Universal Basic Income would mean more time for museums. Bravo

Tuesday February 28 2017

By MUTHONI THANG'WA
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A friend was making an inquiry on where their child, who had collected coins for a number of years, could cash them.

The little girl had coins from a number of former European Union countries who are currently using the Euro, as well as coins from the Middle East and the United States. There were a number of Kenyan coins that are not in circulation anymore, such as ten and fifty cent coins.

Now, the little girl felt that the coins, which amounted to almost Sh6000, were better of use to her as legal tender than as objects of curiosity.

I work in the heritage sector and felt that the little girl should be encouraged in her quest of numismatics, since some of those coins were either already obsolete or well on their way there.

Numismatics are people who study or collect objects that are in some way used for financial transactions, such as coins, tokens or paper money.

I am not sure she will agree with my suggestion, given that the numismatics that I know of – the Roman Emperor Augustus and Farouk, a one-time King of Egypt, are not very good examples of pursuits of the passion, since they both must have had enough money to spend as well as collect.

My suggestion will, however, be worth much more as we head into what the scions of technology are terming as a 'post-work future'.

This is where, Silicon Valley is telling us, we are headed in the near term. More and more of the work that is being done by human beings will either be immersed or submerged by technology or robots, while humans consume, create and relax.

Hobbies such as numismatics will therefore have much more value, since more 'idle' humans have time to view collections and indulge their creativity.

RESOURCE DRAINAGE

This concept in the use of basic technology, and I refer to it as a concept because its application in Africa is still some way off, is yet to be understood and is closely tied to that of a Universal Basic Income (UBI).

Universal basic income is an unconditional sum of money which everyone receives from the government or some sort of public fund, in the absence of formal employment.

According to an article in the Nation, non-governmental organisations are already trying to implement the concept of a universal income in certain villages in Kenya. It is not quite clear what jobs technology has taken from the Kenyan countryside, and how practical the spread of such programs can be.

Rather than NGOs bringing help to the poor in terms of what are considered in development language to be "areas of resource drainage" such as water, education, healthcare and sanitation, an individual gets a certain stipend on a monthly basis.

In the Kenyan pilot, the selected individuals will get an amount equivalent to 22 US dollars for twelve years. There are certain countries which give such allowances on structured social welfare programs such as Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland and Germany.

In the United States according to The Guardian a technology incubator, Y Combinator, based in Silicon Valley, is funding a pilot programme in Oakland, California with the aim of collecting data on how to implement UBIs.

In the programme families in this part of California, which is described as 'having concentrated wealth and considerable inequality', families will receive between one and two thousand dollars per month, for a period of between six months and two years.

In Kenya, a number of case most of our basic universal efforts, such as universal free primary education and universal maternity and post-natal care are still struggling.

On the global front the world has not been able to agree on a universal anything, not language, not food, not even universal museums. But there seems to be hope  with universal basic income.

Twitter: @muthonithangwa