What kind of person we are to become is articulated by no less a moral authority than Archbishop Desmond Tutu:
When we want to give high praise to someone we say, Yu, u nobuntu; hey, so-and-so has Ubuntu. Then you are generous, you are hospitable, and you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, my humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours. We belong in a bundle of life. We say a person is a person through other persons. It is not I think therefore I am. It says rather: I am human because I belong, I participate, and I share. A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are.
In other terms, ubuntu involves the project of acquiring and practicing certain virtues, including a strong sense of interconnectedness with one’s larger community and the states and fates of others in that community – in part as this contributes to the virtue of “proper self- assurance.”
Alongside their rich distinctiveness, in these ways African traditions closely parallel both Confucian thought and Aristotelian virtue ethics, beginning with their shared emphasis on the individual human being as first of all engaged with the larger human (and natural) communities, for the sake of both individual and community harmony and flourishing. Hence, Confucian and Aristotelian approaches may provide helpful analogues for African thinkers as they explore and develop their own forms of information and computing ethics. But all of this is still emerging: it will be very interesting to see where African philosophers and users of digital media take us – both for their own sake, and for the sake of the larger global dialogue regarding ICE and digital ethics more generally.
Applications For a host of reasons – beginning with the effects and consequences of centuries of Western colonialism – a good deal of recent work on information ethics in African contexts focuses on urgent matters of development, including ICT4D (ICT for development), justice, and digital literacy.
Coetzee Bester and Beverley Malan Information Ethics in Africa: Curriculum Design and Implementation, Innovation: Journal of Appropriate Librarianship and Information Work in Southern Africa (52): 19–35.
A subsequent development of the first African Information Ethics conference in 2007 was the establishment of the Africa Centre of Excellence for Information Ethics (ACEIE) in 2012. One of the aims of the ACEIE is to develop a Curriculum Framework for information ethics. This article describes components of the Framework and its possible contributions to information ethics as well as to “the development of Africa as a globally competitive information and knowledge society.”