It all began during a merciful South African winter. Nouns, verbs, words, sentences. Strung together into random stories about the unimaginable. About rape. About sexual violence as a tool of political and social oppression. About the intersection of rape and the state. About the suffering. And its silence. This blog will continue to explore this deeply troubling nexus - its society-and state-centered character. And the manipulation of its narrative.
This is our story. Yours and mine.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Data and Power
I did not
realize it, but I am data-spoiled. And if you read this somewhere on the
European or North American continent – consider yourself equally spoiled. One
among the many data-addicted. Ever so data-indulging. We get whatever we
want (data = information) in almost any
kind of form and fashion. And we get it cheap. Usually one charge, one low fee
for unlimited access to the infinite and ever-expanding last frontier. The immediacy
and vastness of cyberspace on the cheap. In comparison: Data costs in this
country. And it can potentially cost A LOT. It’s not just a matter of time, but
mainly a matter of size; it is the GBs or MBs needed to down- (or up) load data
for which one potentially pays dearly. Downloading programs; PDFs; upgrades; even
the routine virus checks can dig deep into one’s pocketbook. "Technically" speaking, South
Africa is still a developing country, but also an anomaly; one of the fast developing newly industrialized countries; THE key resource-rich economic
engine of this continent ; one of the potentially emerging markets next to Brazil and India - and China; one of the
economic power players of the future; the S in BRICS – if its government can
overcome this growing and nagging global image of increasing political ineffectiveness –
(The Economist called SA's ruling party -- the ANC -- earlier this year “politically
dysfunctional and incompetent” - a so common image of many other global political actors e.g. --the U.S. / EU?---). The government
is working on providing broadband communication. But also here South Africans
have grown increasingly impatient with its government and the lack or quality
of services it provides. The “word on the street” is – or according to the Vodacom
sales person (Vodacom is South Africa’s largest cell phone/wireless provider; partially owned by SA's Telkom and British Vodafon;) – some
of the government funding set aside for expanding broadband infrastructure has been
derailed or lost in either mismanagement or corruption. And equally, the all-powerful
telecommunication monopoly in this country is reluctant to provide more (services)
for less (profits). The status quo, therefore, is desirable if not imperative. Structural
change a problem. But: Information/knowledge is power. Of course. Data is power.
And it takes on even more complex power components when its access and
availability (all of it) is limited to only
a selective few. To a specific segment of the population: the affluent. Information becomes a peculiar tool
of power when it excludes. When it selects. When it segregates. When it
discriminates. Data becomes power. Data is power. But: South Africans adapt.
Are so resilient. Navigate. Negotiate. Data is power. But equally so
can and is the quest for data. The quest and the demand for information is
power. Political power.