A few years ago I came across Google’s company page and found a really interesting list of some of their beliefs, or as they prefer to call it, their philosophy. I recently came across it again and it still holds true.
- Focus on the user and all else will follow.
- It’s best to do one thing really, really well.
- Fast is better than slow.
- Democracy on the web works.
- You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer.
- You can make money without doing evil.
- There’s always more information out there.
- The need for information crosses all borders.
- You can be serious without a suit.
- Great just isn’t good enough.
Today we were asked a simple question in the midst of all the theory and discussion and debate and concentration that is postgraduate studies. We were asked: Why is this important to you?
We were given ten minutes and I put my earphones in, turned on my spa music and something just flooded out of me. It caught me a bit unawares. Not the sentiment, because much of the stream of consciousness are issues and beliefs and assumptions and emotions that I am either consciously aware of, or at least vaguely familiar with. What caught me unawares was the passion that this stirred up in me within those few minutes.
So here it is – warts and all. These are some things that I know and a few I wonder about.
Why is Africa so quiet?
I believe that the fact that scholars don’t share what they have spent years finding out impoverishes us all. This is especially true in the African context. Ubuntu is part and parcel of who we are – we share our stories and even our sandwiches easily, but we don’t share our skills, knowledge and research with the same confidence and care. This is a tragedy that is preventing us from growing intellectually. The fact that we are forever waiting for experts from other contexts to come tell us what to do within our own context is creating generations of wasted lives – we lose the African Einsteins because we don’t tell them that their voices are as important as the Scandinavian ones. We sit back and allow Zuckerberg to teach us about social interaction when we’ve been doing this thing forever around campfires. And worst of all – we blame it all on electricity, devices and connectivity.
When will we become truly proud of our digital selves and when will we create online knowledge communities that are not beholden to a different set of values and a foreign context? Why do we, as a first response, measure our worth against an overseas standard instead of finding our own identity as children of Africa with much to say and more to share? When will we make connectivity a top-of-the-list priority that we can agree on, implement and get things going instead of waiting for the Google balloons to float the solution we so desperately need into our lives?
(8 September 2015)