A report compiled by Richard Kawazi for the Zimbabwe Network for Citizen Journalists.

Zimbabwe can reshape its’ image in the online world through story telling, shifting away from the negative stereotype associated with the country.

Imagine the possibilities of developing a new culture of approaching the internet as a platform to connect, innovate, and promote social justice. The internet becomes a place to learn, create, and contribute to human development.

Ultimately, the benefits of the internet and social media applications will outweigh the disadvantages in light of the future of work, education, and human development.

This is the time for the digitally empowered population of young people to consider repurposing the internet for productive use.

Rather than a place to quench the thirst of politically driven intolerance and hate, which results in hate speech and failure to tell the African story.

Zimbabwe has the chance to reshape and tell its story, shifting from the negative stereotype associated with the country.

The seamless benefits of the internet can only be realized through responsible use of social media and artificial intelligence programs that are being developed in our lifetime.

To dive deep into this report, there are drawbacks that we need to eradicate as part of the internet culture and digital footprint in Zimbabwe that are contributing to the stagnation of the nation’s growth.

  • Using the internet as a vehicle of malicious propaganda and disinformation.
  • Using the internet as a tool for abusing other users.
  • Content that fails to tell the African story.

The above-listed internet uses must be dealt with and, by every means necessary, eradicated if we are to see and enjoy the benefits of the future internet.

At present, there is a scourge of digital poverty in Zimbabwe, and the few who have access to the Internet and digital technologies must harness the power of technology with great responsibility.

Zimbabweans must take charge of the opportunities in education, entrepreneurship, innovation, and socio-political development offered by the internet.

Adopting a culture and repurposing the use of the internet

Anyone has the right to access information on the emerging global digital culture and identify Zimbabwe’s position in that value chain.

Considerably, the middle class in Zimbabwe is interacting with digital technologies, but it has yet to establish a solid culture on how and why they use the internet. Those with access to the internet have been following trends that have been set by other societies, having done little to tell African stories and harness the internet to build strong institutions in education, innovation, culture, and the economy.

One thing is certain: as Zimbabweans, it’s high time we consider repurposing the use of the internet.

It is important to appreciate that the internet was not solely built for entertainment.

This is perfect timing for considering repurposing the internet because the future use of internet-based platforms will focus on productivity and human development.

Advanced economies such as China and EU countries have already started implementing internet reforms to feed into socio-economic development.

Successful economies are shifting away from consumerism and driving towards production.

Instead, ZNCJ urges the active masses who are connected to the Internet to consider repurposing the internet for these important uses.

  • Education
  • Commerce
  • Platforms for socio-political discourse
  • Communication, through community story telling

Zimbabwe cannot afford to be left behind in the pits of consumerism on the internet while other economies progress and evolve by repurposing the internet.

The internet must make our lives easier as augmented technology that will add value to our daily activities.

This paper urges the youth to refrain from abusing social media as instruments for abuse, and disinformation. Instead, appropriating social media for constructive dialogue about building democracy and economic development.

At zncj.org, we predict that the future of commerce and education is within the internet.

We already witness the economic opportunities exploited on social media through platforms such as Facebook Marketplace and sponsored advertising.

Entrepreneurs and merchants are conducting online businesses on the internet through social media.

For instance, in our early days at ZNCJ, budget office materials were purchased through the Facebook Marketplace and online auctions.

We have managed to create a network of our supply chain through social media, where we are doing business through online communities.

How I have repurposed the use of the internet at ZNCJ

These are my experiences with social media in my modern life and how I imagine the future of digital culture in low-income societies.

As a digital rights activist, I use social media to access and impart knowledge. I get to follow my interests in learning about astronomy, innovation, etc.

Secondly, I use social media to build and strengthen networks and relationships.  More so, I get the opportunity to contribute towards socio-political discourse at global level.

I make use Social media platforms such as Reddit and Quora to widen my knowledge base as a professional as well as for skills development.

I have also learnt to build and design websites through YouTube. I have been privileged to add value to my skill set and empower myself as an African through digital skills I have learned on YouTube.

Cloud computing has revolutionised the work environment where communication and file sharing in the newsroom has been made seamless.

I can predict a future where the digital economy  will dominate the global economy. We already see that platforms such as YouTube, Quora and Reddit are catalysts to education and skills development.

In the future , the Labour Market will open up opportunities for people with hard skills who may not have the opportunity to get a college degree.

Challenges that maybe faced

Zimbabwe is currently experiencing a gender based digital gap exposing women from low income social groups to digital poverty.

The vulnerable groups are excluded from accessing information and practicing their rights to freedom of expression.

More so, the future of social media and cloud computing is not sensitive to gender and socio-economic inclusivity. A greater part of digitally poor societies will be left out of the future of digital technologies.

Productivity will increase in upper-middle-class societies where governments and civil society prioritize closing the digital divide.

However, it is evident that low-income societies affected by digital poverty will be left behind as social media unleashes its potential invariably.

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By Richard Matthew Kawazi

Richard Kawazi is a media policy and tech enthusiast, also a multi award winning journalist with a keen interest in Experimental Media Development.