Information is the key to development

Information is the key to development

Mohala oa Cheche (the Leucosidea sericea phoneline, or, in the normal parlance, the popularly termed Grapevine) is the commonest system of communication that has been used to relay information in African society from the time when the upright walking man departed from the misty jungles of the Congo, and decided to reside in the open plains as a pastoralist and herder.

Where there are no telephone lines and postmen, word of mouth is the most effective way of delivering information that is vital and needed by society, and to serve as a tool to the most salient aspect of human society’s existence; communication: without which human interaction is null and void, and the absence of which renders men mere stones on a hillside.

Without communication, no aspect of daily human and animal and plant life can be; for there is the basic need to interact, to connect with the next, in order to maintain the continuum of progress and existence. The information relayed is interpreted in varying ways, but the most salient aspect to the process is the source, that is, the veracity of the source of information is of paramount importance, for if it is flawed, confused, or contains to a large extent elements that are mendacious in origin and sense, the truth value of the piece of information relayed is reduced, and this renders it a dangerous entity that could rather than unite humanity or human society, tear it apart and hurl the minds of the individuals that interpret it into a state of mental chaos that could easily culminate in total anarchy.

The essence of information lies in its veracity, and this aspect draws its gist from the intention as found in the source. Truth is truth, nothing more nothing less, and the fact does not need evidence to prove its veritability; for truth is just what it is; truth. The essence of a piece of information as said previously lies in its closeness to the fact or the “truth”; it does not lie in its similarity to the truth.

Far often, there is the unintentional or instinctive tendency to regard that which is fact just a gloss and a façade of truth, and this leads whoever comes across this mask into making the wrong interpretation and at the end drawing the wrong conclusions as to the true identity of the original fact.
The dissemination of any piece of information requires the careful examination of all the facts that are core to the purpose of such a piece of information.

The dissemination is first done by the sender, who should apply utmost care in the compilation of the piece being relayed to avoid its misleading the intended and unintended receiver or audience that may come across it and read or view of its contents.
Information is core to the process of communication, and it should be dealt with accordingly to make it effective in the light of its purpose, and accessible in terms of its implementation.

What is vaguely understood cannot be transformed into action, and the process of development necessitates that the information related to it be of a nature that can easily be understood by all engaged in the act of development.
The process of development is in my view similar to the growth of a tree, and the tree is planted in different ways; as a seedling, as a transplanted tree, as a bud which is cut into the bast of another.

The seed draws its sustenance from the soil even before it sprouts the first roots, and the roots will serve to feed the tree when it later grows the stem and caps itself with a leafy crown. Development strategy draws its information from the experiences and the challenges of the masses, and whoever gathers the account of these two aspects becomes the source of the information needed to draw the plans and the strategies that will be implemented to address the development challenges.

This means that the sources of information should at all costs put into consideration the delicacy of their position as the core sources of what is vital to the process of development. The information provided should at all times be accurate, in order to avoid its misinterpretation which may lead to the slowing of the movement towards the intended and strategic development goals.

Utter disregard for the simple often leads to umbrella conclusions on the part of the strategic planning team, and these umbrella conclusions often do not address the development requirements of all the relevant sectors. Kuznets, in his Economic Growth of Nations . . . published in 1971 states:
Economic development is a very complex process that involves: (i) the transfer of resources (labour and capital) from activities of low productivity (typically agriculture) into activities of higher productivity (industry and services); (ii) capital accumulation; (iii) industrialization and the manufacture of new products using new methods of production; (iv) urbanization; and (v) changes in social institutions and beliefs . . .

There are basics on the issue of development economics the development writer should understand and these include basic economics, the state of economic development within and without the community from which he or she writes, the economic relationships the society he or she lives within has with other developed and developing economies, the development challenges the society the writer lives within faces, implemented development strategies and their failures and successes, the ideologies that govern the whole process of development, and the general social outlook on development policy and strategy. These are just a part of the development process and they do not represent the whole issue of development, but they do serve as a reasonable point of departure for anyone seeking to relay information on the issue of economic development.

A lack in the understanding as to the basic nature of economic development may lead to the writer relaying information that is either inaccurate or, is largely irrelevant when it comes to addressing development challenges the society faces. The current trend in development writing is to jump onto the bandwagons of economies that have had the time to accurately write strategies on development issues, to address them well enough to see them through the implementation stage, and to see them grow into development realities all can benefit from.

If the writer pens from within a society that has not yet achieved any goals, it is not advisable to use the success stories of other economies as a constant reference point; for the reality is that the development problems prevalent in his or her own society are the more relevant point of departure when it comes to relaying information related to development economics.

The sensible writer departs from the inside to the outside, not the other way round, for the realities of the other may not be similar to those at home.
Just copying what authors in super-sized economies of developed countries is in fact irrelevant, and thinking of them as the template for local writing may soon prove to be a man saddled on the shell of a tortoise thinking his steed will outrun a seasoned thoroughbred with an experienced jockey.
I am not for the idea of changing the inside from the guidance of the outside, for the outside is a totally different environment from the one within the confines of one’s environment.

Far often than less, the opinions of the lowest income earning sector in society do not actually matter in the drawing of the development strategies that are “intended” to address their economic problems. There may be many reasons that sound like lame excuses if one is to question their accuracy in terms of relevance to the prevalent development problems. Among them is the usual, “they cannot solve their money problems because they have never had any money”, and the usual misguided trust and reference to “expert opinion”.

I personally have never been one to trust the opinions of what I term a “hands-free expert,” and this is the kind of expert who has no “hands-on” knowledge of the issue they are trying to address. Information from this kind of source is inaccurate because it lacks the practical know how that is essential to the process of development, and the point of departure is flawed because it is top-down (for the expert is by virtue of being referred to as ‘the authority’ assumes a stance that skims only the surface of the development question and not the nitty-gritty that is at the bottom) and not bottom up as it should.

Reference to money may prove irrelevant, for far too often, I have come to realise that our development problems do not stem from money; they stem from lack of motivation and the will to sacrifice whatever little time it is that we have to engage in some development-related activity, whether it is at a personal or communal level.

The wise writer goes to the bottom and dredges (literally) the lowest rung of society for information relevant to the process of economic emancipation.
The understanding of the concerns of the lowest ranking member of society helps the economic planning bodies to devise strategies that address the core economic development challenges facing the society, and in the long run; strategies implemented on the basis of thorough discourse with all sectors of society have little chance of failure.

This is due to the simple reality that a discourse or dialogue in actual fact enhances the understanding of the core discourse goals, and also leads to the application of effective strategies to meet the envisioned economic development goals.
The two forms of development, that is, social and economic development, can be predicted to reinforce one another only if they are applied in tandem with one another (Walton in Felton and Kuhn (2001)).
There can be no possibility of progress if there is no communication, for from it stem the two salient elements of social cohesion and social commitment salient to the attainment of the development goal envisioned in the economic development strategy.
The writer should learn to communicate information relevant to the process of development, to avoid hearsay at all costs, and to stay away from the now popular ‘trending’ topics.

Instead, the true writer should go to the bottom of the matter, and to search for all the relevant and true information from real sources (sources that have adequate experience with or of the matter in or at hand). Skimming the surface to please some master and not to aim at getting to the true source will lead to misinformation, and such unfounded information hampers the progress of strategy development and its implementation.
The old Mohala oa Cheche was effective in the delivery of information because the sources thereof understood the essence of having the right intentions in the relaying of the news.

The modern day writer who is not aware of the fact that such methods of relaying the news as social media are actually cesspools is prone to error, for such sources are the open space where malicious characters lurk in wait for the minds of the gullible to gobble up their junk news without question.
The wisdom is to always ensure that the source is veritable enough to give the required information that is relevant to the process of development.
All information gathered should be to the benefit of all society, and not aimed at pleasing just a sector of society, at just being ceremonial news meant to garner the smiling countenances of dignitaries in photos on full page spreads in newspapers.

The continent has been poor for far too long, stuck on its image of being the showman of the world who at the end of the day has nothing to show for their efforts. Development as previously said is a simple process; it should always have the concerns of the powerless at its core at all times.
The reality of the world is that the “powerless” are in actuality the ones that put the “powerful” in their exalted places. The wise writer on development knows that the source to his news lies therein their midst.

Tsepiso S Mothibi

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