The essence of communication is that the speaker speaks in a language the listener understands, otherwise, the Tower of Babel would be reenacted. Join me as Rebecca Asseh shares her story of building a budding career in blockchain while educating the masses in pidgin, a language they understand better.
A James Bond lover, Rebecca drew tech inspiration from reading the legendary writer’s novels. “My love for technology began with James Bond. Q, a gadget inventor, and technology expert who heads the Research and Development department of the fictitious British service in James Bond’s novels was always building wonderful and fascinating gadgets for Bond. The tech love story further intensified through interactions with Iron man’s Personal Assistant and Artificial Intelligence, Jarvis. Artificial intelligence and the desire to know more about it eventually led me to blockchain technology.”
So, what the heck is this blockchain technology? Even amidst the tons of definitions churned out daily, few actually understand what it is, or are blockchain faithful deliberately keeping things complicated? With a desire to ensure everyone around her is enlightened about the fourth revolution, Rebecca utilizes her YouTube channel to create weekly explainer videos in pidgin. “What I do in the blockchain space is trying to bring the knowledge of this revolutionary technology to the masses. A lot of people are unaware of the blockchain technology and its underlying use case, cryptocurrency. Most people do not understand the complicated terms used in the space. I try to unravel this seeming mystery by using the language the Nigerian people are familiar with (pidgin English) to explain the technology.” So far, she has covered topics like how to open a blockchain.info account, countries crypto has helped, and a host of others, all videos shot in pidgin.
Not in pidgin, but here is how Rebecca explains to me what blockchain is, by relating it to Alajo, (the thrift collector system) a very popular daily savings system in developing countries. “The blockchain technology is a secure, faster and more transparent way of storing data and carrying out transactions. If I were to explain this technology to a child I would use a thrift collector as an example. The thrift collector comes to collect money from the user daily and stores this information in a big book. The user is also given a card on which the thrift collector marks the days and the amount paid. This action is similar to the list of information that is put into a block. Now, what if the user loses their card? The thrift collector has their info. But what if they both lose their information or the user cannot trust the information written on the thrift collector’s book? In such an instance, the thrift collector needs a group of trusted people (similar to nodes) whom he gives the information about each transaction. So, if the thrift collector loses his book. The information is with the people he trusted (stored with cryptography). Also, he cannot alter the information, as that would mean going to meet all the people (nodes) keeping the information and convince each of them to alter their records. This feature is why we say the blockchain is immutable.”
Contrary to many postulations out there, “the blockchain is not a magical elixir that can cure all ills. You cannot use the blockchain as a solution for everything.” Behold Africa’s version of Andreas Antonopoulos in Rebecca. “There is no legacy greater than spreading knowledge. The knowledge of the blockchain technology will one day spread across the globe and I will be a part of the people that made it possible.” To accelerate mass adoption, Rebecca has three words: “Educate the masses.” She goes further: “That is what mass adoption needs. If one market woman knows the benefit of the blockchain technology she’d bring twenty (20) more women. It’s high time we stopped holding blockchain summits for the elites alone. Take it to the streets.”
Growing up in a country where at least 50% of the population live in extreme poverty, it’s highly unlikely that Rebecca was opportune to be exposed to technology in her formative years. Fortunately, with the aid of books, one can venture on adventurous sojourns to lands unknown. “I wasn’t always a techy person. I simply adored the use of technology to better lives and make things easy. As a child, I read a lot and explored the world beyond my reach. I also had a hyperactive imagination fueled by books and movies. Today, most of my activities still revolve around reading, researching and teaching.” And even though she didn’t get to study her desired course, she is now a graduate of the University of Benin (UNIBEN) Nigeria, where she bagged her BSc in Adult and non-Formal Education English and Literature. “Initially, my dream was to be an On-Air Personality, but circumstances beyond my control, led to a different career path. However, I love what I do now.”
With four younger siblings, Rebecca is the first child. In an African home, being the first child is double jeopardy. “It means you are deputy parent, having to shoulder mostly unwanted and undeserved responsibilities.” Of her family members, Rebecca says only her younger brother, Austin Asseh, is involved in some form in crypto. “My younger brother had one bitcoin even before I knew what it was. It was given to him as a gift, however, he misplaced his wallet info and lost all interest in cryptocurrency. By the time I got into the space, I had to take him through the steps and educate him on how the system works.”
For one with great love for the masses, projects that seek to solve the problems of the unbanked are cherished by Rebecca. “I believe that technology knows neither good nor bad, only people do. So, whatever project I am involved in must be one that seeks to better lives.
I love projects that have to do with the unbanked. It’s painful to see people struggle daily for financial security and stability. That’s why I began to educate people about cryptocurrencies and blockchain in the first place. People have this misconception of the crypto space that has to be corrected. Currently, I am working on a project that will bring financial inclusion to the unbanked as well as increase cryptocurrency adoption. It’s a bit hush for now but once the project is ready to fly, everyone will know about it.” Before working to build a career in blockchain, Rebecca was “a tech writer at IoTGadgets.com. I also spent part of my time writing poems and stories as well as teaching children.” Her advice for newbies looking to join the train is to “not get greedy. Launch into a career you feel passionate about and not just for the money.”
Sometimes, people fail because they were more focused on making money rather than making meaning. That’s like putting the cart before the horse. A noble approach is to focus on making meaning, as you’re more likely to make money thereby, as a by-product. This is exactly the approach that Rebecca has chosen. “I am looking forward to a world where technology and financial inclusion can be for all. I believe my little effort in the space will be felt. Already, a lot of people are contacting me and asking about cryptocurrencies and the blockchain technology. People are tired of the paper (Fiat) system and seeking a better alternative. It may take a while but with the right information, the needed change will be effected in the country.”
It’s no secret that the government is always the last kid to try something new. Even this time, they are already showing signs of being the last kid on the block. In their defense, being the last to evolve is always for their own selfish benefits, easier to keep fleecing the masses with paper and ink. Rebecca says: “The use of blockchain to track public funds is one area I find fascinating. I look forward to a time when Africa can adopt such a system. Rather than storing data on bulky paper files as is most common, or on servers through cloud storage as is gradually being sluggishly adopted; we can use the blockchain to store, verify and distribute data across a network of decentralized computers. This way, the people will be able to hold the government accountable for every penny spent.”
To date, no one knows the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, that’s perhaps a good thing. Rebeca recalls a ridiculous incident where some big shot crypto personality was flabbergasted that she was not a giddy fan. “I work as a crypto journalist for a crypto TV media firm in Nigeria, CryptoTVPlus.com. During a blockchain conference in Lagos, we were to interview participants. A particular participant told us his name and asked my team to check google for his details since we obviously could not recognize him. It still remains one of the most ridiculous statements I have heard. What would Satoshi say, when he walks in and we do not recognize him? Nothing I guess.”
“My journey in the blockchain space has been eventful, I have met some really incredible people. My mentors in the space are Faith Obafemi and Ruth Iselema. These women make me believe that technology is not gender stratified.”
You can reach Rebecca on LinkedIn and Twitter. Subscribe to her YouTube Channel.