Opinion / Columnist

Internet activism. Does it work in Zimbabwe?

by Velempini Ndlovu
25 Feb 2013 at 08:53hrs | 3380 Views
Zimbabwe has an estimated population of about 12,619,600. In year 2000 only about 50,000 people in Zimbabwe  used the internet as of December 2012 that number had increase to  1,981,277  that's about 15.7 % of the total population. This accounts for  1.2 % of total of internet usage in Africa  according to the Miniwatts Marketing Group,  http://www.internetworldstats.comstats1.htm

Given the above statistics how effective is internet activism? While the internet helps solve many problems in activism like making it easier for like-minded people to come together and talk about how corporations and governments treat them I think in Zimbabwe's case it does not help to mobilise the majority and will not help the opposition win the upcoming elections.

Jason Benlevi argues that digital activism rarely gets the kind of results that real-world activism can. In any conflict, reality  beats virtuality. Benlevi further argues that online activism is often a hostage to the medium that carries it. That medium, in turn, exists in the real world, where it is controlled and at times misinformation is included by corporations and governments. Social media activism is at its strongest when it does what the medium was designed to do ' provide consumer feedback about corporate products. It's not so effective at challenging oppressive governments especially if people sit behind computers and smartphones and talk the whole day about problems while doing nothing practical to solve their problems.

Rebecca MacKinnon urges a close attention to the particularities of time and place. Protest movements are more and more using social media, but they may stand or fall based on other factors. Laws and Internet architectures may vary, rendering the medium more or less conducive to citizen activism. It becomes increasingly important to pay attention to what makes for good or bad Internet law, because the results in this area may prompt virtuous or vicious cycles throughout society.

John O. McGinnis argues that the Internet and associated technologies can and will change the terrain on which policy choices are made. Not only does it become easier for dispersed interests to aggregate, but information technology can also shift the focus of our political culture. Empiricism and evidence will become relatively more important as facts become easier to check. Ideology and unsupported intuition will lose a good deal of power. For the above  reasons the internet is not as yet an effective tool in Zimbabwean politics as only 15% of the population has access to it, so those advocating for change should put on their safety boots and overalls and go to where the most voters are to be found, in the villages.

veapndlovu@gmail.com 0768297234 Sent via my BlackBerry

Source - Velempini Ndlovu
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