Currently, the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) is merely a buzz word that has not been put into context. Judging by the recent establishment of the Presidential 4IR commission and various government initiatives to engage with foreign investment, the public and private sector, it is quite obvious that the future of South Africa’s socio-economic landscape will be highly influenced by this wave. Therefore, if we intend on driving socio-economic development through industrialisation, we need to take on a more inclusive, accessible and relatable communication approach.
We ought to think carefully about how we should be informing and educating the public about (a) What the 4th Industrial Revolution phenomenon really means (b) how does it impact the country’s economy and market because ultimately, this has ripple effect on (c) the skills required and will define future jobs and market opportunities.
If we don’t, we run the risk of leaving people behind and having a public majority that is not prepared to embrace the winds of change.
I therefore propose that as we begin to embrace the wave of 4IR which is characterised by merging the physical, digital and biological. The following solutions should be considered:
Unpacking 4IR through mass-communication platforms
As a point of departure, we must ask ourselves, how are we using our mass-communication platforms to unpack the 4IR? In my view, there needs to be more of a concerted effort to synergise government policy (National Development Plan) and the South African public broadcaster. What policy puts emphasis on should somehow find expression through a mass-communication platform like the SABC. The objective? To increase public understanding, drive public engagement and influence public discourse.
Of course, the role of the South African public broadcaster in this regard would not be to turn into a propaganda machine but, to start a conversation that will assist in increasing public understanding so that the general public is made aware of the developments happening around them and how they affect their lives. During the 90s and early 00s, SABC programming was extremely entertaining but educational and informative. I think of TV programmes like Soul City which weaved health and social issues into real-life stories. Sponsored by the Department of Health, BP, UNAIDS and the Department of Land Affairs, they discussed issues on HIV/Aids, housing and land, depression and youth sexuality to name a few.
More investment in entertaining and educational programmes that contextualise 4IR are some of the key initiatives that should also be considered that will ultimately contribute towards public understanding.
The importance of supporting black science organisations
While organisations like SAASTA and the CSIR have played an instrumental role in taking science, technology and innovation to communities through outreach programmes and exhibitions, they cannot reach all black South African communities. While initiatives like SciFest Africa and the National Science Week are equally important, they take place once a year and we all know, knowledge is more meaningful when it is shared and taught consistently.
Therefore, in addition to what already exists, the growth of more impact-driven black science awareness organisations should be encouraged and those that already exist, should continue to be supported.
Over the past two years, I have seen a growing number of black scientists and engineers mobilizing themselves to either create or join organisations that ensure black communities are educated and are prepared for the 4IR wave. This level of community mobilisation for science awareness is important in order to maximise reach, address challenges unique to the community of interest and monitor impact.
Establishment of science, innovation and languages centre
Finally, as part of consistent learning, community-based science, innovation and languages centres should also form part of science awareness. Organisations like Inspire Foundation Group (IFG) Africa have done an excellent job by establishing such centres which provide Maths and Science learner’s access to academic assistance, career guidance and have designed fun programmes which encourage critical thinking, science communication and innovation.
Similarly, the US Embassy through its Mae Jemison centre based in Mamelodi, have taken on the same approach, thus making science learning accessible. When you plant centres of this nature in communities, you do not only make science and technology facilities accessible but, you inspire outside of the classroom, application based learning.
When we are more intentional about how we communicate information as a country, we indirectly give our people the opportunity to mobilise and educate themselves so that they make informed decisions. When we fail to do this, we disempower the majority, leaving them in limbo. I pray that in the wake of 4IR, the latter will not be the fate of the South African child.
Credit: Chumisa Ndlazi (Marketing and Communications Professional)
Blockchain-based Innovations Embraced and Celebrated at Crypto Fest in South Africa
CryptoFest 2019, a one-day event recently held in Cape Town by Bitcoin Events (Pty) Ltd which also runs the popular Blockchain Africa Conference,was a non-traditional exhibition style event. The theme was “Immersive, Interactive, Innovative” and in true fashion, the event unfolded as such.
The ground-breaking festival was engaging, thought-provoking and provided quality content on three stages to a diverse audience which included blockchain industry veterans, new entrants and attendees who were simply interested in learning more about the burgeoning blockchain and crypto sector.
The laid-back atmosphere at the vibrant Shimmy Beach Club in Cape Town where Crypto Fest took place, with it’s picturesque backdrop of the ocean, created the perfect festival setting. Attendees were well-catered for and drinks flowed along with the stimulating conversations around the sometime controversial subjects of cryptocurrencies and blockchain tech.
It was a well-balanced mix of business and networking. There was plenty of meaningful discussion and debate on how best to accelerate global adoption of cryptocurrencies. The Bitcoin Events team’s vision to bring cryptocurrencies to life through immersive activities and a showcase of real-world applications to bring awareness was fully realised at this stunning event.
The festival presented engagement opportunities through lively crypto debates, including a Bitcoin vs Gold debate which was moderated by podcaster Grey Jabesi, a Director of Marketing and Communications at the United Africa Blockchain Association. The speakers at the event were lively and the line-up included some captivating appearances by the likes of Rocelo Lopes,CEO of Stratum and representatives from Huobi, SA Crypto, and BitGive Foundation among many others.
Sponsors of the successful event included AltCoin Trader, Luno IG, Okex, and Sun Exchange. “There was a lot of interaction and activity – crypto debates and educational dialogue around blockchain and cryptocurrencies,” said Richard de Sousa of AltCoin Trader. “The event was the first and a great success, we hope to be part of the next,” he added.
Other exciting elements to the festival format included the crypto games, giveawaysand fun competitions which were part of the event. Attendees could utilize augmented reality games that rely on geolocation to manipulate physical reality with tech-discoverable crypto. People could get airdrops of Ripple tokens courtesy of Xago and Bitcoin airdropped at the event by Bitdropgo. Working with Heath Muchena of Proudly Associated, a company that advises international blockchain companies developing technologies which have use cases focused on emerging economy development, particularly in Africa, Bitdropgo was able to bring some live gaming elements to the event.
“We see Africa as a growth market with massive potential for adoption of products and solutions that integrate both blockchain and AR technologies. Our unique interactive marketing model is an ideal fit for consumers on the continent who are largely mobile-centric, and businesses that are willing to explore new innovations and embrace new technologies more readily,” said Jonathan Eagleton, CEO of Bitdropgo. Attendees of Bitcoin Events hosted Crypto Fest could also download wallets such as the Centbee app and receive free Bitcoin.
The festival ended with an after party which was a highlight all on its own. Entrepreneurs, crypto-enthusiasts, educators and learners alike mingled and connected. What was most fascinating about the general sentiment around CryptoFest was the fact that much of the dialogue that could be heard around the event was around the potential that blockchain hasin playing a major role in the technological and economic transformation needed to make Africa a force to be reckoned with on the global stage.
Carbon, AppZone Partner Open Banking Nigeria, to extend the Frontiers of Innovation
Chijioke Dozie, OneFi co-founder and CEO. Pic: GuardianNG
LAGOS, NIGERIA. 3 September 2019: To achieve improved customer-centric digital services increased consumer control of data and unprecedented levels of innovation, Carbon, Nigeria’s largest alternate digital lender and AppZone, foremost home-grown software solutions provider have collaborated with Open Banking Nigeria, towards the attainment of non-partisan and non-financial Application Programming Interface (API) standards for financial services in Nigeria.
This revelation was made recently as the two top financial technology (fintech) players respectively announced their collaboration with non-profit Open Banking Nigeria.
Carbon, formerly PayLater, and AppZone join other industry players like Paystack, Flutterwave, Interswitch, Ernest & Young, Fidelity Bank, Global Accelerex, TeamApt, PwC, and Sterling Bank who have partnered with Open Banking Nigeria.
The collaboration would, among others, further advance ongoing efforts by various notable financial industry stakeholders in Nigeria for the maximisation of the rapid increase in digital and mobile payments, with the ultimate objective of the meeting the ever-dynamic yearnings of consumers for flexibility and convenience.
Carbon and AppZone would actively participate in diverse phases of the development of common API standards for Nigeria, testing the APIs for certification, and stimulating the adoption of Open Banking standards across the country.
“At Carbon, we know that data is more important than oil. We also understand that open banking presents a tremendous opportunity to unlock financial access for millions of consumers and has the potential of transforming the financial services landscape, not only for banks and fintechs but for everyone across the ecosystem,” said Chijioke Dozie, the Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of OneFi, the parent company of Carbon.
“It follows our innovative leanings as a brand committed to providing credit to the financially under-served and excluded individuals around Africa. We believe that, with Open Banking, we would be able to extend consumer credit to the 40 million unique bank customers across the nation.”
Speaking on the partnership with Open Banking Nigeria, Obi Emetarom, Chief Executive Officer, AppZone said: “We find open banking critical to the future, especially as we support over 300 financial institutions on BankOne, our banking-as-a-service platform.”
“Our partnership with Open Banking Nigeria also comes as a result of our understanding that in our fast-rising digital world, the use of standard APIs is crucial to empower verified third party players to securely leverage technology. Moreso, the adoption of standardised APIs is known to cut cost, reduce connectivity complications and improve turnaround time.”
This fintech-Open Banking Nigeria collaboration, according to Ope Adeoye of Open Banking Nigeria, would “enable further innovation in our financial services industry where the lack of common API standards currently constitutes a barrier to innovation, especially in the areas of digital payments expansion and financial inclusion.”
Appzone is a proudly Nigerian firm that provides software solutions for the financial services industry. Supporting and accelerating growth in the adoption of banking services across the continent, AppZone expands the scope and competitiveness of financial institutions by delivering disruptive innovation on agile technology using best practices.
Launched when lending with no collateral or documentation or to non-salary earners was inconceivable, Carbon raised the bar and pioneered a new phase of consumer lending in Nigeria, becoming the country’s first digital lender. The firm has continued to transform lending services in Nigeria and across Africa.
Open Banking Nigeria partners with stakeholders across Nigeria’s financial services industry to define an open and non-partisan set of APIs for financial services in Nigeria.
May the 4th Industrial Revolution Leave No Child Behind
Last month I had the pleasure of attending SciFest Africa Festival which is now on its 23rd year running. The event which is an initiative of the Grahamstown foundation is aimed at promoting the public awareness, understanding and appreciation for Science, Technology and Innovation (STI). Learners from all around Eastern Cape, private and public schools ranging from grade 4 – 12 attended the festival all in the quest to learn something new and exciting about what the world of STI has to offer.
As one of the exhibitors showcasing the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR’s) 3D printing capability – which forms part of the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR), I had the opportunity to engage with some of the learners and educators. While engaging with the learners, I noticed that there’s a difference between learners who were in the private school system, former model c and the township or rural public school system and I wondered, during these exciting times of 4IR, who would get the short end of the stick?
When showcasing our technologies to a young audience, we use an interactive approach by running quiz competitions, games and as part of the SciFest programme, we sometimes host workshops too. However, this year, we focused more on quiz competitions and this is where I began to observe the differences. The private school learners who came to our exhibition stand, could recognise 3D printed objects from afar. Quite often, we would be met with enthusiastic comments like: “This is 3D printing right? My dad has one too but it prints plastic objects” or “This is so cool, we learnt about 3D printing in class and we also went on a field trip.” When it came to asking questions, they answered with confidence and those who were not sure, were not afraid to ask questions. They were simply excited to learn more and throughout, they engaged with confidence whether they answered correctly or not.
The former model c school learners who visited our exhibition stand knew of the 3D printing concept. They understood its application in the health and housing sector and so they also answered the questions with confidence but, they had never seen or touched a 3D printer, they simply had a good theoretical understanding of it whereas, private school learners had been exposed to both. Learners from township and rural schools on the one hand said that they have never heard of 3D printing or seen a 3D printer. So, we had to introduce the concept by making reference to everyday examples such as the process of how a normal printer would work – which they understood very well, especially when the concept was explained in isiXhosa.
I also noticed that when the concept of 3D printing and 4IR was being explained in English, they eyes wondered and we somehow lost their interest but, when we switched to isiXhosa and we aligned these concepts to everyday things which they have seen or experienced, they were more willing to express themselves freely and ask questions.
Another observation I made throughout the year last year, was that most of the school tour visits I received largely came from private or former model c schools in the Gauteng region. Rarely did I receive requests from township and/or rural schools. It then dawned on me that for schools where affordability, access to facilities and the internet is not an issue, class work and fieldwork learning is being integrated as part of everyday learning.
However, for learners who struggle to access the internet, don’t have a family member that owns a technology piece like a 3D printer and cannot afford to travel to facilities like the CSIR to learn about cool technologies that contribute towards 4IR, they are ultimately left behind. Over and above the lack of exposure, the one subject that most people perceive to be intimidating is being communicated in a language that is not their own using concepts they have never heard of or seen before.
A report on Education in South African Rural Communities done by the Nelson Mandela Foundation states that out of South Africa’s 11.4 million learners, 2.6 million are in KwaZulu-Natal, 2.0 million are in the Eastern Cape and 1.7 million are in Limpopo. The remaining provinces have far smaller learner populations. Levels of adult illiteracy and youth unemployment are also highest in these three provinces. Further, according to a study published by Brand South Africa, the quality of education for most black children is poor. In poorer communities, schools are still substandard, access to electricity and sanitation is still a problem. Textbooks are not delivered and teachers are not motivated and well-supported.
Additionally, poor communities cannot support their schools and school governing bodies to the same extent as wealthier communities. In this report, it is also noted that while socioeconomic conditions of learners constrain learning achievement, it is clear that in South Africa, unequal schooling also aggravates socioeconomic disadvantage, rather than mitigate it.
This realisation left me feeling concerned because when I connected the dots post-observation, I wondered who would then be in a better position to take full advantage of 4IR? Would it not be the child that has access to information and the financial resources to experience education outside of the classroom?In part 2, I’ll explore possible solutions to establishing a relatable and accessible approach to communicating 4IR.
Author: Chumisa Ndlazi (Communications Professional)
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