Mr. Simon Bedelo, Lecturer, Keio University, Japan

Mr. Simon Bedelo, Lecturer, Keio University, Japan

Mr. Simon Bedelo is a lecturer in the Faculty of Environment and Information at the University KEIO SFC, Japan. His current fields of research include Africa studies, culture and communication. He was born in D.R. Congo in 1963, and studied engineering in Hungary and the USA, obtaining a Master’s degree in science. Following his teaching work in Haiti, he moved to and has settled in Japan over 20 years ago. He is also the founder of the Congo-ACADEX Primary and Secondary School, which applies the Japanese teaching methodology and management style. The school is in its 11th year with a current student population of 520 pupils.

Introduction

The year 2020 may go down as an unprecedented year in the history of humanity. Today, “a sneeze in one place resulting into pneumonia in another”, is no more just a thought. It is a reality of fatal nature. Covid-19 is an unfortunate example of that; showing how crucial the quest for interdependence and mutual prosperity is.

While it is quite easy to agree on the need for working together towards a common purpose, the key question is how to break down the various walls so that people can pursue the ultimate goal of prospering side by side with each other in peace and joy.

Few would disagree about the role of information sharing amongst the youth, who are the hope of the future. This presentation tackles the impacts, both positive and negative of digital online methods on the youth and their culture of learning, lifestyle and values. The discussion looks at Africa’s case. It puts aside the settled[1] issue of the necessity for Africa to keep bridging its digital gap. This is done in order to focus on the stricter context of pursuing peace and maximizing the benefit of interdependence.

Positive Impacts of Online Methods on the Lives of Africa’s Youths

Online tools are indeed having a lot of positive impact in the lives of Africa’s youths. As the table below illustrates it[2], Africa despite being the cradle of humanity remains the youngest of the continents; population wise. Out of its 1.3 billion people, 60% (i.e. about 800 million) are said to be under the age of 25. This is significant; considering that most active users of the Internet around the world are young people.

 

Africa

World

Africa in the World

Population in 2020

1.3 billion

7.8 billion

16.67%

Youths in 2020

0.8 billion

1.2 billion

66.67%

The impact of online tools is mostly visible in the way Africans are now living their lives and keeping up with the wider world. From the Internet World Stats, 40% of the 566.1 million Africans who use the Internet are on Facebook. Socio-political activism, likewise, has been benefiting from tools of online communication. The Arab spring that swept through North Africa a decade ago, got bigger and wider in a short period of time because of the use of social media[3] by those youths who were seeking changes in their societies.

In the area of learning and promotion of culture, Africa’s youths are relying on the Internet in lieu of a ‘physical library’ to conduct research. They are also using it to promote their culture. There are plenty of YouTube channels in which the people of Africa showcase and market their music and fashion to the world.

Negative Impacts of Online Methods on Africa’s Cultural Values

While online tools open new horizons to people throughout Africa, the new frontiers are not without challenges. Obviously, this is not limited to Africa. The rest of the global community is also grappling with the increasing misuse of online tools[4]. Even nations with established democracies are finding it difficult to regulate online materials while upholding the right to free speech.

In Africa, the Internet is making it easier for people to promote immorality and plot scamming schemes. There are also issues of cyber bullying and violence against girls and women. Ephraim (2013) points out that 1 in 3 of South African school children have been victims of cyberbullying; and 13% of Kenya’s female university students have experienced cyber harassment[5].

Once, a friend of mine used a well-known proverb to make a point regarding the negative impacts of online tools. He remarked that before the Internet, “when dogs barked, the caravan moved on.” He, then, remarked humorously that in today’s online environment, “when dogs bark, not only does the caravan stop; it goes backward.” Such is the effect of online communication tools.

The Way Forward: The Necessity of New type of Consciousness

Online tools have the potential to break down walls and speed up mutual prosperity, as they allow information to be shared instantly, effortlessly and even cheaply. However, given the reality of how easily can these tools ruin people’s lives; it is crucial that a sustainable standard be set to safeguard the well-being of all users.

Knowledge is power; and information sharing is its prerequisite. But there is a danger when tools of information fall into wrong hands. It becomes even worse when facts and truths get intentionally eclipsed by distortions. That is why this presentation espouses the new type of consciousness that is taught by UPF founders, Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon and her late husband Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon.

Rev. and Mrs. Moon emphasize the importance of individual responsibility and the need to follow one’s original[6] mind. On the issue of Etiquette[7], Rev Moon explains that “moral norms arise from the conscience; and that the foundation of the conscience is goodness itself.” So, he concludes that the standard of goodness is the standard of conscience.

Suggestions are being made to improve the world of the Internet. So far, it hasn’t brought much success[8]. This is because the problem lies elsewhere. It lies in the lack of a clear standard of goodness and in a misplaced concept of freedom. Online tools are simply another manifestation of scientific progress. When human freedom is exercised apart from individual responsibility, disaster settles in. This may well be what a French writer referred to; saying that “science without conscience is the soul’s perdition”.

Conclusion

The concepts of interdependence and mutual prosperity may have been until now, just that: theoretical concepts. Covid-19 has changed that. Meanwhile, online tools are proving to be more than ever an essential part of human survival. So, it is essential that a standard of goodness be set to maximize their potential.

Africans, for that matter, need to understand that the Internet is much more than showcasing one’s talents or entertaining socio-political polemics. The Internet can help leapfrog living standards in the continent. So, they should consider utilizing the current challenges from Covid-19 to reboot both the usage and the goal of their online communication tools.

References

Internet World Stats https://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm); (Accessed on Sept 7, 2020) Ephraim, P. E (2013).

African youths and the dangers of social networking: a culture-centered approach to using social media. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10676-013-9333-2

The Pew Research Center https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2018/07/03/the-negatives-of-digital-life/; (Accessed on Sept 8, 2020)

The Arab Spring. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_media_and_the_Arab_Spring#Acknowledgement_of_the_role_of_social_media_during_the_Arab_Spring; (Accessed on Sept 9, 2020)

Cheon Seong Gyeong: The Holy Scripture of Cheon Il Guk. Book 11, Chap 1, pp. 1155. (FFWPU, 2014)

[6] Original mind is understood as a mind that is unfallen or centered on God.

[7] Etiquette is an important if not the basic aspect of digital life and tools of online communication.

[8] Ephraim suggests a culture-centered approach as a way of dealing with negative impacts of online tools. 

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