Of Ebola And The Growing Impact Of Social Media BY VENATIUS IKEM

In Columnists, Opinion, Politics

by crossriverwatch admin

Venatius Ikem
Venatius Ikem

Unless we are pretentious, we must admit that in the last one week or so everyone of us has received one form of message or the other in our phones, email or other gadgets that convey the pervasive omnipresence of the new mode of communicating information almost intrusively into our lives.

Like it or hate it, it is there. The most impact full of these during the aforementioned week is first the outbreak of the Ebola disease, then its management information and most worrisome, the hoax!

I am more concerned with the impact of what I will call the” salt and water solution”.

In the early hours of Friday, the 8th of August, 2014, almost half of the population of Nigeria or at least those who own phones and those they could reach like family members and friends, were woken up through one contact or the other to take a salt bath! The bath was to serve as either a cure or a prevention mechanism against the rampaging Ebola virus! The amazing thing is that most actually did!

It turned out that by daybreak most people including those who took these medicinal baths had become convinced that it was a hoax. Even those who initially had reservations on hearing the story were convinced to take the bath!

My interest is about how much mobilization of the citizenry we can achieve if we set our minds to it, utilizing the various social media platforms available to us. Not a few uninformed people always stop to advise me how not to use Facebook for political activities!

How much we can reach out if we stop pretending that we are limited by lack of access because of lack of infrastructure is only left to the imagination. The most potent weapon in the 21st century is communication. Indeed the liberalization of communication.

I recall that in the booming days of the Clinton Presidency, the rest of the world Economy was struggling to get by. A study back then clearly discovered that America owed its astronomical growth to the growth of the Internet and new modes of communication that had never been seen before. 14 years later, with so much improved communication since then, we can only imagine what this is doing to not only world economies but global culture as a whole.

It has its negatives too. Even terrorists are propagating their messages of hate with more ease via the world wide Web. Scams are on the increase as are social criminals like paedophiles utilizing the anonymity of the Internet.

The point I am making is that we have achieved more Internet penetration than we are made to believe. In converging with other traditional methods we can do a lot more social mobilization than we think possible. What we need is the will to embrace the message. The way we embraced the Ebola message was viral on its own.

Ebola may have killed only a handful of Nigerians yet, but poverty and bad governance is killing many more on a daily basis.

If we embrace the message of social change via participation, no matter for which aspirant or party, we will be working towards a more participatory democracy in our body politics.

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