• August 5th, 2020

Promoting digital literacy for social and economic development

Recent years have seen an increasing acquisition and usage of various Information and Communication Technologies being utilized to achieve different objectives in different sectors of the economy. Most of these technologies have their origins from Europe, Asia and other Global North countries. The purposes for these technologies differs from organizations to organizations, offices to offices or individuals to individuals, depend on the necessities of having them in that organization. The prime aim for investing in these technologies is to increase productivity or speeding up the delivery of services to people in that sector or organization. However, at individual level, the purposes my range from things such as: communication, leisure and entertainment. Some of these technologies are relatively expensive and are not affordable by individuals due their costs of maintenance. As a researcher in this area for several years, I observed that, devices such as: Mobile telephony, tablets, Personal Computers, IPad and the likes, are becoming culturally adopted in our daily lives.  Not only the devices, but we also have seen an increasing emergence of various applications and platforms that are aiming at being used for sending short messages, voice calls, accessing e-mails, browsing the internet, leisure and entertainment, community engagement and participation, strengthening social and cultural relationships between people and organizations in different towns, villages, cities, countries or continents. Examples of these applications and platforms are like: social media: 1. Facebook- which is mainly used for leisure and entertainment, though it has some valuable usages such as maintaining close contacts with relatives or friends and having access to them anytime and anywhere you need them; 2). WhatsApp-which is also gaining a momentum as a communication and engagement platform at both individual and organizational levels; 3). Twitter; 4). Linked In; 5). Instagram; 6). Snap Chat and so on. The use of these requires one to have access to the internet, network and owning a digital device that they can use for this purpose. 
However, we have noticed that, there are a lot of misuse, misconceptions and abuse for these platforms by using them for anti-social activities which are not the primary purposes of these platforms. Therefore, their effective use requires specific level of understanding and conceptualization. The ability of an individual or organization to use a digital device in a constructive and useful manner which is social and culturally acceptable and will benefit more people in the community is referred to as Digital Literacy. For us, to have a digital literate society we still need to do a lot in terms of investing in education campaigns aiming at sensitizing and persuading our members on the goods and bad things of being digital literate as well as acquiring and owning a digital device. 

Many of our societal members take it for granted that, once they own a digital device and have access to internet and other social media platforms, then they are free to say and freely express their opinions without taking into consideration the great damage their digital actions can have on the masses especially the digital masses.   Some of the factors that serve as impediments on digital literacy are: self-pride at the expense of others; wrong application of cultural norms and values; lack of understanding of our human rights and our constitution; taking it for granted that people can learn on their own since majority are already using them; personal political convictions based on outdated and baseless ideologies and so on. Because of digital illiteracy, though many of our people own digital devices, citizens still need to be educated on the proper and effective use of these devices to avoid digital hallucination, black mailing and vilifications unintentionally, dehumanization, name-calling, vigilantism, digital theft due to lack of morals and respect of cultural values, digital psychological trauma, violations of human rights and gender based violence, personal devaluing and family –image destruction. These irresponsible digital actions may lead to social unrest, disunity, hatred, divisions, racism, moral decay and social exploitation. Although, digital devices brought more benefits to us, we can now see a growing concern on the misuse of these device for self-gratification.

 As a result, we need to start digital literacy programs at various levels to ensure that our citizens really benefits from the proliferation of digital devises. One thing that can be done is that, institutions of higher learning, should revisit their curriculum and incorporate topics/ issues that are aimed at digitally literate their students. This should be done in such a way that, students will be able to pass their acquired knowledge and skills to their friends, relatives and acquaintances. 

It is saddening that most of the people that are using these devices and platforms/applications to commit digital crimes are the educated ones and they are doing this without knowing that what they are doing is punishable by law. Additionally, at household or individual level, we should keep on educating our friends, colleagues, and classmates on what to share and store on these platforms. Our people should be aware that, whatever that you share on digital platforms is likely to remain there permanently and these are the things that will haunt you at a later stage when you are no longer active online and have a better understanding for this. Before we use, share, post, comments, like, upload, and download anything digitally we need to ask ourselves: why am I doing this? For whose benefit? Does it fit to be shared with the public? What effect will it have on my reputation as an individual or employee or parent? What will my employer will say?
Let us promote digital literacy where ever we will find ourselves!

* Sadrag Panduleni Shihomeka is a Social Media, Politics and Research Methodology Researcher. The views expressed in this article are his own and not that of his employer. E-Mail: shihomeka@eshcc.eur.nl.

Staff Reporter
2019-08-30 08:02:36 | 11 months ago

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