Major policy initiatives have propelled Africa’s entry into the Information Age. Today, electronic communication offers the greatest hope as a rapid and relatively inexpensive means to end the information isolation and information gap characteristic of much of Africa.
The Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development recognised “that the new Information Technology and new approaches to and use of technologies by people living in poverty can help in fulfilling social development goals.”
In today’s world, most forms of cultural artifacts are increasingly being produced and sometimes distributed digitally. Today, it is possible to share many forms of art through the global Internet — music, paintings, drawings, photographs, video, dance, and poetry. Anyone with a computer and the technological know how can digitize products and market them over the Internet.
Given our huge informal sector and the availability of cultural products in almost every African village, Africa needs to take advantage of this new production medium in a radically new way, to help jumpstart business in countries across the continent.
“Off-the-grid” communities and communities on the wrong side of the digital divide could participate in this cultural revolution with the use of basic technology such as solar power and wireless communications.
Promoting digital culture is an environmentally-sound way to achieve economic independence for the majority of Africans in rural areas who have traditionally been excluded from realizing the benefits of the information economy; it is a way to preserve and advance indigenous cultures, and to promote international collaboration and business.
Working with local organizations, music, art work, poems, etc, could be recorded and digitized and advertised globally through the medium of the Internet. This is one way to enhance digital participation by disconnected communities.
Through digital culture, new sources of revenue could be generated from African villages. This could promote village enterprise development that will intend foster a global expansion of digital culture to several communities worldwide.
So why haven’t Africans embraced and promoted digital culture on a massive scale?
Take music, for example. Owing to the decrease in costs and the computerization of production, music is increasingly self-produced.
Today, most African artists record and produce their own albums. So, why haven’t we extended this to the recording of indigenous or folk music at the village level.
We know there is demand for their products worldwide. Yet, very little has been done to move folk music from its raw form to a digital format.
Take funerals. Dying is one of the few events in life that is certain to occur. Yet, we rarely plan toward it until it is very close to occur. Almost every weekend, there is a funeral celebration somewhere at a village or town.
They have become social events. As we know, there are several rites and rituals associated with funerals. Have we sat down to think how we can digitize the funeral process?
Take our castles and forts, for example. They dot the African coastline. But to see any of these structures, one will have to travel to those locations.
So, why haven’t we tried to digitize these historical monuments. Take the Elimina castle in Ghana. To view this castle, one will have to travel to Elimina. Within the castle, there is very little to see.
Over the years, very little attempt has been made to recreate and reenact the experience of the slave trade in multimedia and animation format?
Why haven’t we applied new technology to enable people view the slavery experience as if they were right there. The over 300 years of history could be recreated using today’s technology. Imagine the economic value of something like this.
Imagine a virtual Manhyia museum, in 3D. that will realistically present the museum building and interiors of the museum’s rooms.
A visitor will be able to take a tour of the museum, using a computer mouse (or even an avatar) to navigate the rooms.
Meantime, he or she will read or listen to a narrative that tells him/her about the history of the Ashanti Empire, Asante Kings and their family members, and some other interesting facts about the region, its people and history.
The museum interiors can be presented in very realistic manner using high resolution 3D graphics. The visitors will also be able to click on museum items.
This will zoom the item in and will display its description or associated video. Some items in 3D can be made. Such items could be rotated and explored in details.
Potentially, such museum can be integrated into a popular computer game such as Second Life that is a kind of virtual world accessible on the Internet that has many millions users around the Globe.
We need to begin the process of digitizing the oral cultures of indigenous groups, who are the majority after all, and identify complementary knowledge from global resources.
Dr. Osei K. Darkwa