Africa's Evolving Infosystems: A Pathway to Security and Stability
NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIV WASHINGTON DC AFRICA CENTER FOR STRATEGIC STUDIES
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Political instability and violence in Africa are often the products of rumor and misinformation. Narrow interests have used politically biased newspapers and radio programming to spread disinformation and champion politically divisive causes. Meanwhile, reasonable opposition voices have been kept silent and shuttered from public life, often by repressive, even violent means. This remains a serious concern across Africa. Against this backdrop, the emergence of new information and communication technologies in Africa, advancing in tandem with emerging democratic institutions, is noteworthy. Over the past 5 years the annual growth rate for mobile telephony in Africa has been 65 percent, more than twice the global average. Linked by mobile telephony and supported by geographical information systems, civil society networks now have unprecedented opportunities to develop security-monitoring programs, provide information needed for effective health care, create banking services, and provide farmers with market information. Remarkably innovative uses of mobile communications, often paired with radio broadcasting, have created entirely new types of institutions that promote transparency, accountability, and security. These evolving institutions are often organic to Africa and pegged to the immediate needs of the communities they serve. Technology innovation centers, created and staffed by African engineers and technicians, are leading the way in developing solutions to longstanding problems. Mobile phones are now irrevocable features of African life, and high-speed Internet connectivity soon will be too. The key to realizing the positive potential in new technologies in Africa is found in focusing on the human motivations behind them. Policy initiatives, therefore, should focus on encouraging the development of applications that aim to improve human security, accountability, and transparency.
- Information Science
- Computer Systems
- Radio Communications