For me, the biggest indicator of how our countries and cities will look like is policies we are putting in place today to govern digital technology and not necessarily the technology itself. For example, one of the big flaws currently is around the harvesting of citizen data. Where non-African corporations (e.g. Truecaller, Facebook) can collect as much data about citizens as possible in exchange for their services. In the short term, this seems harmless, in the long term this will likely compromise state sovereignty to a point where some corporations will know more about a country than its government. This has many implications. One such example can be a company like Uber having so much leverage that it can influence how cities are planned or developed purely because it has the data regarding how people move in that city. And of course, such corporations wouldn’t give that data for free but would most likely lobby that such data is used to develop a city in favor of their business, which, given that they’re profit driven, could mean at the sacrifice of less fortunate citizens.
For me though, the scariest and biggest determiner of how future African cities will work and look like revolves around social (digital) ratings based on how you interact with others and service providers. It has already started in FinTech where a person’s mobile phone and online behaviour determines how much credit they get or whether they get any credit at all. This, when you add digital IDs that are linked to every aspect of your life, could extend to a point where people are denied basic services, or are given lower quality services, based on these ratings.
It’s already happening in China where citizens with low social (digital) ratings were denied public transportation. This, in my opinion, will widen the gap between the privileged and the not so privileged creating more shanty towns etc.
Is it right? I don’t think so.
What are your thoughts?
How do you see our cities and countries shaping out in future?