Technology should not endanger African values

Posted on May 14, 2013 10:27 pm

On my first day at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in late 1990s, I was taught that technology is so much fun but we as a society can drown in our technological innovations. Our lecturer taught us that the fog of information could drive out knowledge. Beyond that, as an aborigine, we have a quote that life without culture is a life without Life. Africa’s broadcast media has grown in leaps and bounds over the past few years as more and more dictatorial regimes continues to fall and new democracies that encourage freedom of media continue to emerge. On the back of a strong economic growth across the sub Saharan Africa averaging 5% per annum and a rapidly expanding middle class has no doubt contributed to the growth of electronic and digital media in the continent. As increasing numbers of people gain access to television, the media play a growing role in informing and educating the African public that for a very long after independence remained uninformed.

In line with this growth, pay TV market in Africa pioneered by South Africa’s DSTV, the market leader has found opportunities to expand in both rural and urban areas. With rising affluence, more Africans can afford to subscribe to pay Television like DSTV, StarTimes, GoTv which is owned by DSTV to mention but a few and, in the process, they have expanded their horizons and world view. This is why soccer fans of Manchester United could be seen crying in broad daylight after the long serving manager Sir Alex Ferguson retired. Given pay TV operators like DSTV offer over 50 channels with output ranging from foreign news to entertainment to education programs, they are helping Africans learn about the world. This is, in general, a positive trend and should be encouraged.

I do however hold the view that the growth of pay TV and foreign programming should not come at the expense of local content and local talent. Free-to-air television stations still reach the majority of local viewers, particularly in poorer rural areas. In the future, digital television is likely to lead the industry’s growth, providing higher quality images and television on demand. This has led electronic giants like LG and Samsung setting up assembly plants in countries like Kenya and South Africa. It is imperative that news organizations focus on the core values of journalism and society. Unlike blogging, the fundamental duty of media outlets is to inform and educate the public. No matter how much technology advances, these values will remain constant and that’s why African values must be factored in for the past to exist for present to create the future.

Contador Harrison