BRICS nations carry the seeds of a new global technology order

Recent persecution of the Chinese technology giant, Huawei, has also built resilience. When the US government tried to ban its products the company found ways to survive, says the author. File photo: Reuters

Recent persecution of the Chinese technology giant, Huawei, has also built resilience. When the US government tried to ban its products the company found ways to survive, says the author. File photo: Reuters

Published Aug 22, 2023


In future, we will look back at the BRICS gathering in South Africa as something that changed the world. Its impact will depend on some of the key issues that will be discussed and implemented.

Implementation of some of the things that are already in BRICS could also make a significant impact if they were to be implemented across member nations. Consider what has been done already by some of the countries in the technology sector.

Firstly, China has the capability to disrupt the technological world order. Its technological infrastructure is not reliant on the West. To some extent, the Chinese approach to technology has yielded economic benefits and returns that are threatening those who have been technology leaders for years.

In China, it is possible to be online without relying on some of the technology tools that are offered in the US and Europe. To some extent, China has its own version of the internet, together with technology products that are similar and better than those found in Western nations. Think WeChat, TikTok, Huawei, Alibaba, and other platforms that are found in China.

What is also interesting is that such technology infrastructure has a global presence. Although some have criticised Chinese technology policies, it’s clear to see that they have worked.

Recent persecution of the Chinese technology giant Huawei, has also built resilience. When the US government tried to ban its products, the company found ways to survive. Its mobile device was once not enabled to use Android operating system. This inspired the company to develop its own operating system, Harmony OS. When the company was banned, the world was used to two operating systems, iOS and Android. Today, there’s more, and one emerged from China. Although Harmony OS is not perfect, it’s an alternative that could be used by BRICS nations at some point in the future.

Secondly, Russia has also shown an interest in developing its own technological systems. Ahead of the war in Ukraine, Russia was working on developing its own version of the Internet. This was partly inspired by the knowledge that the global internet is partly a US product that came out of its own military.

Fears of control by the US were enough to inspire Russia to build its own version of the internet. Although it’s not clear the extent to which it is used currently in the country, it’s not known that there were attempts to cut off Russia from financial technology systems when the war broke.

It can be said that Russia had the foresight that one day there would be a need for their own version of the internet. The strategy of building RuNet (as the Russian internet is known) has proven to be a wise move. It’s also not clear whether the Russian version of the internet has values that promote free speech, which is a critical ingredient in building a platform that enables freedom of speech and activity.

Thirdly, India is also showing signs that it can take BRICS nations to another level in the technology space. Currently, some of the leading figures in the technology sector have been educated in India. The Google and Microsoft CEOs Sundar Pichai and Satya Nadella are living proof that India educates technology leaders for the BRICS nations.

All of these factors should serve as a lesson that BRICS nations can gain technological independence if a need would ever arise. If these nations were to decide to create their own internet, it would be possible. If these nations were to decide to have their own technology devices, they have all the resources to enable them to build technology hardware.

Ahead of the BRICS gathering, a lot has been said about the possibility of a BRICS currency. If such a currency were to be designed as a cryptocurrency that utilises fintech, there’s no technological stumbling block that could prevent such a move.

The only hurdle could be integrating financial systems. The technology is there to create a BRICS cryptocurrency. Such a move, however, would require various parts of BRICS to stand on their own.

Africa would have to make the African Continental Free Trade Area a possibility. At some point, Africa would also have to create its own version of a cryptocurrency to enable trade within the continent. The same can be said about other technology elements that include the internet, software, and hardware.

Other BRICS nations have important lessons that can be applied in other parts of the world. If this technological puzzle were to form part of discussions in South Africa, it would create a major impact. In the future, society will look back at this gathering and say it has created a new global technology order, which is desperately needed.

The world needs a different technological offering that can offer choices to deliver unimaginable innovations.

Wesley Diphoko is the Editor-In-Chief of FastCompany (SA) magazine.