No one saw it coming. It looked to be so far away yet it hit like a bang. Before long everyone was talking about it and it became the talk of town. Internet. Everyone had their point of view of what that would be but without clarity of how it was going to affect them.
Politicians have mastered the art of talking things away whether they have the evidence or not. I have a feeling that was the same with the internet. One person once complained of their boss who deliberately refused to learn computer operation. His emails would be printed out by the secretary and he would reply in short hand which would then be typed and emailed back. What such people did not see coming was the digital evolution.
It crept through the crevices of small handsets called mobile phones which everyone wanted to have. Within a short time, the concern went beyond just having a phone but the size, type and later, the complexity. That’s how black berry ruled this world. You had CEOs with black berry phones operating with a p. O box mind-set.
The tools were available and soon they were to become the source of our problems. The rate at which technology changes (read improves) is way faster than how the politics of the land does. This has created a number of opportunities but also challenges. When there is a fire outbreak, with the power of social media, there is an immediate circulation of the news to the authorities which is a good thing. Should the fire truck show up with only five litres of water, then expect an explosion on social media.
Politicians took long to jump on the ship of digital that is to say; having active social media platforms both for public figures and institutions, by the time they did, most of them needed to first redeem their image.
Digital has narrowed the distance between leaders and the people they lead, the common folk. They are just a tweet away. And the leader will be forced to respond. We have seen even powerful institutions which rarely relate with the common person coming out to speak on urgent matters online.
These changes are not only happening at the political level, they are being made manifest in the lives of ordinary people who are using digital platforms to access services that were rather very far from them. Within the past five year period, a lot more has changed more than the past decade because of the quick internet speeds and the improved versions of the mobile gadgets and the affordability of both.
Nanjala takes the trouble to break down and examine these different points of time and the effects that each has had on the nations of east Africa especially Kenya and her people. The ten year scope in which she researched the book, there was a lot changing and it goes without mention that more has also changed and improved for that matter.
This review, of Nanjala Nyabola’s Digital Democracy, Analogue Politics: How The Internet Era Is Transforming Politics In Kenya, is written for ttpafrica.com by David Kangye. Copies of the book can be purchased from ttpafrica.com.