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Discoverability and D igital Colonialism. Firoze Manji Acknowledgement: research assistance by ThoughtWorks ™. Elements of disccoverability. Technical Producer / author determined Political bias / digital colonialism Infrastructural. Historical context. Mobilisations in 1950s

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discoverability and d igital colonialism

Discoverability and Digital Colonialism

Firoze Manji

Acknowledgement: research assistance by ThoughtWorks ™

elements of disccoverability
Elements of disccoverability
  • Technical
  • Producer / author determined
  • Political bias / digital colonialism
  • Infrastructural
historical context
Historical context
  • Mobilisations in 1950s
  • Rise of independence movements
  • Social contract
  • Achievements
  • Reversals
  • Privatization of the commons
  • Concentration and centralisation of capital
set the context for
Set the context for
  • Microtechnological revolution
  • Bio-technological revolution
  • Nano-technological revolution
  • Effective re-appropriation of destiny of African people (landgrabs, economic control, resource extration, ‘repatriation’ of profits, tax evasion etc
lack of content from africa
Lack of content from Africa?
  • Economic Commission for Africa survey conducted in 1999 : Africa generates only around 0.4 percent (1:250) of global content.
  • Excluding South Africa, the rest of Africa generates a mere 0.02 percent (1:5000)!
articles in wikipedia
Articles in Wikipedia
  • The whole continent of Africa contains only about 2.6% of the world’s geo-tagged Wikipedia articles despite having 14% of the world’s population and 20% of the world’s land.
educator vs native
Educator vs Native
  • Academic and scientific discourse tends to be from a paternalistic / uninformed / and completely ‘educator v. native’. (
  • For no other continent is there so much written about it by outsiders
spatial solipsism
Spatial Solipsism
  • “This uneven distribution of knowledge carries with it the danger of spatial solipsism for the people who live inside one of Wikipedia’s focal regions. It also strongly underrepresents regions such as the Middle East and North Africa as well as Sub-Saharan Africa. In the global context of today’s digital knowledge economies, these digital absences are likely to have very material effects and consequences.”
  • (Solipsism = belief in self as only reality – polite term for eurocentrism)
access and bias
Access and bias
  • Internet allows those with time and money and easy access to the internet to control large proportion of discourse
cultural homogenization
Cultural homogenization
  • Since it is cheaper to send a data package from the North to the South than vice versa, and since access is greater in the North (Africa 13%, or 3% excluding the big ones), there is structural built in dominance of information coming from the North.
  • Africa has more than 800 languages spoken amongst its various ethnic groups. However, the Internet is an ‘English’ based medium which affects the usability and content creation thereon. A vast majority of programs, applications and services continue to be provided in English thereby denying access to large swathes of the population and exacerbating the digital divide.

top level domains
Top Level Domains
  • Africa has more countries than any other continent, but only 10 of the ccTLDs have functional registries within the African countries they belong to.
software import lack of production of software
Software import / lack of production of software
  • Nigeria imports 90% of all software used in the country. The local production of software is reduced to add-ons or extensions creation for mainstream packaged software.
patent applications filed in africa
Patent applications filed in Africa
  • Only around 10% of applications for the registration of intellectual property (IP) rights in Africa are made by African citizens or residents.
  • “Both anecdotal accounts by African IP agents and WIPO statistics on IP activity in Africa show that more than 90% of applications for registration of IP rights in Africa are by foreign IP applicants”
arm twisting
  • Microsoft has apparently attempted to arm-twist African governments on policy issues repeatedly – for instance by threatening to withdraw funding to Kenyan government programs in view of its support of free software (OOXML), by hiring government officials and their relatives as in Namibia and Nigeria.
  • Lobbying with governments to ensure use of Microsoft products including by tying governments into long term licensing agreements.
  • Also see South Africa’s clamp down on open source in education.
  • and
thank you
Thank you

Firoze Manji

thinking about the future
Thinking about the future

Each generation must discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it, in relative opacity. Frantz Fanon

thinking about the future1
Thinking about the future

If you don't change direction, you will end up exactly where you are heading. Lao Tzu

thinking about the future2
Thinking about the future

If you don’t know where you are going, any direction will do. Anon

thinking about the future3
Thinking about the future

The future belongs to those who give the next generation reason to hope.  Teillardde Chardin

the challenge of thinking about the future
The challenge of thinking about the future
  • Thinking outside the boxRecognizing that we are in a box, we are imprisoned by our past.
  • Cognitive hindsight bias Our capacity to imagine the future is limited by our knowledge of the present / past.
the task
The task
  • Imagine you are meeting 20 years from now. Discuss what you achieved and how you got there.
  • Imagine you are able to see your own funeral. What would you like people to say about what you achieved or made happen.