Welcome to another weekly roundup of my top reads for the week. It’s been such a dense and challenging time in America’s polity in the wake of protests kindled by years of ignoring prejudice and systemic maltreatment of black people. The articles underscored in this roundup mirrors in on the above discussion. I also add a few tech reads, which detail policy-related issues affecting the adoption of technology tools in Nigeria.
“Your book reading,” chronicles the life of a black author, who is sponsored for a book reading but is unsure of the perception, or vibes their audience will give. The story is written in sci-fi style and builds up to a point, where the systemic bias and prejudice of African literature comes to the fore. For example, when ‘Bob’ questions the author’s decision to write in Igbo, the author explains;
“ I think, those languages, due to years of being written and the wide range of people who speak them, have earned the right to be written untranslated and unexplained.”
A poignant theme in the story, which I found compelling is the critique of gender and race boundaries when writing the stories of others, and how well an outsider can tell that story.
It is a captivating read and a refreshing writing style coming from a young Nigerian writer. I am a firm believer in African Literature, and the text re-enforced my trope that African writers can write in any competitive genre and hold their forte.
- Policy Advocacy
To more policy-driven piece written by a wonk and acquaintance. The writer draws from her wealth of experience working in the development space, to call for ‘intrivist’ measures in addressing racial prejudice within the international development community. She also calls for a reflection of company policies, especially those who are at the vanguard of promoting justice, equality, and development programmes. One relevant observation highlighted by the article was pointing out the privilege of power and distinguishing it from that of empowerment. For instance, she extends this idea by stating that “empowerment is gaining a platform to share your story. Power is deciding the stories that get told.”
Following in a similar trope of addressing prevalent race discussions, I read two excellent materials from Africa is a Country. The writings ‘Abolition across the Atlantic’ and ‘The class character of police violence,’ drew parallels between the police brutality in America and South-Africa and then critiqued the hypocritical stance of the elite/ classist community in both societies. In addition, both articles lauded the place of social media in amplifying the voices of the Black Live Matter, movement- whose battles are often ‘commodified’ by the ‘media’ without producing effective reforms. A central theme argued in both articles is the call for the ‘abolition’ of the police, which both authors agree, that the public may have a misguided notion of what that means in practice.
However, both authors provide a different stance about the abolitionist momentum. While Shoki believes that their actions are ‘knee jerk’, and ‘inchoate,’ Clarke opines to the contrary. “The rage in the streets today is not knee-jerk or inchoate; abolitionists have helped nurture it into an uprising.” But they both reach a similar understanding of the possibility of the current protest, sparking an uprising in populations that have “reached their breaking point.”
In a similar vein, the President of Brookings Institute, Joe Allen, is among the influential policy voices that have decried the current political state of America’s democracy, and body language echoing from the White House. The article mentions most of the authorized sanctions from the executive office, proves a gradual descent to authoritarian rule — but urges that a unified collective action through voting can prevent this from occurring.
The need to digitize our lives and provide quick fixes to complex problems has influenced systems to evade transparency in the use of AI tools and models. Following the bias of AI systems, the article pushes for consistency in the demand of democratization of AI tools. It further expands on the notion of transparency, highlighting prominent issues that emanate from the abuse of AI technology, such as surveillance and authoritarianism.
Notably, the article points out the feudal state, ideological underpinnings, and operational models in the deployment of AI tools within of public institutions, in comparison to the private sector- which often is misaligned. Although Africa has been slow in adopting AI tools, the author calls for the ‘responsible use of AI at the heart of its implementation’ and points out that there exist dangers in complacency and the unintended consequences of algorithms.
Finally, moving on to a rather mundane story- In broadband speed ranking Nigeria is taunted as the largest internet market in Africa. Despite that, poor internet penetration and speed continue to bedevil its citizens. For example, “it takes an average of seven hours to download a five-gigabyte movie file in Nigeria.” Quartz points out that despite the country’s national broadband plans to address the current situation, underlying perennial issues may impede any progress.
One prominent issue is the “right of way” charges, which individual state government request from Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and telecom operatives to lay the infrastructure for broadband services.
Recently, Ekiti State, a small state by landmass, broke the ranks and cut its “right of way” charges by 96%. The article lauds this initiative, which long-term yields, will see an increase in literacy rates, lower cost of entry for ISPs, businesses, and increased broadband penetration in the state by 2021.
- The end.
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As life begins to ease back to regular programming, I hope that we continue to push the recent uncomfortable discussions, around racial injustice, within our small groups, to correct systems and notions that impede and proceeds to impede the sanctimony of black bodies and identity.