The Fourth Industrial Revolution has come with a bang and it seems like our culture’s survival is at stake. Yet there appears to be a parallel notion when technology and culture are spoken of in the same sentence. As much as the two seem far apart, many societies in Africa are quickly merging technology and cultures to make a beautiful shift in the way we form opinions, stories, ideas and vibrancy that keeps evolving for the betterment of our societies. (Inzozi Magazine Pages 40-43)
Much has been said about the Fourth Industrial Revolution, an era that has inevitably advanced and continues to advance its way into our lives. Living on the resource-rich continent of Africa does not negate the impact of technology on our diverse cultures. We are awash with information and this presents another challenge to retaining the authenticity of the well-kept and rooted norms, values and beliefs on the continent. In Africa, this would nicely be wrapped under the umbrella of Ubuntu as fostered by the keepers of the continent’s ancient traditions to assert that, ‘a person is a person through another person’. This points to the existence of a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity. In other words, humanity exits for humanity—not for robotics.
But the robots are here to stay, they are not going anywhere—the I.o.T (Internet of Things), A.I (Artificial Intelligence), Data Revolutions with FinTechs, RegTechs, TechHubs and a lot more iHubs are exploding with fantastic innovations by the minute. Our culture is changing fast, yet there is no reason for the two—technology and culture— to not blend. After all, technology is supposed to be a means to an end and not the end in itself. Well harnessed technology has the ability to enhance cultures and integrate the interconnectedness of the diversity that Africa has to present to the rest of the world.
“We need to move away from the delusional belief that, having access to endless streams of information will produce more knowledge and hence result into more wisdom. The opposite is quite true. With so much information being absorbed by this generation, wisdom is becoming more difficult to attain because it is in scarcity.”
Technology advancements will come with a complexity of changes in cultures. This is in the sense of the way people interact, think and learn as they master new ways of living. Since there exists no static cultures, embracing a dynamic culture that includes technology seems like the best way to retain our long-kept values that embrace the African wisdom of Ubuntu. Here is why:
We need to move away from the delusional belief that, having access to endless streams of information will produce more knowledge and hence result into more wisdom. The opposite is quite true. With so much information being absorbed by this generation, wisdom is becoming more difficult to attain because it is in scarcity. Absorbing too much information and failing to place and apply it into the right context of our diverse cultures, is what will mess up our perceptions, rather than enrich it. It is not about knowing and having an opinion about everything so that we can appear to be informed among our peers. This kind of approach only creates a lot of people who hastily form opinions that have no solid foundations that are tested, tried and have stood over a sustained period of time. They become reactionary and form superficial impressions on the basis of fragmented bits of information— this only results in a cultural discordance.
Africans should instead strive to attain true understanding of this technological era, integrate it into the already existing values and translate it into what works in each context for the good of the people. This is what will enhance the diverse cultural values we uphold as we move swiftly through understanding to form knowledge and consequently attain wisdom. Taking this approach to the waves of information blowing through our cultures is like a building that stands the test of shifting winds and not collapse.
“Obviously, processes are accelerated in various institutions, less human error is experienced and greater electronic connectivity is created because of technology. However, this lessens inter-personal human interactions and the opportunities that foster grit, inspiration, motivation and self-restraint.”
Disruptive technologies once well-harnessed are not an impediment to who we are. They present new dimensions to how policy, businesses, the arts, human rights, social justice and sustainable development can improve livelihoods. For this reason, technology should not be a replacement to culture, or entirely viewed as a separate entity. Obviously, processes are accelerated in various institutions, less human error is experienced and greater electronic connectivity is created because of technology. However, this lessens inter-personal human interactions and the opportunities that foster grit, inspiration, motivation and self-restraint. These values are taught through Ubuntu that is ingrained in our cultures and these can only be passed on from one generation to another through human interaction.
Therefore, in the age of information, our African culture should aspire to teach us so that we can learn to absorb information, in order to develop a unique mastery of who we are and what we want to become. As we transform for the better, this Afrocentric wisdom is what will allow for our diverse cultures to remain an indispensable part of the decision-making processes in our institutions, families and individual lives.
Since people do not like to simply be a part of a new something that is disconnected from who they are culturally, they would rather be engaged in and through their cultures. This can best be possible through harmonising Africa’s cultures and digitisation.