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Information plays a vital role in everything we do. Every action we choose to take, the votes we cast, the major decisions that guide our lives and the minor ones that seem to matter less, are all equally based on how informed we are. In today’s world, information is the greatest resource available in guiding us through life, and with the increased access to news and social media, information is one of the most shared resources in the world, a resource that no corporation or company or government has true control over. Though some try to wield such control, it is elusive, even to the most powerful of states. Informed people are empowered people, and as seen through the ages, information has been the light through which knowledge and enlightenment shine, paving the way to change. The current state of world media has information propagated through more portals than ever before, and more people on earth are informed than ever before in history, and therein lies the problem. Information is aplenty, and yet change is very hard to come by.
We live in a world of abundant information, flooding us with anything and everything, from educational and inspirational to deviant and perverse content, thereby increasing the difficulty of discerning how and when to be informed, and with what content to be informed. . Knowledge and important data are extracted from the information we get, but not all of us know how to engage with the overwhelmingly abundant pool of information to extract what we need. We expend time, the more precious and seemingly scarce resource, sorting through enormous amounts of information just to get what we want. This is difficult, especially for the younger generation, who has the most access and the least know how to manage the bombardment of information through pop culture, social media, entertainment and news.
On Monday 31st of august, Facebook had one billion active users, yet only roughly half of the world population has access to the internet. With the current trend of development and urbanization going hand in hand with increased connectivity, it will be easier to see people in developing continents and countries like Ethiopia getting connected at a faster rate. Even though developing countries are increasingly connected, the content that they connect to is disarmingly western, most of the values, cultures and even languages people subscribe to are not their own. Developing countries, mostly with developed languages and cultures are misrepresented or entirely left out on the platform of world media, as they are in almost every other arena. This poses the greatest threat to the young of these countries, especially in Ethiopia, where more than one third of the population is under the age of fifteen.
In Ethiopia, where the ownership of TV is still one of the highlights of wealth, children are exposed to it at a young age, so they ‘catch up’ with the world faster than their parents, and in urban settings like Addis Ababa, where the middle class is thriving, most children speak better English than their parents, and relate more with international pop sensations than their countrymen. There is a sudden technological rift created between parents and their children, more evidently in the advent of mobile phones and smart phones that in just one decade, have evolved more than their users. Children are exposed to too much information without the guidance on how to make the best of it, they are left on their own with portals that can connect with world, given the power to choose what they want to subscribe to. They ‘know’ much but understand little which creates the sense that they live and inhabit a backward, hostile environment in contrast with the world they see in screens, the world that they supposedly ought to aspire to.
This conflict has been showing symptoms during recent years; young people in developing countries are more prone to escapism, the pursuit of image, and more devastatingly, mass migration towards countries with more content on the media they consume. Information without proper knowledge and experience, is a burden to bear, and the burden the youth in our cities bear, becomes too much, especially in a system grappling with extreme poverty and bad governance. There is too little time to achieve the status and success set by the standards in developed countries in settings where extreme poverty is still a big challenge to overcome. The youth find that process is futile when what one wants is the success that the mainstream media sells; losing hope and courage in an environment that cares little and sympathizes even less with their cause.
The almost total absence of relevant cultural and societal references offered to the young in platforms they engage most with, makes the ‘growth and transformation’ their country yearns, as distant as the world they see on screens they sit in front of.