Since its inception, the Cardano community has sought to bring innovation to the unbanked and undocumented. A large part of that focus has looked to advanced technologies like blockchain to revolutionize institutions across the African continent. IOHK and partners recently focused on the progress of this initiative in their content-packed Africa special.
In an interview with Financial Times journalist David Pilling and the IOHK management team, Charles Hoskinson explained the reasoning behind the push:
“You always go where there is a demand for the products you build. If you look at government technology and the way money works, there’s not as strong of demand for change in the United States or the EU as there is Eastern Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia, and other places.”
Moreover, Africa’s youthful demographics provide fertile ground for developing the technological solutions of the future. With a median age of 19, sixty percent of Africans are under the age of 25. The number of young, tech-savvy individuals will grow in the years ahead.
IOHK COO Jerry Fragiskatos underlined the importance of this:
“In addition to the lack of a legacy system and an obvious need for services, I think demographics also play an important factor in bringing blockchain to Africa. The African continent is much younger than the western world, and new technologies are adopted far more quickly by newer generations.”
Atala PRISM and Ethiopia
Blockchain will provide the tools needed for this youthful population to usher in more inclusive digital systems. Yet, VC Investment, funding, and financial services are lacking in Africa, although many of the world’s two billion unbanked are located there. The first stepping stone is identity.
Dr. Dynal Patel, IOHK’s Senior Product Manager and a Zambia native, described the need:
“I was recently in Zambia, and I wanted to verify my birth certificate. I went to the birth certification registry office, handed them my birth certificate, and asked them to verify its authenticity. The attendant just looked at me, and literally, from the floor to the ceiling, there were stacks and stacks of birth certificates. This could take years, so the only choice is for him is to believe me.”
Bringing digital IDs to Ethiopia
Earlier this week, IOHK made headlines announcing the largest blockchain deployment to date. In partnership with the Ethiopian government, the Cardano blockchain and Atala PRISM identify platform will soon provide a national ID and attainment recording system to service approximately five million Ethiopian students.
H.E. Getahun Mekuria (Dr.Ing.), the Minister of Education in Ethiopia, explained how the initiative was born:
“As the former Minister of Innovation and Technology, it is was my intention and responsibility to bring new technologies to Ethiopia. One of the technologies I wanted to see was blockchain technology.”
The Minister has been crucial in spearheading the technological improvement of education in his country. He explained his vision for the Atala PRISM blockchain-based identity solution:
“We decided to have a digital ID for our students. So we started providing digital IDs for our 12th-grade students. Still, our plan with this blockchain technology is to provide a digital ID for close to five million students in secondary school.”
“Once the students have a digital ID, we can uniquely identify those students and create a system that captures their every performance online. Then we can understand how those students perform within each subject, with peers, with teachers, and so on. We can only accomplish this via blockchain.”
Atala PRISM is a decentralized identity solution pivotal to the partnership. Mobile-focused, it leverages Cardano-based digital identifiers (DIDs) and verified credentials (VCs) to create a mobile wallet of identifiers that preserves privacy. In this way, it establishes easily verifiable credentials crucial to forming digital trust. Soon, the service will be expanded to provide financial services, including microlending, to the Ethiopian population.
Connectivity and advanced technologies
Blockchain is only a single piece of a digitally inclusive Africa. To date, a large portion of the population endures inadequate internet access and mobile connectivity. This shortcoming creates a digital divide between much of the continent and the developed world. This is especially obvious during the pandemic when many economic activities have been disrupted.
World Mobile seeks to equalize this inequality by installing solar-powered telecommunications infrastructure. These structures will provide internet and mobile connectivity in a lightweight manner. Subscribers will also be issued a digital identity via Atala PRISM.
Founder and CEO, Micky Watkins, explained the vision driving World Mobile:
“My motivation is to deliver a business model that no one has yet, via a sharing economy, that will connect the unconnected. The sharing economy is crucial. We believe that the reason half the world is unconnected is that the responsibility hasn’t been shared.”
“I saw what IOHK was doing and for what it stood. It was an obvious choice to partner. There was nobody else in the space with the same vision. And to bank the unbanked, you have to connect the unconnected.”
With a continent incentivized to connect, financial inclusion becomes an exciting next step. The rollout of RealFi solutions such as lending and borrowing will only amplify the opportunities for residents.
Still, other advanced technologies are required. Solar panels and battery technology are being implemented to create a network of ISP nodes. AI development is occurring via cooperation between iCog labs and the Cardano community. If all the parts can work in concert, an iceaddis innovation hub looks primed to help Africa leapfrog developed economies and become a leader in the digital future.
The Cardano community in Africa thrives
Several Cardano pioneers operate stake pools throughout Africa. These community leaders play a key role in unlocking the potential of ADA to drive change. Several popular Catalyst proposals, such as Liqwid and others, are the result of this hard work.
WADA recognizes this. The decentralized alliance connects developers and entrepreneurs to Project Catalyst, the largest decentralized innovation fund in the world. WADA assists entrepreneurs by assisting in dApp creation, infrastructure building, and outreach. The program is rapidly scaling on the ground and through partnerships to address the proposals of the Grow Africa challenge. The challenge offers 250 thousand ADA in funding.
On the other hand, mission-driven stake pools like KIND are leveraging the investment potential of ADA to do good. KIND regularly donates to dedicated non-profits working with communities. Chief among them is Save the Children. Head of Corporate and Philanthropic Partnerships for the non-profit, James Raynor, explained the importance of collaborating with Cardano:
“Blockchain, in particular, is really exciting. When refugees cross a border, often their identity and educational records are completely lost. This makes a horrendous situation even worse because it’s tough to start again.”
“For our investment work, crypto is a great way for us to simplify our processes, such as paying the refugees with whom we work. It’s an exciting thing to do.”
The impact of the Cardano community is poised to spread throughout Africa over the coming years. Stay tuned to adapulse.io and check out africa.cardano.org to keep up-to-date.