Aurra told me that her inspiration to begin Afridigital came about when she was working as a journalist. She started researching 4IR and decided to do a deep dive. From there she began exploring its relevance to Africa and her country, Zimbabwe. Let’s begin with a series of essential BIG Questions, so together we can collectively understand: The 4th Industrial Revolution & Blockchain.
“There has never been a time of greater promise or greater peril.”1
🌱 Essential BIG Question: What is 4IR?
When Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum coined the term the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ most of us were blissfully unaware of what it all meant. For those who understood, it sparked fear, anxiety, hope, and excitement. Throughout the years, we humans have done very well at innovating. Yuval Noah Harari details the multiple revolutions in his widely read book, Sapiens. Below CNCB takes a simpler and more succinct approach, and unlike the book doesn’t predict an ending. I will leave that to your imagination.
👇Have a Glance (i) 👇
As mentioned above 4IR is moving at a fast pace. This is a speed never seen before and unfortunately, some are unprepared or simply put: unable to keep up! As a consequence, many are being left behind. The development at which disruptive technologies like blockchain are impacting our lives, are no longer tales of science fiction but instead, science fact!
“[4IR] “Is more developmental. It is about what the tools can do. It is more a mindset shift than it is something that is tangible. The way we think is changing and being influenced by the rapid development of technology.” Aurra Kawanzaruwa
The various waves of innovation have had gargantuan effects on industries, creating transformation and sweeping changes across economies. Disruptive technologies have started and will continue to do the same. Compliments to the internet we now live in a borderless world. As I type from the far East, you read from everywhere else. As visualized below, the time period from which this change occurs is happening at rapid speed.
👇Have a Glance (ii) 👇
Source: Visual Capitalist
Excerpt:“With elections taking place in more than 20 African countries in 2019, the world’s youngest continent is facing a new era. While significant political and economic progress has been made, the continent continues to face significant challenges.
The 28th World Economic Forum on Africa…will tackle these issues by focusing on how to scale up the transformation of regional architecture related to smart institutions, investment, integration, industry, and innovation.”
🌱 Essential BIG Question: What is the connection between blockchain and 4IR?
As Aurra mentioned in her response to my question about blockchain being a pillar of 4IR; it truly boils down to the changes that are driving us from a scarcity economic model to a more abundant one. Now that we live in a digital world businesses’ cannot continue to innovate on models that profit from scarcity. The internet has removed that scarcity. For example, we no longer need to pay for “access” because the internet is our access. Businesses’ have been at the forefront of innovation but this is now changing as technologies such as blockchain give individuals like Aurra the power to affect change.
“It gives power back to the people….It allows us to manage all the digital information and provides a mechanism for organising systems.” Aurra Kawanzaruwa
If we continue thinking in terms of scarcity and abundance, technology is taking us on a path unfathomable to most. Blockchain technology has use cases in a plethora of industries. Data, record-keeping, contracts, and money are consistent themes in our daily lives and wherever they are, blockchain will follow!
👇Have a Glance (iii) 👇
Source: Interesting Engineering
🌱 Essential BIG Question: Why is Bitcoin so important in the blockchain discourse?
Bitcoin for some is an asset class. Bitcoin for some is money. Bitcoin for some is a scam. Bitcoin for some is a philosophy and revolution. Irrespective of where one lies on the spectrum-maximalist or loather-there are individuals like Aurra who are benefitting from its existence.
Like many, Aurra was conflicted about Bitcoin. She thought it was something that internet scammers utilise whilst devising their plots fueled by theft and bribes. At the time, her knowledge was limited. But then, this all changed when her school was at risk of being shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It is only once I managed to get Bitcoin as hard cash, did it become real for me. That is when I realised that this is real and the game changed for me. My mind switched and we did not shut down. We managed to set up our distance learning programme….bought a printer, stationery, scissors, glue, pencils, crayons, paper-and started the programme. St. Anne’s was revived through Bitcoin. I look at Bitcoin as a tool for development and the more I started using it, the more I realised its value as a store of value and excellent for saving. We buy Bitcoin for saving at the school. This was my introduction to Bitcoin and we do more with it. We encourage our staff to save with it. It has become a tool amongst our staff and community to give power back and help people gain control of their finances.” Aurra Kawanzaruwa
Excerpt: “In reality, only 13% of our planet’s population is born into the Dollar, Euro, Japanese Yen, British Pound, Australian Dollar, Canadian Dollar, or Swiss Franc. The other 87% are born into autocracy or considerably less trustworthy currencies. 4.3 billion people live under authoritarianism, and 1.2 billion people live under double- or triple-digit inflation.
Critics in the dollar bubble miss the bigger global picture: that anyone with access to the internet can now participate in Bitcoin, a new money system with equal rules for all participants, running on a network that does not censor or discriminate, used by individuals who do not need to show a passport or an ID and held by citizens in a way that is hard to confiscate and impossible to debase.”
Aurra mentioned in our conversation some of the economic disenfranchisement that Zimbabweans experience. Zimbabwe’s modern history is one to be studied and dissected at length to make sense of its position today as a country wrought with economic woes. In 2008, it had the world’s highest recorded inflation rate in history, at 89.7 sextillion percent.
🌱 Essential BIG Question: What role is Afridigital playing in the discourse around 4IR?
Aurra would like to position Afridigital as an organisation leading the discussion around 4IR across the African continent. Her goals include being represented in each country across the region. She is currently collecting data on how 4IR is being used. Long term she sees Afridigital as a research hub for others to learn and understand how the digital space is evolving around the continent; as well as provide practical tools for adoption. Working with young people and developing youth is at the forefront of her vision.
As a repeat guest on the podcast, Aurra has told two stories: one personal and the other professional. Somehow they both seem to converge along the way to give us a sense of her values and more importantly provide some clues as to where she is heading next. Outside of the usual clichés of resilience and the like what is evident, is that she is committed to building for the next generation using the tools which are readily available in her arsenal.