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With technology, you can't live a double life anymore

Wednesday June 22 2016

By MUTHONI THANG'WA
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Culture is dynamic and everything in this country must change with technology and the times. There really is no choice. What must happen will happen, in spite of us.

Much as we cannot revert to the smoke signal, we must, as a nation and individuals, take notice of certain things since they will irrevocably change the culture of communication and as a result, our individual or collective lives.

When politicians spew vitriol against other politicians or Kenyans they tend to forget that their poison, once dispensed, is available at the touch of a button worldwide.

Long gone are the days when long searches in archives marked a jog down memory lane. Archives can be compromised, but the minute something is posted online it is indelible, even when deleted or brought down from a website. Technology will not allow people to forget.

Kenyan politicians do not seem to care much for this detail of living, but other individuals certainly should. Look at the fate that befell one of Jacob Juma’s companions; the man died, a random selfie was found out there, and the media was able to join the dots.

Kenyan politicians did not learn from the audiotapes recorded by the formerly State House-based anti-corruption crusader, John Githongo. Technology demands culture change.

A SHOW OF AFFLUENCE

Closed-door meetings turn out to be public affairs and so the idea of a private conversation must evolve; we must understand technology could be a third party, and it can be set up and left running for days on end.

Parts of the Githongo tapes were later released by the BBC, to the perpetual outrage of the public and the embarrassment of Kenya’s ruling class.

The whole idea of posting pictures of children on social media answers a cultural need to make an announcement of some achievement or other. No one posts the Ds that their children attained in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education. Many times, it is to show affluence.  

With advanced, GPS-enabled smartphones, the location of your child is not a secret to paedophiles and other unsavoury characters. They may be able to track information such as the exact location of your child’s school, and many other details such as their leisure locations and place of worship depending on the picture.

Your child may also be a victim of digital kidnapping, in which an advertiser downloads pictures of them to use for marketing purposes without your knowledge.

The least harmful use may be fundraising or selling products, but others may not be friendly at all. They range from lurid adverts of child trafficking and pornography to demeaning stories on poverty in Africa.

Maybe the safe alternative is to show off with seedy pictures or only in group photographs, but that may take the joy of the moment away.

CULTURE OF LIES

Communication technology has exposed the soft underbelly of the police, making these so-called independent offices lose public support. M-Pesa has turned out to be the Achilles heel for police officers.

Members of the National Police Service Commission seemed to watch as police officers were revealed to be award-winning businessmen. Some officers transacted as much money as a small bank.

When caught flat-footed, these officers were forced to disclose details of their private lives such as the existence of mistresses, exposing not only their dubious public service records but also raising questions about their moral and cultural authority over their families and society.

Technology has also brought the culture of lies to the fore. Aside from politicians, whose lies are unearthed on a regular basis, it seems the culture of lies is deeply entrenched in Kenyan public life.

A person in a queue at the bank will loudly speak into his or her phone, saying they are walking towards the caller.

Thinking of which, those numbers issued in banking halls are supposed to create some level of accountability, but they too seem to expose illogical professional operations. You could be kept waiting a while.

Technology makes us all very vulnerable these days. You need extra caution to enjoy its fruits.

Twitter: @muthonithangwa