54% of Ugandans are off the internet – blessing or curse? Series 1 of 2

Many a time, we assume that all of us are good internet-citizens. And that without the internet, we can’t survive. Well, not really, apparently, 54% of our countrymen and women in Uganda are off the internet, and they haven’t died, or just not as yet.

To the contrary, those without the internet passport and visa leave a stress-free lifestyle. They are a ‘happy’ group. Yes, they have to till the land to survive but are better off without the internet passport.  There must be those of you that are wondering how we can dare believe that life can be okay and progressive, without the internet.

Of course, we are aware that the internet has become a lifestyle tool for the modern world. The internet features a variety of day to day processes and tools that are vital to our very survival – or we think: instant news, text messaging, social media, banking services, email, etc.

The Internet is considered a life necessity – it may, in the eyes of many, make it into Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Babies (unawares), children in school, college students, adults employed or not, the old and retired consider the internet a necessity and must-have. Without the internet, many people wouldn’t have a life. The current digital schizophrenia, sustained by the internet, continues unabated.

We have brought this digital schizophrenia on ourselves. Why? Because we allowed the fail-safe of the typical, and increasingly rare and odd, internet naysayer, to collapse. So, right now, it’s you and the internet or nothing.

The traditional post-office is dead and shall be extinct or completely transformed and unrecognized by those of us that use/d the services of the postal service globally; the traditional office in-tray and the conventional paper memo is a rare thing that is only found at Nakabugu sub-county government office, and even that is on its death bed – you can now communicate to sub-county staff via WhatsApp memo.

The analog camera and the paper photo have been replaced by the digital camera and photo – and the picture of today has lost authenticity with tools like Photoshop and its unending manipulation abilities; we have a digital assistant in our houses like Alexa and Siri; we can keep an eye on domestic and other business from afar – what happens in our bedrooms and hotel rooms can be live streamed on the internet – the vices for manipulating and exploiting other people are plenty and accessible to all; the internet is shifting the balance of power in society, sadly into the unknown.

We can now instantly shop and do banking via the internet – and truth be told, it’s convenience at its best and we too, enjoy this kind of stuff, and it’s what we preach at the Effectiveness lab – Effectiveness and Efficiency, but at what cost? The time is coming, and soon, when the modern folk shall admire the peace and tranquility of the people living in internet-blindspots

So, is access to the internet a blessing or a curse?

We are dealing with an interesting dichotomy on this matter, at least in the context of Uganda. Those of us well integrated into the internet world, and fully compliant internet-citizens versus those that are off the internet and live their lives in internet-blindspots

More-than-half of our countrymen and women in Uganda don’t have access to the internet. And while we can’t say that these people are well-off and meet all the livelihood and wellbeing indicators, we know that many are stress-free. Stress, from the perspective of the global, internet dependent, addicted, and driven society.

Even America (USA) has a whopping 10% of its population off the internet – albeit, mostly old, uneducated and rural.

It’s implied in this blog that being off the internet is a blessing. Yes, a blessing.

I met this family in Nakabugu (our village), tilling land on the outskirts of my parent’s farm. This part of the farm is not used for tree farming, as it’s right under the electricity transmission line. The locals are allowed to till the land to earn a living. I got into a conversation with the father, and later wife and young daughter that had accompanied her parents to the tomato garden on the farm. The happy daughter is in the first photo and in the second, is the father attending to his tomato plantation.

And upon reflection, it became apparent to me that the assumptions about this family, certainly not internet-citizens and toiling away under the sunshine in Nakabugu village, weren’t necessarily correct. We assume that ‘poor’ people, like the Nakabugu folk above, are not happy and that they: lack the means to live a good and happy life, are desperate and stressed, don’t eat the right food and can do with a lot of donations from the able.  The so-called internet-citizens believe that these people need counseling support.

To the contrary, they are happier than the so-called internet-citizen. This family, as you can tell from the beaming smile of the daughter in the top picture, is pleasant, health and don’t miss the internet.

Now, take a second and compare your life to theirs: who is happier? Yes, you may have 24/7 wifi and cutting edge smartphones, the means to provide yourself with all the basic necessities and slightly more; you don’t have to till the land the way they do, your skin is oiled most of the time, including with sunburn cream (even for those of us gifted naturally with enough melanin….), etc.

Yet, on the authentic happiness and stress-free life scale, they may be higher up the scale than you.  Is it effectiveness and efficiency gone crazy? Would you rather be amongst the 55% of Ugandans that simply don’t have to deal with the internet? Why?

Of the two groups who is blessed and who is cursed? Who cares that they don’t have internet? Who is excluded and who is not? Are we looking at flipped-exclusion, where the internet-citizens in Uganda are actually excluding themselves from the majority of the population; and can they survive without interface with the 55% of those in the internet blindspots? Is the internet a must have? Is it that the two extremes aren’t sustainable and Uganda needs to look at some kind of middle ground – the internet-citizens borrowing from the non-citizens and vice versa? May internet, under stealth, be turning into the next underlying cause of stress in society? Is it that for all its positives, the internet may destroy the family unit and humanity? Is it time to reign in the internet?

How do we get this cacophony of internet blessing and curse, right? See you next week



Categories: People

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3 replies

  1. Interesting you used the internet to express the beauty of not having internet. Interesting conversation here.

    Like

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  1. 54% of Ugandans are off the internet – blessing or curse? Series 2 of 2 – Gabazira's blog

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