Maintaining value, vision in digital era

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

The influx of popular technology and its impact on our people – good or bad – cannot be denied. Without a doubt, it has transformed the way we live, the dynamics in our communities and the behavior of the people upon which it has found an unbreakable bond – or bondage. 

But it’s worth remembering today that all that glitters is not gold*. The line from the William Shakespeare play, The Merchant of Venice, immediately comes to mind when you take a look at the popular culture of fancy gadgets and technological advances being shoved continuously in our faces.

Once upon a time in Samoa, we were so far removed from it. You had to leave our shores to experience it and at that time, you were glad to be able to come back to Samoa where the only thing that resembled a fancy gadget was a TV box.

Not any more. These days, all you have to do is switch on your 49-inch flat screen TV or look through your newspapers to find that our lives have been transformed quite dramatically. There is a galore of advertisements about the newest and fanciest gadgets and they range from telephones, computers, TV sets, home ware ... you name it.

Take a drive to the rural areas of the country and you’ll find that you can never really escape the madness. The billboards are there in case the radio stations forgot to remind you that day.

In terms of mobile phones, just about everyone has one. Even the street vendors begging on the streets boast some of the flashiest phones in town.

Which reminds us that many years ago when the government to open up the mobile phone market, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi shared his vision. He told the story about how he wanted the boy climbing the coconut tree to be able to call his old man to ask him which green coconut he wanted to fetch.

Looking at what’s happening now, Tuilaepa would be pleased because that is no longer beyond the realm of possibilities. It’s not unusual to find that in most households in this country, adult members all possess mobile phones. Some people have two or more – depending on how often they want to change phones during the week. These things have become a part of us, part of the fabric that makes our society today.

Looking at the availability and accessibility of mobile phones, it must be said that it‘s fascinating when you stop to consider the average income on these shores. We don’t know the exact number of people who own mobile phones in this country but let’s guess that it’s about 100,000. Imagine if everyone spends $5 on credit for a day – we know some people spend much, much more. That’s $500,000 for the mobile phone companies a day. It’s nearly $200million a year on mobile phones, which is lot of money. Keep in mind that we haven’t factored in the cost of the phones.

But our fascination goes far beyond the latest phones. We are talking about all those gadgets with all the Gs and what have you that have changed the way we live our lives. 

Technology is a wonderful thing. Make no mistake about that. They make our lives so much easier. Who would’ve dreamt that one day you’d be able to check your emails from anywhere in this country?

The truth is that we’re living in a fast world where success is measured by one’s ability to stay abreast. Failure to keep up could be interpreted as an inability to function effectively in a world teeming with challenges, and uncertainties. 

And here therein lies the challenge. It’s the pressure that comes with owning and accessing these latest technological developments. It may even emerge that such pressure is contributing to the deteriorating statistics about social problems. 

The only consolation is that questions about the influx of popular technology and how to handle the problems they bring is not an issue confined to our shores. You’ll find that every country around the world is struggling with the same issue. It’s happening in Asia, Middle East, America, Europe, Africa and everywhere else.

The difference between the countries is their response to the issue. In the developed nations for instance, education plays such a key role in developing best practises on the use of these tools.

What we’ve got to remind ourselves is that in life, there are always positives and negatives. Technological advancements are no exception. While they make some things easier, they introduce a new dimension of struggles and problems.

Which means we must tread carefully.

We’ve said this before and we will say it again; the problem for many of us is that we’ve never been educated about how these gadgets affect our lives. We’ve only been brainwashed to see the glitter. We haven’t been given the other side of the story. We haven’t been told about the destruction of moral values, the demolition of relationships that disappear overnight and the endless pit in which our hard-earned tala will continue to fall.

As a country, we are learning as we go. And boy there have been some tough lessons over the years.

It’s important to remember this though; technology advancements are created to fuel mankind’s constant hunger for change. It’s built on the idea that change will make things better. It’s about marketing, image and materialism. It’s about never being satisfied with what you have – which is a very sad way to live.

It’s always about the best, the latest, the fastest, the newest… whatever ticks your fancy. 

But there is always a price. We’re talking more than just dollars. We are talking about the moral fibre of our society, the influences that are changing our people – especially youth - for the worst. This is the real cost.

And it’s only going to get tougher. 

As we speak; internet speed in Samoa will soon be faster, cheaper and more accessible than ever before. It’s a great development but are we prepared for it? Have our families been prepared? Have our children been warned about the perils of misusing such technology? How do we maintain values and vision at an age where technological advances dictate behavior and attitudes? 

These are questions worth asking. These are issues worth exploring. They are relevant and the consequences of not discussing them are frightening.

And while we are at it, we remind once more, all that glitters is not gold. They are words of wisdom everyone living in this day and age should take time to seriously think about.

Have a peaceful Sunday Samoa. And try and put that phone away and talk to your family. God bless!

 

*Bits and pieces taken from a Samoa Observer editorial published on 23 October 2012

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