There are many things that a technology revolution will help us achieve and the benefits will have us looking behind, trying to imagine how we made do with what is now or what will become a defacto part of each and everyday life. We have seen technology change lives in; agriculture – allowing for higher output per square meter under management using scientific methods, in healthcare – enabling access to pre and post natal services to mothers, thereby reducing child mortality rates, in financial services – throwing the net of financial inclusion wide restoring dignity to many by way of access to credit, in governance – through tracking of activity at the August house driving accountability, through open data that reveals insights that have driven interventions where once only guesswork and gut feel prevailed among other benefits that make life that much easier.
One can draw benefits from across all sectors of the economy save for one that seems to have been relegate to the back burner; culture. Our achilles heel in Kenya is our very amorphous understanding and interpretation of our culture and history. Everything that is seemingly wrong with our society today can find roots in the confusion that exists. Despite years of formal education that many have the benefit of, the problem cuts across every social class. Everyone carries a version of history, most likely forged by the pens or direction colonial masters as we have had a poor model for accurate knowledge transfer from the days of old. Save for minimal text book exposure in our formal education systems, or fireside chats in a more traditional setting, not many avenues exists for an enriching cultural experience and therein lie the problem.
Despite all the advances in technology, if we as a people become lost in our own cultural darkness, opaque to the roots and ways of all others with whom we share a border and earn the right to be called Kenyans; it will all be lost. Without knowledge, understanding and most importantly acceptance, the value of any technology that we import or innovate will be limited.
Perhaps the solution is not even technology based and we need to rethink the education system in terms of content and exposure of the younger generation. Maybe it is and we can use the liberalization of the media space to ensure that accurate cultural digests are part and parcel of scheduled or on demand programming. It could start in the simple things like understanding the roots of marriage customs, an interactive immersion into the migratory routes of our forefathers or smart language linkages.
No hard and fast answers here but the only thing that holds true is that the technology dividend will not be realized without a cohesive citizenry and culture is at the heart of it.