I am technologically challenged.
After decades of an old fashioned phone I finally got a smartphone six months ago. It has only being eight weeks of instagram and my relatives and friends are now holding vigils for me to join Whatsapp.
Despite my stubbornness and yearning for the past I do realise that the world is changing and tech is the present and future.
I am also insatiably curious and thus the the title African Futures – “Technology: Means or Curse?” piqued my interest.
Before I fell off the bandwagon ten years ago, I was part of the Nairobi art scene. Kwani? is home for me and thus attending the talk which they were curating was a sort of homecoming.
Got to Goethe at 4.50 since the talk was to start at 5pm. It started at 5.50pm. Time in Africa is obviously an elastic concept. The delay gave me ample time to observe and people watch the creatives. The dreadlocks, the colourful attire, the fancy hairdos, the afro bracelets were still how I remembered them.
Being an introvert my default was to sit at the back and avoid small talk. So imagine my horror when someone from my past remembered me and come to seat with me. To add to my horror I could totally not remember her name. Since asking would have seemed rude she talked and I listened.
She is a creative who became a biologist and who is now a new mum and also setting up a biotech lab. So in the near future Kenya may not need to take DNA samples abroad. She was also reading the Black Anthena. Surprisingly the highlight of my evening!
Finally the talk did begin and I took shorthand notes.
A Materials engineer. Runs Gearbox which deals with Hardware side and is basically quipment for lease. Think of it like a gym. Previously run Fablab at UoN. A scion of MIT. Newest course is How to grow anything. Amazing that this is normal now. Where is your mind most of the time – that is your religion – is tech a religion? Is internal tech a thing – telepathy, premonition – can be explained how?
Prof. Karin Harrasser.
An academic. Author of Body 2.0. Tech has to be looked at as an ecosystem. Tech births new worlds. Rise of black box tech – just use devise and do not care what is inside device. Tech has taken away consent in that you will be dragged kicking and screaming into the brand new tech world.
He need not introduce himself or what he does. He devolved straight into it. Defined tech as useful art that must meet a need. Pace of absorption is phenommenal. What is in smartphones is mind-boggling. And for the young ones it is the normal. Internet has thus democratised. All can access the ‘promised land’. Posed question of whether Africa is a country. Internet and tech have birthed mediocrity and innovation in equal measure. 1st world – I think therefore I am. In Africa – I relate therefore I am.
A journalist turned producer. Tech and media are wedded. Tech has drastically personnel need for multi-personnel. Internet in Nairobi has changed drastically. 10 years ago to send a 3 minute story it took 4 days and one had to split it in 15 second parts. Founded XYZ show 7 years ago inspired by a French show. Made everything themselves. Thus creativity/media met science as they needed a cold room to manufacture puppets. Ventured across Africa. Need for distribution led to birth of BuniTV. Urban Africans have smartphones. But slow internet and expensive data means promise of internet is a dream.
Some Q&A from audience:
1. I f tech is too much should we wean ourselves out of it?
2. Content is there but it is not accessible. So how do we bridge gap?
3. Should Africa be a country?
NB: There was a moderator but felt she was superfluous to the whole event.
Remember I attended the talk as a technologically challenged person seeking to reduce my tech illiteracy.
Walked away with very little in that regard. The talk had four panelists two who were scientists and two who were creatives. This dichotomy obstructed rather than aided the debate. The moderator did not quite guide the talk or seek to drill down the issues so the panelists went round and round. The audience also got lost early on so by the time it come to Q&A there were still navigating the daze.
Underwhelmed was the over-riding emotion I left with.
Projecting forward and a look at Nairobi Now shows an increase in Talks, Seminars, Conferences being held in Nairobi.
A Talking Industry has emerged with being a panelist, moderator a sustainable side-hustle what with seemingly a deluge of donor funds for folk to TALK.
Respect the hustle but I am reminded of Rabbit’s line in his song Swahili Shakespeare – “….talk haipiki rice…”.
Smart spaces for smart people to talk and talk is all well and good but after all is said and said folk have to actually roll up their sleeves and work.
GOD BLESS KENYA!