5 Big Takeaways on Technology from the Radical Networks Conference

Because the world needs a radical solution right now, accepting to attend the Radical Networks Conference in Brooklyn, New York City between October 19 – 22, wasn’t a bad idea. It was thorough days of examining the exegesis of technology, and I think many participants will accept we need to re-think how we are churning out technologies and how it is being used.

Many thanks to Andy for insisting I must attend, and that there are radical people like us that will want to connect with my work. Likewise, this a core area of my work as a Reagan – Fascell Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).I liked the progressive but was the three days event radical enough, I think so. Aside from that, I enjoyed my stay in Brooklyn – bringing back memories of Biggie and the great poet rapper -Nas. At least a memorable get-away from the official life of Washington DC, and I would not have stayed without sharing this five big takeaways from the erudite presenters at the event.

Oludotun Babayemi at radical Networks
Cross Section of Participants
  1. It is more rewarding to create technology for community networks that meet the needs of its communities. For instance, a community might decide to build its internet and use the internet for sharing security alerts within its neighbourhood. An example is the Redhook Wifi in Brooklyn; Peoples Open Network in San Francisco; Commons Telecommunications Network in Catalonia, Spain. “Less is more, the initiation of technology need not be sacrificial, and should not be done by sense of obligation” Dave Evans mentioned as he relates technology networks to the medieval Europe where the monks have to abstain from sensual pleasure for pursuing spiritual goals. In essence, you can decide to opt out of Facebook and create your network of communication. I refer to it as your decolonization from “their internet”.

2. Technology is making us inhuman as described by Bret Victor in “The Humane Representation of Thought.” In the last twenty years, technology has been about the four rectangle screen, changing from computers, to mobile phones, to smartphones. The real representation of thoughts and knowledge remain in the print technologies, in the form of books. “The kind of connection you have with books is not same as the one you have on a computer” Noah Cawley, A Senior Software manager at Nike mentioned in his presentation. The rate at which silicon valley is churning out technology is inversely proportional to the way the human brain will adapt or adopt the technology. Consequently, we should be thinking of how to decentralize critical infrastructures of technology, so it will be easier for niche networks to co-operate, coordinate, identify and take consensus on their network.

3. The Internet Wave is not meant to protect you by default, and you must defend yourself and be tactical in using tools associated with it. “Social Media is cool, but Facebook is a fuss” Nick Briz highlighted. I think this is not far-fetched anymore with the revelations from the voting influence pattern of the 2016 elections in the USA, and how “powerful people” that can control the internet can make bots and trolls to pass false information to millions of people on the internet. Brannon Dorsey shared how he used bots to generate Terabytes of Data in 24 hours! Danja Vasiliev and Julian Oliver, known as Critical Engineers, defined the internet as a deeply misunderstood set of technologies upon which we increasingly depend.In as much as I agree with them, I also think there is the other edge, in which internet has allowed people to collaborate more than before, and it has taken more people out of poverty. However, in doing this, we need to pay attention to literacy, and those that do not have access.

4. Digital Literacy or Technology Education is Very Important. At the time of writing this piece, I have interacted with people in Washington DC and New York at three other conferences and meeting, and significant importance was attached to literacy and digital literacy. Between 2005 and 2017, individuals using the internet inhabitants has grown from 15.8 per 100 inhabitants to 43.7 per 100 inhabitants, while literacy rate in the world has stagnated at 80 per 100 inhabitants between same period. There is a new world order, as a community of practice, we must start to create space for digital literacy – how to tactically use online platforms, in a way that does not harm us. The greatest worry in scaling digital literacy might be Africa, where the literacy rate is lowest, but mobile technology penetration is rapid.

5. But if technologists or programmers are not paying attention to peoples core needs, how do we then reverse engineer technology that can change the society? “Technology can solve every problem we mention in the world” affirmed Alfredo Lopez of May First, who asked all participants to discuss what we can do better to make this happen. After a 30 minutes group discussion, out of the 17 outlined pertinent issue, we should be considering, education and governance of technology came out resounding. Maybe this might be the way to go, as technology alone itself remains a tool, but other factors like “edugovernance” might be worth focusing on. What do you think? I will like to read your thoughts on this.

Oludotun Babayemi
What the Radical Movement highlighted as Solutions

Who Is the Oldest President in West Africa?

The 17 countries in West Africa has a population of 374, 691, 249, and the median age of citizen in these countries remain at 18. But what’s the age of their leaders? As at October 9, 2017, the average age of the leaders of all West African countries stands at 65. That’s 17 years older than the moribund Transrapid 449km/hour train used in Germany between 1969 and 2008! Alpha Conde of Guinea, a country with a population of 12 million, remains the oldest West African president. Faura Gnasibe of Togo, at 51, is the youngest president in West Africa.

3 Lessons Nigeria Can Learn from Turkey to Meet Its Energy Needs!

South Africa has three times, the total electricity generation capacity of all the 18 countries in West Africa! Currently, the electricity sector in the West Africa States provides power supply to only about 30% of the population. The region’s maximum load is just above 10,000 MW as against a total energy demand of approximately 50,000 GWh, out of which over 85% is accounted for in the three primary electricity exporting countries (Nigeria, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire), with nearly 57 % for Nigeria alone. Are solutions far-fetched?

1. Political will is essential. It will take fifteen years to get power to every household in the country. Nigeria, which has 60% of the total population of West Africa will need 200,000 MW for its growing population. With lessons from Turkey, it took them 14 years to add 42,000MW to their electricity generation capacity, to make it to the present 70,000MW. Consequently, reforms such as recasting of the earlier players involved in the privatisation deals. The Ministry of Power itself would need to invest in long years of capacity building and sophisticated information technology systems that will avail it proper monitoring and implementation mechanisms. The Ministry might also want to do away with the numbers of regulatory agencies involved in the market presently. In doing this, the government would have built credibility for private investors.

It will take fifteen years to get power to every household in the country if reforms is focused on capacity to implement.

2. Open The Market. The present framework which states that investors should return a certain percentage to the grid might be a turn in the neck for business. Gas and Coal will be dominant technologies by 2040. So, why not allow investors to propose the energy mix they will be involved in, while the Ministry of Environment intervene in making sure proper Environmental Impact Assessment is done. The present grid system needs to be overhaul as there are several deficiencies in the system and infrastructures that power it. For instance, estate associations can decide to contribute and develop their energy system, while the government focuses on generating revenue in the form of tax from such arrangement. Community associations can as well agree on affordable electricity generating systems that government can advise on.

3. The Demand Side Myth. Private investors will only survive in cities like Lagos, Abuja, Portharcourt, Abia and Kano. This is where you have the semi-urban centres of Nigeria, and also where industries are, as such, they have people that can actually pay for power. What happens to the remaining 120 million? 80% of them live under the poverty line, and might not be able to afford to pay power bills. From lessons from the present privatization, it will be advisable for the government to focus on such communities, while it leaves private sectors to operate in the semi-urban centres. Also, citizens should know that they must protect the present infrastructures from vandals. They were all constructed using our money collected as tax, bills and rates.

No doubt. There is a direct correlation between economic growth and electricity supply. If Nigeria is to fulfil its promise of the present Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, and West Africa is to deliver on its Economic Community of West African States Power Pool, it needs power—and lots of it. What do you think?