The Sunday Mail
Does politics evolve at the same rate as technology?
Maybe it should. After all, the outcomes often pursued by any political ideology are largely dependent on a society’s technological rate of distribution.
It can even be argued in certain contexts that politicians, even of disparate conviction and ideology, are fundamentally identifiable by their views on how technology should be distributed within their society.
For convenience, let’s agree that all politicians presumably want to create mass employment for their constituents — a base assumption being that the need for human work is practically infinite.
Since technology determines how work is done, it follows that the kind of employment opportunities availed to society will be determined by the distribution of technology amongst the masses.
In the US today, for instance, it takes 12 million people in manufacturing to do the same amount of work that took 21 million people to do in the year 2000.
The work dynamics can be explained by technological evolution and the shift in its distribution amongst people.
So, it would be a sound premise then for all politicians to comprehend that to achieve the outcome of mass employment, they will be distinguished by their respective perspectives towards technological evolution and its distribution!
The outcome of mass employment fits well into my chosen narrative.
It is to interpret “empowerment” as providing society with adequate opportunity to work for a living; all citizens being given opportunity to utilise the competencies that they may choose to develop for themselves.
“Transformation” implies continuous structural adjustment in how these opportunities are distributed over time.
Assuming agreement with these generic definitions, then perhaps one can agree that the ideology of empowerment and socio-economic transformation is indeed like all other political convictions, a dependent of technological evolution and distribution!
The purpose of creating such context is for us as Zimbabweans, in our pursuit of empowerment and socio-economic transformation, to directly reflect on what role technology plays in satisfying the ideology that we have chosen!
When we are talking national ideology, can it not be agreed then that we are talking about is how we as a nation choose to distribute evolving technology amongst the masses?
If all citizens are to be empowered, it means that Government will act to provide adequate platforms that keep pace with evolving means of work, and people can use up to date competence to sustain a living.
While we hope to create the kind of socio-economic transformation which particularly redresses a once disadvantaged black majority, government will ensure that technology will continuously structurally be distributed to enable socio-economic mobility.
This is our ideology in a technological context.
Often, a lack of technological awareness causes disintegrated social contracts between politicians and constituents. It also confuses expectations.
For example, xenophobia in many nations is a result of migrants merely being more capable to utilise their trained competence on evolving technological platforms that have superseded the competence of locals.
The new nationalist wave engulfing developed nations ignores the context on which locals have simply fallen behind technology’s evolution on how work is done.
Hence, the entire nationalist wave in Europe and North America is naive to a more potent solution which would be to train locals for modern higher level technology platforms that have changed how work is done.
It is not the Mexican, Chinese, Indian, or refugee that has taken jobs. More precisely, it is the locals who have been overtaken by technological evolution.
Even if you remove the migrants, locals themselves do not match the technological platforms of how competitive work is being done.
Structurally, developed nation governments have not continuously distributed adequate technology to an extent that enables the kind of socio-economic mobility now deprived of locals.
Technology has outpaced many locals in developed nations.
And if jobs have moved to China, India, or Mexico, it is because these respective governments have created matching technological platforms to how work is done today!
This is the context that presently evades much of the global economy.
To revert to our own Zimbabwean context, our politics have similarly been slow in evolving from a context of ownership to one that emphasises the use of technology in extracting value and realising empowerment and socio-economic transformation from our national resources.
This has confused society’s political expectations, as well as enabled politicians themselves to stagnate to what will soon be archaic rhetoric.
This is a broad topic but for convenience we can narrow it down to our more prominent empowerment policies.
For instance, leveraging on the emotive sentiment of land reform has been prolonged. Indeed while there can be continuous re-allocation of land, political consciousness must shift to a direct focus on productivity; that in itself is a technological context of the resource that is land.
Socio-economic transformation cannot be achieved by mere ownership of land. Resettled farmers will only move up the economic ladder by ensuring technological platforms and competence that result in competitive agricultural work; the kind of work that produces quality high yields at cost competitive rates.
Our politics have been slow to create this context of technological discourse.
Technological platforms in agriculture may mean mechanisation and input development (seed and fertiliser), both which have significant implication on the sustainability of many constituents who retain work of low level labour competence.
This is where our political dialogue should be today in regards to land reform and resettled farmers.
Agriculture, like any other economic sector, is significantly affected by technological evolution.
Consider more established nations in agriculture.
The US share of the global grain, wheat and sorghum markets is less than half what it was in the 1970s. American farmers’ incomes will drop nine percent this year, continuing the worst slide in farmer welfare since 1930.
Farmers on up to 800 hectares of land have resorted to settling for side jobs as their sustenance on land is compromised by technological implications.
The situation is so dire, that there are only less than 2 000 economically viable commercial farms left in the US, the least since 1803.
This may be hard to fathom as our agriculture is comparatively an infant industry in a global context for resettled farmers. However, technology hardly cares about country borders and stage of industry.
Globalisation, even in Zimbabwe, is present.
We should take heed then to advance our political discourse with technology that affects our ideological aspirations of empowerment and socio-economic transformation.
Similarly, the politics around indigenisation must take an evolving technological context.
While the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment law does take sufficient cognisance of this context, especially in its instruments, wider political rhetoric risks retaining superficial notions of ownership, downplaying the technological imperative of economic empowerment.
Indigenisation is our greatest opportunity to level out technological distribution, not merely focus on equity ownership.
Through procurement, technical training and technological transfer legislation, what Indigenisation does is offer an instrument for continuous structural adjustment in the economy to even out technological distribution.
Consider in mining; beyond merely availing claims, our politics must incorporate the distribution of geoscience, research and development, information transfer, and other technological imperatives that retain adequate technological platforms for our mining to realise empowerment and socio-economic transformation.
Conclusively, politics must evolve in step with technology.
The outcomes desired by political ideology are directly influenced by technological evolution and distribution.
Astute nations then will keep technology at the core of their economic understanding, political rhetoric, and socio-economic strategy.