Lessons from the Age of Nelson Mandela: Information and Communication Technology in the Quest for Equality, Freedom and Justice

ABSTRACT: Nelson Mandela passed away on the night of 5 December 2013. After spending 27 years in prison, the civil rights activist led a movement that led to the abolition of his country's notorious apartheid regime which mandated segregation since 1948. After many years of struggle, he was released in 1991 and became the country's first black president in 1994 after a democratic election which also ended apartheid. I was working at the Commonwealth Secretariat at that time when most of my colleagues had monitored the elections in South Africa. One of my colleagues who had just returned from overseeing the elections stated euphorically: “The country has changed, Africa has changed and the world has changed completely … we will never be the same again” she exclaimed. Indeed the newly elected President went on to create programs for job creation, housing, healthcare, education and justice that would ensure equality for all, together with programs for reconstruction and reconciliation. The Huffington Post reported the day after Mandela's passing that it was his charisma and his lack of bitterness over the harsh treatment he faced as a prisoner in Roben Island off the coast of Cape Town that enabled a smooth transition for his government. He continued to gain attention in the media as he ensured that all segments of the population in his country were treated equally and their freedoms preserved. The day after his passing, President Obama praised the South African leader's struggle and accomplishments stating that “He no longer belongs to us, he belongs to the ages … His commitment to transfer power and reconcile with those who jailed him set an example that all humanity should aspire to.” The Economist reported in a series of articles commemorating Mandela's passing that he was a hero who won a long hard battle against Apartheid for his people, but he was not a saint; he was a giant whose passing marked one of the most important struggles of our time: equality, freedom and justice.

Keywords: Healthcare, Communications technology, Human development endowment, ICT Development Index, social media