Connecting Africa in a Meaningful Way

In This Podcast
Show Notes
Nivi Sharma
E 84

In This Podcast

  • Why Nivi is passionate about connectivity
  • Nivi’s dreams for BRCK and overcoming barriers to connectivity
  • Why we need to connect in a more meaningful way
  • The transformational points in Nivi’s life that have influenced her so far
  • Why Nivi wants to make the idea of public spaces different
  • Why leaders need to listen with an open heart and with empathy
  • The importance of listening to yourself 
  • Why companies should be focusing on integrity and creating values
  • Nivi’s answer for the world is more love and empathy

Nivi Sharma is COO of BRCK, a company connecting Africa to the internet. BRCK is at the cutting edge of frontier market technology needs for connectivity, whether that’s for people or things. Nivi is involved because she has dedicated her career to creating digital access for children, youth, and adults.

Show Notes

Connecting Africa in a Meaningful Way

Nivi Sharma is the COO of BRCK, an organisation that has dedicated itself to connecting people to the internet. Their tagline is ‘internet for everyone’.

We talk with Nivi about connectivity in today’s podcast episode because this passionate woman is an advocate of disrupting the idea that users need to reach into their pockets and pay for connectivity. 

“The rest of the world has perpetual access to the internet; why can’t the 800 million people who live in Africa?” 

In particular young people who have time on their hands due to unemployment or underemployment are able to work in exchange for internet services by doing micro tasks online. 

Almost everyone has a smartphone, but most people are struggling to overcome connectivity issues and the affordability barrier to get online.

Connectivity is a privilege

According to Nivi, it’s an absolute privilege to be connected and online, all the time. To be able to be perpetually connected and online all the time is something the western world takes for granted, and Nivi knows from experience that a lot of people would change their lives if they had that same access.

Nivi’s dream for BRCK is to overcome the barriers to connectivity. These barriers include infrastructure access, affordability and digital literacy.

“Connect meaningfully in a way that improves your own life, the lives of those around you and your community.”

Nivi reminds us that when the internet was first brought to fruition, the small group of people using it agreed, ‘this is where we will share research and ideas and talk about things and build things together’. There was almost a code of conduct saying that there’ll be no commercial activity allowed on the internet—an ironic notion given where we are today.

The internet should be a place of opportunity

According to Nivi, the internet should be a place where people can find opportunities, work opportunities, to connect with like-minded people, to build things together, to share ideas—not just a place where we spew hatred at one another, where we sell things and steal data. 

And it’s this idea that the digital world should be about connecting people that Nivi also champions offline, too, with her passion for creating public spaces. 

“20% of learning in universities and schools happens inside the classrooms, inside the lecture halls; 80% of it happens outside in the social interactions.”

This is the only inspiration Nivi says she needs to design public spaces that encourage social interactions to be more meaningful. From playgrounds for kids, to places where people have free connectivity. Nivi wants to innovate these public spaces so we can get the most out of them. 

Listen with an open heart, and with empathy

If leaders want to connect with employees and teammates, Nivi believes leaders should listen with an open heart and empathy. 

Modern leaders tend to lead from a place of fear and protection—protection of one’s own ego and one’s own stature, and this is driven by wealth and protecting that wealth. 

This status quo needs to be challenged, leaders need to listen with an open heart and listen to different perspectives. That is what diversity is all about. Everyone has a different perspective and brings a new experience with them. Diversity needs to be encouraged to connect with end users and improve user experience for the products a company is building and services being offered.

Listen to yourself

And it isn’t just others we need to listen to, Nivi wishes she could go back 10 years and tell her younger self to listen to herself more, to trust her gut, to have the courage to walk away if something doesn’t feel right. 

“I’m very conscientious about doing check-ins with myself and saying, ‘How are you feeling right now? Do you need to walk away from the situation, do you need to take a walk?’”

Learning to listen to yourself will allow you to pick up on triggers that lead to unwanted emotional reactions.

If the talk resonates with you, we’d recommend you listen to this episode too: Simon Sinek