Africa, Kenya, Life, Opinion, Science & Tech

Internet and the Digital Age: Is Africa at Risk of Extinction?

In his words, French poet and novelist Victor Hugo said, “You can resist an army; you cannot resist an idea whose time has come.”He pointed to the fact that one of the most unfortunate things you can ever do is to resist change when it’s time to. It’s like refusing to honor a call of nature. And the consequences, would you accept them? Me neither. Now the world has moved to a new era. The era of cyberculture, internet, and computer literacy. And everyone who doesn’t adapt to this era risks isolation and extinction. Like the dinosaurs? Yes. Here is why.

A New Battle Line

Every region on earth is geographically demarcated into three territories:

  • Land
  • Sea
  • Air

Every country has at least land and airspace. Today, every country has an additional territory called the cyberspace. It is here where new battle lines emerge. Think about this; whenever you send emails, chat over Whatsapp, use your credit card, withdraw money or file your tax returns, all that happens over the cyberspace.

Additionally, almost all government departments and processes are now based in the cyberspace. With cloud storage gaining footing, physical storage drives are quickly becoming a thing of the past. The world is sending everything digitally, including healthcare.

Anyone who can, therefore, yield control over computers has a substantial amount of power and can pose a real threat. That explains why processes crash, flights delay, stocks drop and companies are held hostage whenever hackers decide to wreak havoc. You will also find rival countries trying to breach each other’s cyber presence to access intelligence secrets. Governments understand this and keep investing heavily in cybersecurity.

During the scramble for Africa, the colonial masters rushed for land and resources. Today, the scramble is for who will have the highest control within the digital sector, including Africa’s. And the real superpowers do not only have nuclear weapons, but also cyber weapons.

Internet: The Cyber Gap

In the first world, the cyberculture is highly adopted by most people with access to fast and reliable internet. Their governments have invested in massive infrastructures to ensure little to no downtime. People have also greatly integrated the internet into their day to day life. Now businesses, communication, and entertainment are all handled over the internet.

In the third world, especially Africa, the script is different. Majority of the people have no computer literacy, leave alone internet access. And wherever there is internet connectivity, it is mostly very slow. The cyber literacy gap between the two is therefore very wide. With the world increasingly becoming digital, does that spell gloom and doom for Africa? Maybe not. Here is why.

Digital Revolution

Over the past few years, however, a digital revolution has been taking place in Africa. Computer literacy levels have been gradually rising. The International Development of Computer Education program has been providing computers to secondary schools where thousands of students across the continent now learn basic skills of computer usage. Other than that, some other factors that have contributed to this include;

  • The smartphone – the introduction of cheap and affordable smartphones to the market has greatly influenced the digital revolution. Most of the internet users gain access through their mobile phones.
  • Increased sensitization – despite poor internet infrastructure, the many benefits of the internet have made many people desire to at least have some form of access. You will occasionally hear the success story of a self-made artist who learned his skills through YouTube tutorials. This appeals mostly to the jobless youth. It has, in turn, fueled the digital revolution where no one is wiling to be left behind.
  • Friendly government policies – some countries such as South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya have put up policies and invested in innovation hubs which give the youth an opportunity to develop their ideas and start-ups. For instance, M-Pesa, the world’s leading mobile money transfer platform, has the same origin and since revolutionized banking.
  • Investments – to provide internet by mobile service providers and other private firms

These all aim to increase connectivity.

Laptops for First Grade Kids

In one case which shows Africa is relentless in pursuing digital literacy, the Kenyan government provided tablet computers to all First Grade children, aged 5-7 years. The program aimed to improve computer literacy levels and bring up a generation that is computer savvy. It would, in turn, promote innovation and creativity in digital media and cyberspace. Class one children receive laptops.

Conclusion

Therefore, with the world going digital in every aspect, it is beyond a doubt that cyberspace is the next frontier. The third world, and especially Africa, has no choice but to embrace cyberculture as the new normal. Investments in advancing computer literacy and internet access should be a priority for all countries. Though there are efforts to change, there is still much more to do.

Those who remain lethargic will soon find themselves struggling to survive in an already changed environment.

About Alex Muiruri

Alex is a passionate writer based in Kenya. He’s also a professionally trained health officer and a great enthusiast of science and technology. Besides writing, he enjoys doing motivational speaking and possesses strong opinions on life. He’s a lover of people and enjoys good company. He’s also a devoted Christian, but respects the beliefs of others.

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