding success of the young blockchain enthusiasts with some nudging from the professional elders proved once again that given the opportunity and right kind of guidance, our youth can compete with the best in the world and hold their own.
Now we need to nurture such world-winning projects for professional deployment in our own soil, so that these very talented young minds don't have to seek opportunities elsewhere for realising their potentials and dreams.
Habibullah Karim is the founder of Technohaven Co Ltd, a co-founder of BASIS and the coordinator of Blockchain Olympiad Bangladesh.