While it is estimated less than 25 per cent of Africans are connected to the internet this number is not a joke. By December 2020, Nigeria reported having more than 150 million internet users. Internet is becoming a basic need in the continent. Africa’s Internet Economy is estimated to worth $180 Billion according to a study by Google and IFC. African digital natives is a group of African Millenials and Generation Z who are all over the place in the digital platforms. Almost 60% of Africa’s population is under the age of 25, making Africa the world’s youngest continent. In around 40 African countries, over 50% of the population is under 20. By contrast, in 30 developed countries, less than 20% of the population is under 20. The median age in Africa is 19.7 years. This is what forms Africa’s Digital Tribes.
To understand Digital Tribes, you need to understand the internet as a platform connecting three key groups; Platform Owners, Super Users and Normal Users. These three pillars are what drives the so-called, Platform Economy which is seen in almost all business models of major digital media platforms and apps. Take the case of Uber, the Platform Owners are sitting somewhere in San Francisco, California. The Super Users are the drivers, and normal users are me and you. The same thing can be said with Twitter; Platform Owners are somewhere in the US, Super Users, are individual with large followership and verified accounts, and Normal Users is formed by the rest of the users.
These three pillars form the core of online tribes; while like the traditional African ancestors and gods they don’t intervene much in what is happening in the society the same is true to Platform Owners. They don’t have much control over what is happening on their platforms. Occasionally, they can influence the agenda and control the Super Users, the tribal leaders, they don’t have motivation, time and resources to track individual users, clansmen. This is one of the biggest challenges of Big Data, tracking and dealing with granular information. That is why Facebook has never had ever admitted they are a media company because that will have an impact on how they are treated in US law. Simply nobody has control of the clansmen as individuals.
“A decade or two ago, traditional news organizations played a key gatekeeping role in determining what was true or not true,” said Hopp. “Now, with the proliferation of social media and with traditional news organizations under financial distress, there is a sea change occurring in the way that information flows through society.” — Lisa Marshall Article | University of Colorado.
Africa is starting to witness the rise of Digital Tribes, people who share the same mission but with different objectives. Most of Africa’s Digital Tribes are politically motivated. Politics is at the core of any mission that is being championed. In contrast with traditional tribes, in digital tribes, people will make decisions based on what they feel about the agenda or the person based on what they hear instead of the facts and evidence. Anybody can spin a story at any time to attract public sympathy and create a clan to support her agenda. While Digital Tribes are among the most effective approaches to demand changes in society and questioning the decisions made by the authorities. It is still very difficult to get the objectives of the mission and the mission itself to align among the clansmen. Digital Tribes are driven by what is called, “Crowd Wisdom”. The crowd is always right hence everyone will rush into creating a crowd of followers to their agenda. Whether they share the objective or not the mission is very clear that person is not on “our side”.
“Our side” is what makes things even more complicated in Digital Tribes because nobody knows what is your side. Depending you are at which level in the participation scale it is difficult to push your agenda or at least have a say when you are attacked.
A study done by MIT in 2018 saw that On Twitter, false news travels faster than true stories. They are made to spread and they target specific tribes online. On Twitter, false news stories are 70% more likely to be retweeted than true stories, and it takes true stories about six times as long to reach 1,500 people as it takes for false stories to reach the same number of people. No wonder why Twitter these days want you to confirm reading the story before you can retweet it for some of the information platforms. Most users who are new to the digital platforms will jump into a certain agenda without doing enough research or tracking background information. Spotting fake news or false information online is not easy. Most people are victims of spreading fake news and misinformation. Before you choose a tribe make sure you understand the mission and check whether your objective aligns. It is easy to push agenda B believing you are in agenda A.
The Digital Wars rely on only one weapon, INFORMATION. It doesn’t matter whether is wrong or accurate information it will be used for you or against you. In the Book the New Power, Jeremy and Henry talked about the “Made to Stick versus Made to Spread” concept was comparing between new and old power. The Digital Tribal Wars is about who spread the information faster than the other person. The “Tribal Leaders” also known as Super Users most of the time with a significant number of followership will either initiate the agenda or encourage someone else to instigate it. The digital wars are happening every day targetting individuals or groups with certain beliefs, ideologies, missions, etc. People start wars for different some are good and some are bad. Some motivated by true changes in society and some just want to make money. Some are heroes to their communities and some are just bullies. Whatever tribe you decide to join, the most important question is, in the age of misinformation are you sure you are fighting the right war?