Are Ethiopians Ready For Digital Freedom of Opinion?

Opinion always involves emotions, furious or ecstatic .They are all emotions. Now, in this digital age, the opinions which are given by different government officials and politicians can be collected in one enormous database. And once collected in digital form, it becomes very easy for them to be shared.I think that is why Siprnet database – from which the US embassy cables are taken – is become a talk the whole world these days. As the cables revealed some of the opinions of US-embassy officials on Ethiopian government officials, I have observed that some Ethiopians are posting very furious opinions on why American hold such low attitude on Ethiopia and Ethiopia’s officials. But digital data has a tendency of widening. Once it slips past any security and it can also leak from WikiLeaks, which is how I came to obtain the data about this staff- We will crush them with our full force,”  &  “they will vegetate like Birtukan (Midekssa) in jail forever. It even slips past the filters of our telecom corporate here in Ethiopia. Some Ethiopians in abroad can access it and attach it by multiple emails for fellow Ethiopians. It seems digital data respects no authority, be it the American government, Ethiopian officials, Wiki Leaks or a newspaper editor.

 

It has been a little while since; we have all already experienced the massive changes resulting from digitization. Charlie Brooker Guardian columnist has once written:” Events or information that we once considered ephemeral and private are now aggregated, permanent, and public. If these cables seem large, think about the 500 million users of Facebook or the millions of records kept by Google. Governments hold our personal data in huge databases. It used to cost money to disclose and distribute information. In the digital age it costs money not to.” As this is becoming a daily reality if we Ethiopian do not bring about a change in respecting each other our insult is and crude opinions will be accumulated permanently on the web.

But when freedom of opinion breaches happen to the public, politicians don’t care much. Our right to hold any opinion is expendable. Now we can be a witness that this is changing. The dynamic of power is being changed in a revolutionary way. We have seen how Julian Assange is becoming powerful and touching everybody’s life.  Other individuals like Assanage can upload a copy and present every kind of information to the world. To some this marks a crisis, to others an opportunity. In Charlie’s words technology is breaking down traditional social barriers of status, class, power, wealth and geography – replacing them with an ethos of collaboration and transparency. Leaked information I think is not the problem and they are not the cause for some outrageous comments. Much of the outrage about the leaked information is not the content but from the boldness of breaching previously unreachable strongholds of political officials.

It used to be that in Ethiopia leaders heavely control citizens by controlling information. Now it’s harder than ever for the powerful to control what people read, see and hear. Technology gives people the ability to band together and challenge authority. But are we really ready as Ethiopia to respect peoples opinion and oppose their opinion in a civilized manner?

 

1 Comment

  1. I love this article, my answer is yes I do. But it is hard to generalize but it depends on the level of confidence the person has on the subject matter and digital awareness.

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