Social media has become the most powerful segment of communication and information industry. It has revolutionized and transformed the way we communicate and exchange information. It is faster, cheaper and more user-friendly than the former communication methodologies.
In Africa social media platforms such facebook, tweeter, whattsapp, Skype, LinkedIn and others have captured the hearts and minds of the youth to an extent that it has now become an addiction to many.
As Africans have we really taken time to assess the social-economic, political and ecological impacts of social media to us? Are there no negative impacts?
For example, some observations have shown that addiction to social media has caused young people to loose their jobs as they are deemed less productive. Addiction to social media has also caused marital problems in various ways. For example a spouse feel ignored if his or her partner is so much addicted to facebook, whattsap or otherwise social media platform. In severe cases acts if violence or divorce happen.
Addiction to social media is a problem in schools, meetings, places of worship, offices or recreational facilities. There is a deep and unwanted lack of concentration.
Social media has also provided an avenue for abuse of human rights. For example it has made easier intrusion of privacies, spread of hate ideas, radicalization, trafficking of children and adults, trafficking of drugs, spreading of insults and defamatory information, etc.
Perhaps as Africans we need to ask ourselves a few questions: why are we not using social media to advance research and education? Why are we confining this good innovation to chatting, gossiping, joking, abusing each other, spreading hate, encouraging disunity, destruction of our nations?
We need to borrow a leaf from the Arab Spring. Social media played a big role in the Arab Spring and we need to make a critical analysis by asking ourselves thus: are the youths in Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria better or worse off than they were before the Arab Spring? Are their countries better or worse off?
These are important questions that we need to ask ourselves in order to avoid the mistakes and problems that were brought about by wrong use of the social media.
Sustainable Development and it’s goals particularly Goal Number 16 can only be achieved if we use social media in a manner that will not cause damage to our economies, peaceful existence and social harmony.
Today many African governments have adopted the concept of e-government. Nowdays it is fashionable to talk about e-democracy. Do we really know what exactly do we need to achieve with these new concepts or are we being driven by the needs of others? How has everything governance for example assisted us to overcome our development challenges? For example how has everything governance helped a rural women to have better access to essential services such as water, electricity, housing, food and education?
What really is e-democracy and in which way will it help we as Africans to overcome our socio-economic, political and ecological challenges?
Dr. Yahya Khamis Msangi