The State of ICT in Black Societies
Unfortunately, we need to introduce the paradox that is the blacks who live in the developed countries. A USA Today shows that while Blacks and Whites in the U.S. have similar access and use rates to mobile technology, computers and the Internet, Whites have, significantly, more access to broadband. The report also revealed then that Blacks [and other minorities like Latinos] tend to use ICT access mainly for communication and entertainment rather than empowering their business, enhancing their education and other things the Whites were doing.
In extrapolation, the challenge in Black Society going forward is, probably, to expand access and the quality of use of ICT. The solution could lie in strategic and structural frameworks made up of local, regional, private, government and non-government bodies working together to ensure that ‘affirmative action’ is applied to the circumstances. Not only would this lead to the proverbial rising tide that raises all ships – but it could lead to an evolution of consumers to creators of custom made ICT solutions. The best example for this is Kenya’s Ushahidi; an application that did not let the chaos in Kenya go to waste.
Kenya is actually considered Africa’s Silicone Valley, beating Nigeria and South Africa to have what can be known as a ‘Sustainable Information Society.’ In this respect, initiatives such as M-Pesa in Kenya, a mobile phone money transfer application, has changed the lives of countless people around this globalized world. Also, the Caribbean ICT Roadshow, a regional initiative working with governments and business to expand ICT access and use, should be supported and built on.
The New Partnership for Africa’s Development – NEPAD – additionally has an ICT broadband initiative whose aim it is to expand broadband access in Africa.
The major impediments to successfully integrating ICT into Black Society are just the same as everything else: Human capital deficiency, organizational problems, infrastructure and technical constraints, cultural and attitudinal problems, and institutional corruption. These are local problems that applications cannot fix – but require local solutions from governments. Thus, for ICT to flourish and have the desired effect in society, the infamous public-private partnership can come into play right there.
One of the most heartwarming tales and justification for ICT came from Haiti during their 2010 earthquake. Using text messages translated from Creole to English, an American search and rescue team was able to find a 7 year old girl and two women buried under the rubble of a collapsed supermarket. They were alive; and their lives had been saved by technology from Africa. Ushahidi, which means to ‘Witness’ in KiSwahili seems to have mutated to telling those who wanted to do something where their help was most needed miles and miles away from whence it came.
Emmanuel Musaazi is a college professor based in Toronto, Canada.