From New York to Beijing, from Sydney to Johannesburg and from the most populated city of Tokyo to the Kaghan Valley in Pakistan—our life, education, health, our personal relationships, how we shop, how we entertain ourselves how we communicate culturally and cross culturally is transmogrified by the world biggest intruder of life—Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in a way the world has never imagined.
It has cut borders, unite societies, increased well being, exposed scandals, and encourages interactivity in a pervasive and sometimes aggressive way. It has also renders millions jobless around a more connected global village, increased wealth and made life easy for millions—the story of ICTs comes with numerous benefits as it does with mind boggling disadvantages.
The ever changing and borderless, yet more complex world is defined and redefined day in day out by a preponderant and consistently emergent ICTs, taking shape in our economic, political and social life, espousing our dynamism and homogenizing our way of life, sometimes to our advantage and sometimes to our detriment. We text, tweet, talk, shop, and marry across cultures and borders and at the comfort of our bedrooms and with a single click on our mobile phones and our personal computers.
The rapid growth and expansion in our industries, creating more value to consumers and expanding opportunities for young innovators in an unprecedented way is increasing daily. Irrespective of time and space, individuals, companies and governments are involved in a never ending circle of communication, exchanging ideas, products and thought on countless issues like never before. The emergence of search engines such as Google, Amazon and Yahoo, and the proliferation of Web publishing among other ICT- related works, information dissemination are democratized. The democratization of information dissemination has enhanced learning through convergence of information into a network of interconnected computers around the world, this information spread at a tremendous speed, enhancing learning and sparking industrial development.
ICTs have sidelined the role of retardant gatekeepers in the newsroom who suppressed information and only let out what they feel their audiences should know. With a hand held cell phone connected to the internet, everyone can tell their story the way they like and at the comfort of their bedrooms. These technologies have connected Libraries across the world, making information available to researchers with a simple click. They have connected business executives and world leaders, holding conferences online—cutting travel expenses and stress.
With a crop of young talented innovators rallying around ICTs in different parts of the world, societies are getting more integrated, with many thinking of ways to liberate their communities and address their social problems, and so far many have succeeded. With the existence of social networks supported by these ICTs, the world is revolutionized every day, individuals and societies are getting more connected, ideas and cultures across different societies are getting synchronized.
In recent times, these technologies have sparked protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and other countries in the gulf, leading to long serving dictators quitting power, and forcing policy makers and government officials to retract unfavorable policies and strengthen commitment to accountable leadership. They have raised alarm during dangers and hasten social actions.
It has spurred investment and enhances productivity even among developing societies, testimonies from the just concluded World Economic Forum in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital will suffice.
Without ICTs, the world probably wouldn’t have known Malala Yousafzai the young Pakistani schoolgirl who first came to public attention through a heartfelt diary describing life under Taliban rule in north-west Pakistan, published on BBC Urdu.
These technologies in an unimaginable bunkum have connected criminals, online scammers, drug dealers, kidnapers and traffickers—sharing ideas and thoughts on how to enhance their illegalities.
They have also promoted hate speeches and enmity, sparking unrest and distorting societal peace. They have contributed in the deterioration of serious academic rigors, encouraging “copy and paste” and killed independent capacity to think.
They have also put down businesses for life. Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World that was involved in a phone hacking scandal will suffice. Any logical explanation on the advantages of ICTs will not sideline their disadvantages.
Nonetheless, many argued that their advantages have by far outweigh their disadvantages, perhaps the United Nations is motivated by this notion to have outlined the 17th May of every year to celebrate these technologies. This year is celebrated with a theme “2016: ICT entrepreneurship for social impact” aimed at encouraging innovations among start-ups and small medium-sized enterprise.
The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his message to mark the day says “the international community is now mobilized around the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which recognizes the great potential of information and communication technology (ICT) to accelerate human progress, bridge the digital divide and advance knowledge. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals specifically call for employing ICTs to realize the overall vision of a life of dignity for all people”.
He says the technologies are pivotal in advancing “smart solutions to address climate change, hunger, poverty and other global challenges. They are key instruments for providing mobile health care and access to education, empowering women, improving efficiencies in industrial and agricultural production, and safeguarding the environment”
Mr. Ki-moon believes that in the area of start-ups and technology, ICTs are the drivers of innovative and practical solutions that can contribute to inclusive growth, they encourage young people to participate in innovations, which he says “can pioneer transformative technology, create jobs and benefit whole economies”.
The Secretary General however called on governments, businesses and civil society leaders to develop new technologies that have a lasting social impact, adding that “ICTs can create more inclusive societies for persons with disabilities. They can help children to learn and the elderly to stay active. And ICTs can connect people around the world in common cause. On this World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, let us resolve to harness the power of technology to create a better future for all”.
The euphoria of such messages from high profile personalities such as the UN Secretary General is likely to inspire young innovators, encourage governments and business moguls to invest more in the areas of ICTs—such calls may likely project more result oriented decisions when properly utilized or result to damaging consequences when mishandled.
Amina Aliyu is of the Bayero University, Kano. She could be reached at [email protected] 08064399911.