Homo Naledi and our common heritage
More than 50 scientists and researchers worked on the Homo Naledi project. State-of-the-art equipment was used to reconstruct and analyse the specimens by the South African National Research Foundation, Wits University and National Geographic. When modern technology and history meet to reveal something so incredibly significant, it is a beautiful symbiosis.
Worlds apart, the technology of today helped us uncover the truths about our past, and with it, our heritage.
Whether Homo Naledi is our ancestor has been debated, but what is certain is that right here in South Africa, an often divided country, we were once just one race.
It's a romantic notion, and there are probably counter-theories to this claim, but the point is that technology, science, mathematics, biology and even the Internet have helped us move closer to the truth about who we are.
Some of the world's finest research teams worked on the Homo Naledi project, staying in constant communication for more than two years. They would have had to use long-distance communication tools like Skype or e-mail. It's the kind of tools that most of us take for granted, and yet for millions of South Africans and other Africans, this is a barrier, let alone an inconvenience. Only 30% of Africa is connected to the Internet, a necessity for economic and prosperity.
With every advancement in the technology used to study our past, ICT provides the basis for these historic discoveries. And yet it is one of few industries in South Africa which suffers from a dearth of graduates.
As our economy shrinks and unemployment hovers at 25%, there is concern about the future of certain industries in South Africa. But several ICT companies plan to create thousands of jobs in the sector, such as Uber's aim to create 15 000 jobs in SA. Amazon and Facebook are recruiting aggressively too. The world, and SA, needs more geeks to manage complex infrastructure.
Homo Naledi changed what we know about heritage, but how will the advancements we make today be reflected in what we leave behind? Change is happening as rapidly as men in fluorescent vests can dig up our pavements - and it will drive us forward at lightning speed. Faster (and hopefully cheaper) Internet access will make our lives easier. It will help government do its job more efficiently.
Research teams at the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project or the Cradle of Humankind will access better data and be able to communicate better among themselves. The search for answers will go deeper with greater ease.
The Large Hadron Collider is another example of science and technology being used to pursue the truth about our very existence on Earth - the beginning of time.
On a personal front, technology has helped us find lost relatives using social networks, and the Internet has helped us trace our ancestors.
The possibilities are endless, and as we braai the beloved country this Heritage Month, check our Twitter feeds and Skype our family all over the world, we should celebrate that we still share a single human heritage.