Thursday, August 16, 2007

Second Time Round

As far as education is concerned, when Europeans get an education, they become more rooted in their culture. When Africans get educated, they become indifferent to their culture. (Mmatshilo Motsei, The Kanga and Kangaroo Court)

We have singularly and spectacularly failed in using education as a tool to enhance our identity, ideology and culture. Many of our scientific, social and economic policies are crafted by people whose views, beliefs and philosophies are rooted in a foreign culture, irrespective of whether those who craft them are black, brown or white. The result has been a disgrace. Our sense of nationhood is non-existent. This has led to under-achievement in most (if not all) crucial pillars of our national development e.g. health, transport, economy, agriculture etc. As individuals we have been complicit in this decay. As professionals we are guilty of negligence, abdication and gross incompetence.

We are however lucky in that we have another chance at redeeming our shattered aspirations as a nation. This can however only be achieved by using the ICT infrastructure as a tool in promoting science and technology education, enhancing our culture by producing local digital content and nurturing home-grown ideas. John Wesonga in a blog article titled Content for Africa by Africans (July 29, 2007) states that,"...the need for locally produced quality content is one that all African countries face, the colonial legacy that most African countries have inherited has resulted in a large amount of Western/European content forming the bulk of what we expose ourselves to. The vast amount of traditional and cultural information that was passed from generation to generation has been largely ignored by local content providers and instead our bookshelves and magazine racks are filled with the latest copy of Harry Potter among other publications."

Wesonga sums his blog article by further stating that, "...the infrastructure to manage, store and disseminate the content to the masses is available, all we need now are the content providers who have a passion for Africa to step up and focus on producing the content. The opportunities for provision of content are enormous and range from academic applications, business and cultural applications."

This is a position I subscribe to. It is only when we prioritize and assist local developers produce quality content will we be able to harness our talents and skills. The infrastructure is been developed and is, right now, primarily focused on technology and its attendant legislation. These developments are namely the ESSAY and TEAMs submarine cable projects, launching of the ICT Digital Villages, the development of the Terrestrial Fibre Network and Fibre Optic National Network (FONN) and the zero rating of computers and peripheries to encourage accessibility to all.

This technological infrastructure will provide us with the opportunity to “re-educate” ourselves. Having got it wrong the first time round we cannot afford to blunder again. The ICT network should be channeled to promote our ideals, values, principles and hopes. It would be the height of folly if we disperse Internet connectivity to disparate parts of Kenya with the sole purpose of exposing and propagating alien content. Kenyans from Turkana to Kehancha and from Mombasa to Kisumu need access to the World Wide Web so as to contribute to and benefit from the global knowledge economy. However what they don’t need is another element that will be used to erode their values and restrict their intellectual development. Local content is paramount and should be buttressed with innovative applications of technology. We should, for example, use this technology to assist local computer gamers produce socially acceptable and relevant games that promote our values and culture. Gwimgrafx Studios is pioneering this field. Another example would be to enable creation of locally based Internet radios and television stations that would nurture the generation of local content and achieve its subsequent distribution. There are many other examples - film, folklore, seed research, health and civic education, finance and business etc.

It is not too late to rectify the situation. By promoting our culture and ideas we shall be providing a nurturing ground for future homegrown intellectual development. This can be possible only by the appreciation, encouragement and development of local Kenyan content by all the stakeholders e.g. the government and ICT professionals. Any failure at this point will be a betrayal to our future generations.


catch up said...

Our domination by western ideologies is much entrenched. As you suggest IT has an opportunity to restore our self-esteem which is what we lack in large quantities. Acess to internet by people from all walks of life will provide an alternative window through which to assess the world, saving us from the old colonial-originated perception of 'white' good and 'black' useless.

Keep up that ideology of emancipation!

B.K.Muthoga said...

Thanks for your comment catch up, we are getting there albeit slowly but surely.