Esther Mwema on digital colonialism and who owns our undersea cables

Esther Mwema looks off to the left, calmly posing. Esther wears a colourful headwrap keeping her locs off her face, and a purple shirt.

Esther Mwema on digital colonialism and who owns our undersea cables

The future of internet governance is as diverse as its users. As the internet continues to evolve and become increasingly ingrained in our lives, the need for effective governance becomes more apparent. However, given the global nature of the internet and the wide range of users it serves, achieving consensus on internet governance can be a complex and challenging task.

Digital colonialism refers to the dominance and exploitation of digital platforms, services, and technologies by powerful entities, typically from developed countries, over less developed regions or communities. It involves the control and influence over digital infrastructure, data, and communication channels, often resulting in economic, cultural, and social inequalities.

This episode features Esther Mwema, an artist who questions Big Tech (like Facebook and Google) in Africa, through literary fiction, abstract art, and poetry.

The African continent is surrounded by undersea cables owned by these big tech companies. And what is even more amazing about that is actually the audacity of Google taking the name of the Nigerian abolitionist, Equiano*, and using that to name their undersea cable [...] For me, it is how these corporations can co-opt and also appropriate colonial knowledge and try and present themselves as liberators.

Esther explores imagination as a starting point of decolonization, her activism around girls’ safety in online spaces, and how corporations perpetuate colonial structures and histories.

It’s about changing the narrative that the continent [Africa] needs to be saved, but recognizing the imbalance that exists — where big tech corporations from another continent can have so much power over the infrastructure that we are using.

(*) Olaudah Equiano was a writer and abolitionist. Learn more.