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177 Africa and the Impending Nano-divide AnOverviewonTemporalandNormativePerspectives Hailemichael T. Demissie and Mammo Muchie INTRODUCTION In the same way as the respective ‘divides’ that previous technologies prompted, the ‘nano-divide’ is thought to be engendered by the disregard and violation of the demands of justice and its human rights standards. Nelson Mandela (1995) needed to reiterate this while entering his warning about the consequences of the deepening of the digital divide: If more than half the world is denied access to the means of communication, the people of developing countries will not be fully part of the modern world. For in the 21st century, the capacity to communicate will almost certainly be a key human right. The ‘digital divide’, while not a precise notion, has served valuable purposes as an important discursive tool. However, it remains an elusive concept that appropriates new meaning following the changes in the underlying technoscience . The phrase survived its variable referents owing to its dynamic use as a gateway notion for various social and technological divides. Mandela (1995) underscored that the right to access the technologies is a human right and ‘their denial is made an instrument of repression’. With the ever more powerful information technology advancing ever more rapidly and converging with nanotechnology and other technologies, the topicality of Mandela’s take on the ‘digital divide’ is hardly affected by the change in the underlying technologies or the passage of time. The divide between the haves and have-nots manifested in the digital and other divides is now set to re-emerge as the ‘nano-divide’. Like the ‘digital divide’, the ‘nano-divide’ is not an exact term but it has gained the discursive status to serve the purpose that the notion of ‘digital divide’ has served so effectively. While not yet a distinct notion, it is nevertheless a very useful concept that captures CHAPTER 11 178 CHAPTER 11 the fears and anxieties arising from the business-as-usual approach to the governance of nanotechnology and other emerging technologies. Conceptualising the nano-divide does not require excessively imaginative and predictive analytical power. Some even consider it as an extension of the already existing technological divide ‘with “nano” in front of it’ (Sparrow, 2007, p.90). Accordingly, the nano-divide is said to be already here with us and finds expression in exclusionary proprietary rights. Nonetheless, the nano-divide remains a phenomenon with its own distinctive features and we need not be dissuaded by its conceptualisation as a continuation of existing divides. It certainly will enlarge and consolidate the ‘digital divide’ – a challenge which humanity has not yet resolved. Thus far, there has been remarkably little attention to the nano-divide despite the alarming rate of nanotechnology-led developments. (Miller, 2008, p.216). The digital divide was measured often taking the distribution of computers or internet connectivity in Africa against same in other regions. Africa needs to vigorously engage the nanotechnology revolution to avoid a similar divide with respect to the benefits of nanotechnology; it cannot afford to miss out this time to find itself on the inhospitable side of the nano-divide, with unheard-of consequences. The present paper offers an overview of some of the issues relating to the temporal dimensions and the normative aspects of the nano-divide. Given the relatively new discourse on the nano-divide, these themes are at the moment under-researched. The paper seeks to contribute to the discourse by drawing attention to these relatively neglected perspectives of the nano-divide. The paper is in three parts. In part I, it provides a background to the concept of the ‘nano-divide’ using resources on the relatively developed concept of the digital divide. It aims at identifying the parallels between the two notions and analyse the distinctive features that the concept of nano-divide introduces. Part II raises the issue on whether the concept of nano-divide will crystallise into a robust discursive tool to address the challenges that humanity faces. The paper argues that, notwithstanding its fuzziness, the concept should be retained and developed to capture these challenges and avert the horrid scenarios in which those missing out from the nanotechnology revolution will find themselves. Highlighting the normative connotations of the nano-divide, the paper reasons why its conceptualisation as a form of apartheid and the use of the more fitting term ‘nano-apartheid’ is justified. Part III further elaborates how the concept of the digital divide was used to mobilise resources and the possibility of...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780798304054
Related ISBN
9780798303873
MARC Record
OCLC
870684317
Pages
564
Launched on MUSE
2014-02-18
Language
English
Open Access
No
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