“The Revolution will be Digitised” is Heather Brooke‘s new book. She is an American journalist, writer, and freedom of information activist who resides in London. Brooke is well known for her role in blowing the whistle on the UK MP’s Expenses Scandal that rocked the news waves in 2009/10. Other books by Brooke include, The Silent State and Your Right to Know.
Her latest book has really piqued my interest because it is in line with my research on shaping the role of social media in democratic culture. Heather Brooke’s interview on wired.co.uk absolutely nailed my desire to grab a copy of this book (kindle or paperback: haven’t decided yet) for my personal library. I urge you to do the same, while I share what I gleaned from her interview. I will also attempt to relate her school of thought to the African situation.
There are two of Heather Brooke’s statement in the interview that I would like to call attention to in my analysis on this post. They are:
1. What the internet has done is it has decentralised power. It has given individuals on the ground a way to challenge establishments and traditional gatekeepers who held information and by doing so, held power. Power is moving around in new ways and old orders are being challenged.
2. We’re in a really important transitional period in our global society. We are shifting from a way of doing politics which was very much top-down with a centralised hierarchy and we are moving towards a decentralised, horizontal structure.
If truly the internet has decentralised power in the Western world, Africa is yet to achieve that feat, and for many reasons. The low level of internet adoption engendered by poor techno-literacy, unavailability of ICT infrastructure, high cost and poor quality for available connection and more, dilute whatever political impact one may hope to have using the new medium . Presently, mobile telephony appears to be the highest driver of internet access in Africa. According to this report by ResearchICTAfrica.net, the mobile phone is actually the “key entry point for Internet adoption in Namibia.”
This does not however mean that African citizens are not making attempts to challenge power structures. Even with the little mobile tool (on social networks), the government cannot deny feeling them. In the wake of the the global political revolutions driven by access to digital platforms in better developed societies, Africans are also learning to make the most of the mobile phone platform that is fast dominating the market, to have their say in governance.
A good example is REVODA, an app designed to aid citizens monitor the 2011 election proceedings in Nigeria. See this old post of mine on the App – Revoda! 9ja Elections.
Africa may not yet be able to make a categorical statement as to how Internet has decentralised power in our governance yet, but the process is very much ongoing. In view of all that has been said above, I do agree with Heather Brooke that the revolution will indeed be digitised, not withstanding the variance in digital platforms through which it would occur.
The question however is, to what extent would the revolution be global (uniform). I foresee a divide; just as we all practice democracy differently, the REVOLUTION we desire and clamour for would be relative and would still adopt divergent meanings across the globe. What is dubbed a revolution in the UK, may not exactly be the revolution Africa needs at the moment. The digital-divide is already there, thus it can hardly be argued that there will also be a divide in the kind of impact one can have using ICT tools.
I propose that every man should adopt this new media platform to engineer the kind of revolution he/she really desires according to the need of his immediate society. I call for an end to the copy-cat era, and the rise of an indigenous revolution plan that would still key into a global game-plan. This is were policy discussions can be raised, but that is a story for another day.
Internet Subscription in Africa: policy for a dual digital divide (2003) by Trevor Roycroft & Siriwan Anantho [PDF]
The Internet in Tertiary Education in Africa: Recent Trends (2008) by Ravinder Rena [PDF]
An Overview of Internet Developments and their Impact on E-government in SouthAfrica (2010) Naidoo, Singh & Levin [PDF]
For more on Heather Brooke