Kenya: Cyberactivism in practice

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enya provides us with the most recent and inspiring example of the nexus between technology and collective action.

Kenyan citizen journalists and activists are actively using Web 2.0 tools and applications such as wikis, blogs, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and mashups to organise and share news and information about the post election crisis, chronicle violence, share crisis photos and raise funds to help the needy.

Mashup: ushahidi.com A mashup is a tool or service that allows for information and knowledge to be combined with data and built on top of other types of applications.

A leading Kenyan blogger, Kenyan Pundit, wrote a post on her blog asking for volunteers to create a mashup using Google Maps to document post-election violence and destruction for future reconciliation process.


This idea was picked up by Kenyans in the country and abroad and they quickly developed a tool called Ushahidi (Swahili for testimony) for people who witness acts of violence in Kenya to report the incidents on a map-based view for others to see.

Ushahidi has an SMS functionality that allows for people without Internet access to send information from their mobile phones.

Mobile Phones The pervasive nature of mobile phones on the continent makes it an ideal tool for activists and citizen journalists.

What was the role of mobile phones during the Kenyan crisis? AfricaNews.com introduced the concept of mobile reporting in Africa by having local Kenyan journalists practice journalism using Internet-enabled mobile phones and portable keyboards during the elections and afterwards.

When banks and money transfer services such as Western Union were closed, Kenyans started using mobile phone credits to distribute money to relatives.

Many people and organisations have also been using Kenyan mobile phone credit transfer services such as M-PESA and Mama Mike’s.

Ordinary citizens were also given the chance to report news and events using their mobile phones through Mashada.com, a popular Kenyan online forum.

Mashada created an SMS Hotline to allow Kenyans with no Internet access to send news using their mobile phones.

Blogs Kenya has one of the most thriving blogospheres on the African continent.

During and after the elections, Kenyan blogs played a vital role in reporting what was happening on the ground with up to the minute updates using text, photos, audio and videos.

Some of the sites one can go to find Kenyan blogs and know what is happening from citizens on the ground are Kenyaunlimited.com, an aggregator of Kenyan blogs and Mashada.com and globalvoicesonline.org.

Pambazuka.org, a London based African focused online news site, has created a special Action Alert Blog for up to date news and alerts on Kenya.

Kenyan Twitterverse Twitter is a tool that allows users to publish information on the fly.

It is tool for practising what is known as micro-publishing or micro-blogging.

Twitter posts are similar to SMS messages you send from your mobile phone.

You can send Twitter updates from the web or your mobile phone.

People can read your messages on their mobile phones or on the web.

Twitterverse is the universe of Twitter users.

Afromusing, a Kenyan blogger, used her Twitter channel (twitter.com/afromusing) to send quick updates and reports from Kenya.

Another Twitter channel focusing on the Kenyan situation is KenyaNews (twitter.com/kenyanews).

Facebook Facebook is the second most popular social networking site after MySpace.

Facebook has also become a platform of choice for Kenyan and non-Kenyan cyberactivists.

They are using Facebook for fundraising and raising awareness.

Kenya’s Post Election Humanitarian Crisis is a Facebook group created to raise awareness of the situation in Kenya.

Emergency Crisis in Kenya is a group of Facebook created by the Christian Blind Mission (CBM) Ireland.

Another group on Facebook is Peace for Kenya, which seeks to raise money for the charity, Samaritan’s Purse.

Flickr Flickr.com is the most popular photo-sharing site on the web.

Flickr has become a powerful tool for photo enthusiasts as well as activists.

Kenyan activists have created a special Kenya page on Flickr for election and post-election photos called Kenya Elections 2008.

Wiki A wiki is a website that anyone can edit without knowledge of programming skills.

It is the best form of collaboratively edited web page.

Worknets, an online community led by a Lithuanian activist, Andrius Kulikauskas, is using their community wiki to offer help in Kenya.

The Worknets wiki provides a resource of action alerts, commentary and chat rooms by and for Kenyans.

– Ndesanjo Macha is the Sub-Saharan Africa Editor for Global Voices Online, a Citizen Media Project of the Harvard Law School and a Web 2.0 Strategist for Planet Africa Media, a Social Media Consulting firm.