Ubuntu: Bridging the digital divide with ancient African philosophy

November 6, 2018

"Ubuntu" is an ancient humanist African philosophy which was coined from the Zulu phrase "Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu", which literally means that a person is a person through other people. It drives at the relatedness and “family-ness” that should exist between people and supports the idea of community as the building blocks of society.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu famously described Ubuntu as "the essence of being human. It speaks of the fact that my humanity is caught up and is inextricably bound up in yours. I am human because I belong. It speaks about communities."

 

This Ubuntu philosophy of community as a bridge is propelling technology growth and bridging the digital (and gender) divide across Africa, and this is in turn driving Africa’s economic recovery.

 

The Continent received a record-breaking 560 million dollars in investment in 2017.

 

Venture investment sectors in Africa, 2017. (Image copyright VC4A)

 

Community Driven Gender Bridge

 

In Africa and across the world, social and cultural barriers limit women’s participation in tech, especially to access information that is important for their health, well-being and general overall growth. This can keep them socially isolated and prevent these women from having a voice at a global level.

 

"How better to reverse this than to create a community of women already using technology for work or play who will support each other, collaborate on social or community projects, and serve as ready mentors for new entrants to technology?" asks Chioma Agwuebo, founder of TechHER, a community of learning, support and collaboration for women working with technology.

 

Younger enthusiasts are adopting technology easily and faster in groups... the more advanced members of the communities are teaching the newbies... data sharing and open source are at higher levels.

 

With increased collaborations, tech communities in Africa are steadily transforming the continent’s economy.

 

These communities are playing a big role in mending the gender gap in technology, through increased information sharing, digital literacy and research. They are fostering increased exchange and cooperation among specialists and interest groups working in the fields of education, science, culture and communication and encouraging states to use ICTs to promote greater participation by citizens.

 

There is an assiduous effort to drive women's participation in tech and STEM activities with these groups; for example, the Women TechMakers community by Google is dedicated solely to women in that space.

 

Anie M. Anie started Africa Women in Technology out of a desire to connect, educate and empower African women who are determined to advance their tech careers.

 

"We are dedicated to providing opportunities and a safe space for women to grow and lead in the tech space," she says.

 

Africa Women in Technology, 2017. (Image courtesy of author)

 

All over Africa, this technology uptake is inspiring economic growth. Uganda is improving aquaculture and organic farming. Rwanda is using technology to improve its subsistence farming and agriculture techniques. In South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya there are innovative solutions to security issues, transportation, finance and health... from issues such as female genital mutilation to joining in the global race to space.

 

This community method of growth is in sharp contrast to how competitiveness and venture investing is at the core of technology growth in Europe and the rest of the West.

 

For example, the Harvard Business Review says "The United States is a competitive location to the extent that companies operating in the U.S. are able to compete successfully in the global economy while supporting high and rising living standards for the average American."

 

The Review also says "a competitive nation requires sound monetary and fiscal policies (such as manageable government debt levels), strong human development (good health care and K–12 education systems), and effective political institutions (rule of law and effective law-making bodies)."

 

All of these elements are either missing or unstable in Africa. This has led to a community method of growth hacking that is now being replicated in other industries in Africa, such as media, arts, and writing, and it's growing fast.

 

DigiClan is a community of digital marketers in Africa, founded on the principle of Ubuntu. Our goal is individual growth of the talents– male and female– in the industry as well as growth of the digital media industry in Africa.

 

Alone we can go fast, but together as a family, we will go far.

 

#Ubuntu

 

Ized Uanikhehi is a digital media marketing consultant, formerly @CNNAfrica, now @maxdotng. She is an evangelist for @DigiClanAfrica, and her focus is bridging the gender digital divide in Africa.

 

Follow her on Twitter: @zegbua

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