Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 03/2011

Africa's Evolving Infosystems: A Pathway to Security and Stability

Steven Livingston

March 2011

Africa Center for Strategic Studies


Political instability and violence in Africa are often the products of rumor and misinformation. Biased newspapers and radio programming, for example, are commonplace conduits of politically divisive causes. Against this backdrop, remarkably innovative uses of emerging information technologies have been adapted to substantially strengthen transparency, accountability, and security. Africa’s civil society networks now have unprecedented opportunities to develop security-monitoring programs, provide information needed for effective health care, create banking services, and provide farmers with market information. These evolving innovations are often organic to Africa and therefore optimized to serve the immediate needs of the communities from which they originate. While new information technologies can facilitate less-than positive purposes, including crime and politically motivated violence, on the whole they are enhancing human security and sustainable economic development across Africa. In this ACSS Research Paper, Steven Livingston explores precisely how such technologies impact the lives of urban citizens and remote villagers alike and identifies ways to amplify the positive potential of Africa’s evolving infosystems.