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DigiTalk: Let us Re-imagine Africa

DigiTalk: Let us Re-imagine Africa

Colin-Thakur

I long for the 80s.

I remember the sense of comradeship and camaraderie we had. How we shared. I grew up in Unit 5, Chatsworth, and my house was directly opposite the Early Learning Centre, the secret ANC cell run by comrades like Roy Padayachee, the late Cabinet Minister. What I don’t miss is the match box house I lived in; where the boys had to step outside when the ladies had to change. On the other hand, Azania gave me freedom, dignity and my own room which is something I am not prepared to trade. In short, I want what I have and I want what I had. Azania also perversely introduced me to fear. We juxtapose the fear with the old good times don’t we? And we make it a government thing. Perhaps it is so. But is it not also our collective future to shape? I worry that we – across all economic classes – keep demanding and expecting more. When the unions and students do this, it is denigrated as laziness and entitlement. When we do it, we hang our arguments on the rising cost of living. Right? What we really had in the 80s was a common enemy, which proved to be a unifying force: apartheid. Is self-centeredness or self entitlement the new commonality?

An interesting development has been the introduction of the Top Level Domain for Africa. Allow me to explain before I get a WTF email. A Top Level Domain (TLD) is what the Internet uses to distinguish certain types of sites such as .com, .za and .eu. The new TLD is one that will give Africa its own digital identity. This is .africa but we say “dotAfrica” in conversation. This is much like the EU domain which was launched in 2005 to give Europe its very own identity. From my observation, that has been an amazing success and has helped to gradually nurture the European economic zone and provide a group identity to this geographic zone. This is notwithstanding the current Euro financial crises.

Individual countries also have a TLD. I am sure you wondered why South Africa has a top level domain of .za instead of .sa? It turns out there is a country that has more crude oil then us. This is Saudi Arabia so we are lumped with the abbreviation of the Dutch Zuid-Afrika for uniqueness. Hmmh! Don’t you wish we could assimilate the Dutch footballing skills as well? However, a more credible excuse is that Saudi Arabia is positioned alphabetically before us. “The Internet has no boundaries,” they say. “It is neutral,” they insist. So 10 years after Europe, this “boundary less” “neutral” Internet allows Africa to have its own Internet extension – dotAfrica. They really do think of Africa as a jungle, don’t they? In any event, we for the first time in digital history have “dotAfrica”. This now provides us African e-citizens with a continental digital identity. This group identity has huge commercial and cultural possibilities and is a milestone for Africa. The “dotAfrica” domain will see the African continent establish a unique online identity using African-based technology for Africans by Africans.

You will now see websites with a.africa at the end. How cool is this? This will be launched done in two phases, namely the “Sunrise” and “Land Rush.” The Sunrise phase will handle trademark cases to prevent enterprising cyber squatters from illegally and opportunistically buying trademark or brand names like Nike. Cyber squatters can opportunistically buy a web site name like www.nike. africa and hold that company to a king’s ransom. This actually happened in South Africa in the past where cyber squatters did exactly the self same just before democracy. South Africa, though not intentionally, punished some well intentioned companies that disinvested when they tried to return! The Land Rush phrase allows smaller companies, and you and I, to buy domain names.

Let us re-imagine Africa. dotAfrica presents timely opportunities to do this. I appeal to all comrades, especially the (now) rich ones with whom I marched back in the 80s. Will you help us academics to help all children, including your own? Your security wall may be getting higher and higher but if we fail to educate the nation, you might as well take it down. We do indeed still have a common enemy. It is called education. Educated people rarely go hungry. Even when they do, we call it “diet”. Educated people are rarely unemployed. The uneducated people are the disenfranchised. Education is a human right. Think about this during Africa Week.

I love this: “We have not inherited the land from our fathers, but have borrowed it from our children.” I-Africa Mayibuye. Mayibuye i-Africa.

This edited article was published in the East Coast Mail.

Pictured: Colin Thakur is the Director of the iNeSi e-Skills CoLab at the Durban University of Technology. He is a digital activist keen on upgrading the e-skills of the nation to enhance the quality of life. He lives and subscribes to the mantra One-person-One-connected device.

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