Blog Topic 11: Kate…Kenya

In Uncategorized on November 29, 2010 at 5:00 pm

I was thrilled with this week’s prompt, mostly because it involves one of my favorite small pleasures — random selection based on equally random criterion. Choosing a nation to profile based upon the first letter of my name is an especially limiting pursuit for me, since both my first and last name begin with “K,” and I would likely be cheating and stretching the parameters of the assignment if I broadened my choices by using the “A” from my middle name. Thus, my choices were as follows: Kazakhstan (closest to resembling my actual name based on inclusion of K’s and Z’s and A’s in the correct order), Kenya (Mufasa!), Kosovo (War! Crimes against humanity!), Kuwait (War! Deserts!), Kyrgystan (Wait. What?). Given the choices…

…what a fascinating case study Kenya is! While I was expecting a good degree of internet literacy in Kenya, I was shocked to find that the nation is nearly at the forefront of computer usage on the entire African continent:

Perhaps one of the most fascinating things about Kenyan computer usage is the fact that it far transcends mere browsing of Google or email usage. Even gaming is extremely popular!

Perhaps most interesting to me was that Kenyans have made the usage of online tools a priority even in the face of a crippled economy and occasionally violent social environment. In 2007, Kenya experienced over a year of extreme violence following a contentious presidential election that crippled both the economy and humanitarian development. This past summer, kenya voted to approve a new constitution that created new civil liberty protections meant to ameliorate ethnic tensions so as to prevent future conflagration. Voters turned out en masse to support the measure, and their experiences were chronicled online via Twitter and an active elction blogroll. Using tags like #uchaguzi, #kenyadecides, and #referendum, Kenyans collectively provided a colorful and intriguing portrait of election day and the sentiments that followed.

When linking away from globalvoicesonline.org, I found a variety of related sitesthat reveal Kenyan ingenuity in harnessing the blogosphere and social media tools. One of the most interesting examples is Uchaguzi, a “technology platform that allows citizens and civil society to monitor and report incidences around the electoral process.” The platform encourages citizens to report electoral offenses including hate speech, vote bullying, polling bias, misinformation, etc.

As is evident on Uchaguzi’s home page, social media played a large role in both the recent vote, and citizen/crowdsourced political monitoring since. The related YouTube channel and Twitter stream include links to recent election news and the social implications thereof, discussion in both Kenyan and English, and social metric such as the percentage of women active in the Kenyan religious community. The “Uchaguzi” Flickr tag links to a dynamic collection of user-generated images that tell the complex story of the nation’s move towards a strengthened democracy.

As a standalone window into the blogging environment in Kenya, globalvoicesonline.org reveals that Kenyan bloggers have harnessed the ability to self-published to discuss everything fromt he African version of Big Brother to musings on African ethnic identity.

What becomes clear is that while Kenya’s collective blogroll may not be as frequently updated as America’s rap-fire, breakneck blogosphere, citizens’ posts boast great substance and depth that provide both residents and those of us with little working knowledge of the nation an interesting window into its evolution.

*Image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Kenya_Dialect_map.jpg

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