Cultural Openness, Technological Progress and Access to Modernity


Technology is an important defining characteristic of modernity.  Indeed, modern life is more and more mediated, impacted and transformed by technology, which determines who we are, how we work and how we live.


The good and nice things that modern technology can do in these respects have been aired convincingly in numerous meetings, workshops, seminars, conferences, studies and policy documents.  There is a consistent and generous narrative on the potential of technology, including particularly such technologies as ICTs, biotech, green revolution and industrial technologies.  However, some issues may be largely underestimated, such as those associated with the contextualization of technology, the adaptation of alien technology to local cultures and local cultures to alien technology, and the larger anthropological, civilizational and political issues related to the technologization of pre-modern economies, societies and cultures.


Given the low level of technological development in much of the continent, many African cultures may appear to be subdued, lukewarm, unexcited or indisposed towards technology. These are normal resistances to change. New ways of ‘being-with’ technology and a revision of feelings, attitudes and motives towards technology may be needed. And there may be a need to fight techno-phobism and techno-fetishism and to evolve towards techno-realism. Moral, spiritual or religious limitations on technology should not deter the continent from wholesale technological uptake, progressively removing cultural barriers and espousing a friendly and peaceful technological adventure.


History is the result of human action more than human design. Thus, even if the limits of a voluntarist modernity are obvious, a meaningful technological journey is possible. It can be steered in the right direction and at a sustainable pace with proper knowledge, awareness, understandings, strategies and policies, as shown byJapan and the Asian Tigers, for instance.


To some extent, traditional African cultures are resisting the universalizing pressures and forces of science, technology and innovation.  Turning apprehensive resistance into enthusiastic but cautious acceptance of the scientific knowledge and technologies necessary to graduate into modernity is a central challenge.