Key lessons from Trump’s social media suspension

Tuesday, January 12th, 2021 01:00 |
US President Donald Trump. Photo/AFP

The mob of protesters breaching the US Capitol security was a spectacle unfathomable worldwide.

However, subsequent suspension of President Donald Trump’s social media accounts by a majority of digital tech companies raises critical questions.

The fact that he can no longer share his views on these platforms must prompt Africa policy makers to reconsider over-reliance on them. 

In the recent past, that digital technology is a panacea to Africa’s social challenges has gained traction.

Encouragement for many to join online communities has been the rallying call for many African leaders.

However, out of abundance of caution, Dal Yong Jin in Digital Platform, Imperialism and Political Culture warned that overdependence on foreign digital tech companies could spell doom for development of some economies. Following the US events, it is incumbent upon African policy makers to evaluate some issues.

First, they must urgently take stock of countries reliant on foreign digital platforms to enable countries take appropriate steps to rectify the situation.

Given that digital technological companies can take unilateral actions without any remedy to clients, immense danger abounds for whomever over relies on them in offering critical services.

Secondly, African countries must strive to avert premature deindustrialisation. It is worth noting that the digital economy euphoria has obscured conventional development processes.

It is now imperative that without proper laws and regulations, private digital platforms should not be foundational infrastructure over which national development of digital economy is underpinned.

This calls for enhanced development of physical infrastructure to support countries conventional growth and development.

Premature deindustrialisation, a phenomenon where agriculture and manufacturing sector contribution to the GDP falls while the service sector contribution increases; could harm the prospects of economic growth and development.

This is corroborated by the fact that the service industry, which is predominantly digital, offers few formal employment opportunities than manufacturing and agriculture.

To solve this, policy makers must strengthen policies that support primary sector with the potential of transforming economic fortunes by creating more employment opportunities.

With pressure from exponential population growth, agriculture and manufacturing sectors must be given priority.

Thirdly, for the danger that arises from digital platforms to be averted, policies that encourage building home-grown digital alternatives is essential.

Research indicates developing countries may not rival developed countries in development of digital infrastructure, but they can invest in intermediate skills and capabilities such as software development, an important building block in digital economy.

Digital infrastructure investment is a huge undertaking the government alone could not sufficiently cover.

This therefore calls for collaborative effort, hence need for policies that support public-private partnership in establishment a strong foundation of a digital economy.

Fourthly, beyond national effort to curb the negative impact of digital platforms, it is time for global policy makers to keenly look into a process of instituting appropriate laws and regulations to govern transnational digital technological companies.

Kenya as a member of the United Nation Security Council may consider prioritising setting up of a framework of global digital platform governance.

This is critical since the majority of developing countries are reliant on these same platforms in offering services to their citizens.

Any arbitrary actions could jeopardise several countries’ service delivery.

To revitalise digital platform transnational governance, African Continental Free Trade Area must urgently institute frameworks to guide the establishment and implementation of digital platform economy.

This includes supporting institution of global digital platform governance Framework to protect vulnerable economies from any unforeseen abuse of digital platforms by giant global technology companies. [email protected]

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