In response to the very thoughtful and articulate comments by Haines Brown:
I am not totally against the use of emerging computer technologies in
Africa. But I do question its relevance to the average African struggling
to survive on a daily basis, at this point in history. I am going to make
some points that it is not politically correct to verbalize.
To respond specifically to your comments:
>1. If world trends indicate that the perpetuation of traditional social
>bonds is unlikely, and new social relations transcending the local com-
>munity must be constructed in their place, then it seems a significant
>investment in rural education and communications would be mandatory.
>If computer mediated communications in the long run promises the most
>cost effective method for education and telecommunications, then wouldn't
>it make sense to make this a long range goal now?
It would seem that the world is in a state of upheaval, that traditional
economic and social bonds are being quashed, or cast aside, and that new
relationships on a more global level are emerging, as borders as we've known
in the past appear to be more soluble. To what extent does this apply to
Africa? It seems to me that borders in at least some portions of Africa
are being redefined in terms of traditional nations of peoples, as in
Rwanda, Burundi, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Sudan, ????????? The borders
of the colonialists are disappearing, and tribal borders are reappearing.
Perhaps this is beside the point. But I see it as another important factor
to consider from the point of view of the viability of putting technology
into place and being able to maintain it, and encouraging/training the
population to use it. If, as an adult, you are concerned, on a daily basis,
with your physical safety and with getting food into your stomach and those
of your children, are you interested in the internet?
The ruling classes are a different matter. They live in a different world.
Many were educated in the West, and have some understanding of Western
culture and values, and they may see the internet as useful to themselves,
as a means of preserving their positions of power, and for financial gain.
I'm curious to know how people in this privileged class view the internet
and its use in rural Africa. Certainly those in gov't do not wish the
populations to gain access to the means of upsetting the status quo.
Long range plans - depends on the development of peace, the availability of
food and education for the general populations, and the whims of the local
governments. The equipment is the least of the problems.
Why are we insisting that Africa get wired? I think it has more to do with
Western businesses and NGO's in Africa than with anything else. It's
primarily those people who want the internet, for their own interests, in
my opinion. They want to communicate with each other, with their head
I realize I'm making some very broad statements here, and there are
exceptions, of course, but, by and large, I think the above describes the
>2. In the past of other societies, it has been long considered a major
>objective to subsidize the extension of mail and 'phone services to rural
>areas. If digital communications promises cheaper, higher quality, and
>more reliable phone service, and the transmission of images more cheaply
>than traditional mail and telephone service in advanced economies, why
>wouldn't that be desirable for rural Africa?
I'm not against upgrading phone services to the rural population, if the
cost is reasonable to the recipients. I question the fact that these
services, as well as many others, as paid for by donor countries, with local
national gov'ts contributing nothing, or next to nothing. I don't believe
it's in the best interests of a population to have everything done for it,
to have everything paid for. They become reliant on outside aid, and it
discourages innovation and risk taking in the local populace. And outsiders
impose their inventions, their will, their values on the recipient society.
I I think local gov't officials have to be held accountable. They have to
provide responsible leadership. How this can be encouraged in the big
question. But they certainly aren't motivated to do it if foreigners do it
all for them.
>3. There is probably no practical way to bring education into rural
>areas in many parts of Africa without computer mediated distance lear-
This is very long-term planning. The larger obstacles are not the
technology itself, but all the other factors involved. I don't think local
national gov'ts are going to co-operate if they see internet access by the
general population as threatening their positions of power and wealth. The
more ignorant the population, the easier it is to keep them under tight
As is often pointed out, distance learning offers a far greater
>opportunity to reconcile traditional local culture and cosmopolitan
>world culture than the traditional metropolitan-based school system,
>which because it tends to be unilateral ends by displacing traditional
I don't agree that traditional metropolitan-based school systems displace
traditional cultures altogether, and that distance learning is more likely
to result in the preservation of traditional local cultures. Logically, I
think the opposite, that more wide-spread exposure to the world at large
through images and personal contact will result in the dissatisfaction with
and gradual dissolution of traditional cultures in the developing world.
I'm not commenting on whether or not this is good or bad. That's another
issue. You could say it's all just part of the evolution of the world's
The computer might seen irrelevant today in most
>rural settings, but history is a process, and planning must take that
>fact into account. The rural situation must change one way or another
>in today's world, and without planing for techniques that create
>opportunities for dialog in shapping that future so that rural societies
>and traditional values acquire a stake in that future, I suspect the
>eventual outcome for rural society and traditional culture is simply
>extinction. This is the usual pattern in world history; computer
>mediated communications might offer an alternative.
I think that over a period of decades traditional African cultures will
become extinct, as will other cultures in other parts of the world. At
present, the Western world is dominant, and its values and English are
spreading throughout the world, via telecommunications and economics. I see
the internet as a form of imperialism, as a tool used by the West to conquer
and convert. Sounds dramatic, and maybe ridiculous to some people, but
that's how I see it. I don't see it as an evil, but simply as the world
evolving. In another era another group of peoples will become dominant
Constructive criticisms of my comments are welcome. I'm always willing to
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