Is digital literacy enough to propel Africa and overcome the octopus challenges of the emerging information society/new world? Are there compelling strategies to redefine the promise of digital transformation and conquer future development challenges? Generally, the term literacy is more associated with the ability to read and write in any form of comprehensible nature.
When ‘digital’ is attached before the word literacy; the context changes to the ability and skill sets required to navigate the new world. And since part of digital literacy is ‘learning to operate digital devices, machines; search for content or create one’ in a digital (online) space; it may not necessarily lead to the promised land of sustainable development.
Yes, digital literacy enables people to explore and query a search engine using keywords; create and communicate content as well as navigate and analyse results; including measuring the reliability of various sources. However, science driven innovation, inventions and knowhow take the lead within the complex interplay.
Point is, creativity requires earned, acquired and/or assumed scientific imagination; logic and associated literacy to lead and conquer the digital innovation Ecosystem. Afterall, the two life-threatening experiences that predominantly emerge in the digital world interplay is defined as the two (2) big Cs.
That is, activities between the creative scientific minds and their technology consumers’ counterpart. That further translates to an economic relationship between ‘creators’ receivables and consumers payments.
The incredible revelation is that; most of the scientifically literate nations fall into the creators’ encampment; while the digital-consumer-literate nations are the distinguished consumerism end-users. And unless Africa evolves from the digital literacy-only mindset level to active creators and player of scientific-literacy; her ability to effectively excel in global competitiveness for sustainable development goals is exceptionally inadequate to scale.
With the advent and accelerated deployment of Quantum Computing and appearance of AI, Robotics, IoT, Data Analytics, 3D Printing, Big Data, 5G Technology, Blockchain, IPv6, Nanotechnology, Fintech and other disruptive Tech Domains; can global competitiveness in technology rely only on digital literacy?
The response is negative!
From STEM point of view, deep thoughts suggest that digital-literacy-only mindset will, with all probability; sooner than later, turn out to be a classical satire of faith!
Time to redefine the future-of-things is perhaps some nanoseconds away. This illusion will fall flat on its face as it attempts to magically summersault Albert Einstein’s law of relativity!
Indeed, Africa must think and advance beyond digital literacy and land into the realm of scientific literacy; since the requirements, infrastructure, needs and content of digital literacy is fathered by scientific literacy.
Africa harbours the largest youth population of the world! This should translate to a huge advantage within the context of digital innovation and accelerated development. But the opposite is currently the case.
The United Nations defines youth as people aged 15 to 24 years. In 2015, youth in Africa constituted 19% of the global youth population numbering 226 million. By 2030, it is projected that the number of youths in Africa will have increased by 42%.
How many of the above number would possess digital literacy? How many would be innovators and how many would be scientifically literate? What will be the consequences of refocusing the mind and competences of Nigeria/Africa Youth to scientific literacy?
Studies from E-an Zen reveals that; “Science literacy is important because it provides a context for addressing societal problems, and because a science-literate populace can better cope with many of its problems and make intelligent and informed decisions that will affect the quality of their lives and those of their children. Science-education strategies should focus on the more general problem of increasing the science literacy of the general public rather than the development and recruitment of future scientists. This approach should foster interdisciplinary cooperation and reduce competition for limited resources.
Science literacy involves the comprehension not just of basic concepts. It requires comprehension of the importance of falsifiability of scientific theories and hypotheses; the knowledge that scientific inquiry is value-laden; and an understanding of the problem-solving nature of scientific inquiry. Earth-science literacy has a pivotal role in addressing critical environmental problems; including the influence of explosive population growth on the consumption and depletion of natural resources and the avoidance of natural hazards.”
Scientific literacy has been undergoing inverted definitions for a long time. The term Scientific Literacy was coined by Paul Hurd in late 1950s as the compression of science and importance of scientific application and its benefits to society (Babalola J. Ogunkola PhD. University of West Indies).
Nevertheless, informed leaders and policy makers in EU, Asia, US and greater percentage of human mind unanimously agree that Science and Technology represents the true habitat and innovative leadership mechanism for the superior human development Ecosystem. This translates to the fact that productive and innovative digital transformation is proficiently dependent on the quality infusion of scientific literacy to fully impact a society. In as much as the future of work is acclaimed as requiring digital literacy; advocates of this concept fully agree on its limitation to eradicate illness and poverty. Therefore, we should not lose sight of the fact that the global digital transformation will take hostages!
Africa may become one of the low-hanging hostage fruits; unless her leaders set-forth the urgent political will to codify the future of scientific literacy as the potent weapon for her digital success and survivability. The most feasible solution is embedded in harnessing the enormous brain resources of Nigerian/African Youth and her Diaspora powerhouse to create wealth.
Meanwhile, there is an urgency to initiate a National Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) Migration Plan. This is to ensure that all Network Solutions Providers accomplish the migration within a time frame of 12 Months; in readiness for 5G. Presently, there are no alternatives in the cloud!