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Kenya: Cyberactivism in the aftermath of political violence

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

Mashups

Kenyan Pundit wrote a post asking for volunteers to create a mashup to document violence and destruction using Google Maps:

“Google Earth supposedly shows in great detail where the damage is being done on the ground. It occurs to me that it will be useful to keep a record of this, if one is thinking long-term. For the reconciliation process to occur at the local level the truth of what happened will first have to come out. Guys looking to do something – any techies out there willing to do a mashup of where the violence and destruction is occurring using Google Maps?”

White African wrote about the same subject:

Basically, you have an incident – that hopefully someone gets a picture or video of. A report on what happened and who was involved, and a location. That information is submitted and then populated into a map-based view that is easy to search by location and/or category.

Ethan Zuckerman:

One major concern in the aftermath of Kenya’s disputed elections has been the possibility that the media is undercounting the dead and injured in incidents of election violence. In a blog post last week, Ory Okolloh suggested a project to document incidents of violence and place them on a web-based map.
The idea was quickly picked up by Kenyans in the country and in the diaspora, and over the weekend, Kenyan developer David Kobia put together the Ushahidi website, based on a design sketch from White African blogger Erik “Hash” Hersman and input from a wide range of Kenyan bloggers and activists.

Kenyan Pundit's call for a tool to chronicle acts of violence and destruction resulted into Ushahidi. White African introduces Ushahidi. Ushahidi means testimony in Swahili:

Ushahidi.com is a tool for people who witness acts of violence in Kenya in these post-election times. You can report the incident that you have seen, and it will appear on a map-based view for others to see.
At the beginning of a project like this the technology portion can seem to be the hardest to get off the ground. In the end, it’s just the tool, and the hard work will come from people in the field who are working with NGO’s to keep this information accurate and to chronicle as much of it as they can.

In “What Social Media Can Be” Mike Stopforth writes:

The site is painfully simple in design and concept – it’s a Google Maps mash-up that allows users to report incidences of crime and violence by description and location. Right now this is done via the Web but SMS functionality is in the pipeline. The site doesn’t require registration (because, of course, nobody here wants to make money).

Alfajiri commenting on Ushahidi:

During this time of crisis, Kenyans have formed complex information networks, connecting and self reporting while traditional media access has been obstructed by the Kenyan government. Success has been notable but a core group of individuals have implemented something more. They are documenting and verifying the post-election violence from the ground up.

The tool is evolving rapidly:

There is continued refinement and improved functionality being added all the time. Here’s a quick rundown of what we’ve done and are doing.
• You can now SMS your report to +447624802635 with your mobile phone.
• You can email your reports and images to tips@ushahidi.com
• We have added a “Peace Efforts” button to highlight the good things that are happening.
• The “How you can help” page has started. The first is a way to send money via MamaMikes.com that will be distributed by the Kenyan Red Cross.
• There are new buttons (with copy/paste code) for you to add to your websites on the about page.

In “Digital activists find ways to help Kenya,” Ethan writes:

The rapid development of this application demonstrates a number of important points about the situation in Kenya, and about emergency situations in general:
- Kenyan bloggers are watching the situation in their country closely, and their combination of passion and technical skill means that we’re likely to see innovative uses of technology to document the unfolding situation and provide assistance to those in need.
- It’s still lots easier to create a web application quickly than an SMS application, even if the SMS application might be more appropriate. This is important for anyone concerned about applications for the developing world. While we all know that mobiles are the best platform (alongside radio) for reaching broad audiences, we need much better tools to build applications.
- When a crisis is unfolding, people want to find ways to help, and will build tools online to help. We saw this in the wake of the Boxing Day tsunami, where activists in South Asia and around the world started a series of relief efforts around the SEA-EAT blog. We saw it again during Katrina, where teams around the world worked to create Peoplefinder, a database designed to help family members and friends find each other. And we’re seeing it in Kenya.

Mobile Phones
AfricaNews.com has been experimenting with mobile phones in reporting the Kenyan crisis:

With a media blackout in Kenya mobile phones played a vital role in covering the Kenya elections and now they are playing an even more important role in covering those elections bloody aftermath.

AfricaNews.com makes use of internet-enabled mobile phones to report on the election crisis in Kenya. Local African journalist, with advanced mobile phone and a portable keyboard, collect text, photo and short video on the events in Kenya as they unfold. The reporters use their mobile phone to publish their reports to http://www.africanews.com. This is the first time the concept of a mobile journalist has been introduced in Africa.

In her post, Technology for Advocacy in Kenyan Crisis, Sokari writes about an activist using phone credits to distribute money:

In an environment of fear and violence with many businesses closed and little or very expensive transport how do you communicate with friends and family? How do you send and receive money when banks and other financial businesses such as Western Union offices are closed? The simple answer is the ubiquitous mobile phone. One activist (for purposes of his personal safety we cannot mention his name) wrote how he was able to distribute a donation of money by purchasing phone credits and dispersing them to colleagues in need. One person in Eldoret needed money for transport, others could not get to a Western Union paypoint to receive funds and so on. He was then able to phone all of his colleagues and ensure they had cashed in their credits and were safe.

Mashada, a Kenyan online forum, created an SMS Hotline to allow Kenyans with no Internet access to send news using their mobile phones:

Soon after violence erupted, Mashada, a prominent online forum launched an SMS hotline to help share information. Further, several prominent Kenyan blogs are accepting comments via SMS.

At the same time, the Kenyan government was warning mobile phone users of possible prosecution if they use SMS to cause public unrest:

“The Ministry of Internal Security urges you to please desist from sending or forwarding any SMS that may cause public unrest. This may lead to your prosecution.”

Joshua reminds us of the power and danger of SMS:

In Uganda last year, a protest against developing Mabira Forest was organized via mass SMS in Kampala and quickly turned violent and resulted in at least one death.

Blogs
Global Voices Online has a special Kenya coverage page, Kenya Elections Aftermath 2008:

Black Looks writes about an Action Alert Blog created by Pambazuka News:

Pambazuka News has created an Action Alert blog for up to date news and alerts on Kenya.

White African has listed blogs covering Kenyan elections and its aftermath.

Kenyan Twitterverse

Afromusing is using her Twitter channel to send quick updates and reports from Kenya:

You can help from anywhere in the world: mamamikes donation page is live http://www.mamamikes.com 03:50 AM January 11, 2008 from web

Global voices special coverage page for kenya http://tinyurl.com/2gxmed 02:41 AM January 09, 2008 from web

working with mamamikes and Red cross to get an online donation page up. Another meeting set 4 tomorrow. 09:03 AM January 07, 2008 from web

NBI:Trying to find Geo Data in Eld for Google Mashup site. Holla if u have info.thx 02:10 AM January 07, 2008 from web

credit ordered on mamamikes still not delivered, thx to friends who sambazad credit. Really helped 10:25 AM January 02, 2008 from web

A better day. uploading pics to flickr and trying to wrap my mind around this mess. 10:23 AM January 02, 2008 from web

going to watch tv for updates, though i really shouldnt, this tension is starting to get to me. 09:48 AM January 01, 2008 from web

Posted pics on flickr. Still in Eld, tension eased a bit since its daylight, still precarious situation :( 04:15 AM January 01, 2008 from web

kassfm is perhaps the only fm radio station reporting results from diff. areas.theyve had to do it in english swahili & kalenjin 03:03 PM December 27, 2007 from web

driving by polling stations, most of eldy area appears to be raila country by large margins 01:39 PM December 27, 2007 from web

visited several polling stations in eld. some with long lines some are done. took pics. 04:39 AM December 27, 2007 from web

nation media txt and blogger daudi confirm railas problem voting in langata.new registers being printed 01:51 AM December 27, 2007 from web

KenyaNews is a Twitter channel with updates on what is happening in Kenya:

Opposition leaders are planning three days of street protests, starting on Wednesday, raising the possibility of fresh violence. about 14 hours ago from web

Kofi Annan is due to arrive tomorrow in the latest attempt to find common ground between the two sides. about 14 hours ago from web

Kenya is braced for fresh fighting after last month's bitterly disputed elections, as MPs prepare to take up their new seats. about 14 hours ago from web

China paper sees West to blame in Kenya chaos. about 19 hours ago from web

Mediation talks seem to have faltered raising doubts of bringing together the warring President Kibaki and Raila Odinga sides. about 19 hours ago from web

Human Rights Watch urged the government to allow rallies led by opposition leader Raila Odinga, which are due to start Wednesday. 04:18 PM January 13, 2008 from web

Kenya death toll tops 700 as protest rallies loom. 04:17 PM January 13, 2008 from web

John Kufuor, Ghana's president and the current African Union head, flew home from Nairobi after failing. 07:21 PM January 10, 2008 from web

The former UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, was yesterday enlisted to help broker a peace deal in Kenya. 07:20 PM January 10, 2008 from web

Kenya President Says No Recount, or Vote. 01:39 PM January 09, 2008 from web

Hospitals in towns such as Nyeri say their wards are full of Kikuyu men suffering from wounds from axes, machetes, and bows and arrows. 01:38 PM January 09, 2008 from web

Facebook
Facebook has also become a platform for fundraising and raising awareness. Kenya’s Post Election Humanitarian Crisis is created to raise awareness the situation in Kenya.

Some of messages left on their page read:

Hi Nadine, Thanks for wanting to help! The situation in Ukunda is starting to stabilize. However, there are still many families who are struggling financially due to the effects of this crisis. There was a period of two weeks where the market was closed, for fear of looting if they opened. You know how people live there day to day… Anyhow, right now the primary need is for food. There are many children who are going hungry. The money I sent to Mama Kenn, I told her to focus on feeding children in Ukunda who are in need. She has the purest heart of anyone I know and would feed a child before she fed herself without blinking an eye.

hey, this is the kind of group im looking for. im tired of polital rants and raves and i just wana give wat i can now. so could u please tell me more on the situation in ukunda and which goods will be needed?
i have some friends living in the area and will be more than willin to send my donations in cash to them and then having the goods which are required delivered to the children.so please let me know wat is needed and to whom. thanks!

Hey Huss…thanks for the inspiration…i called my Mama last night, I happy to report she is doing ok…but I going to Western Union some money to her as well….keep me posted friend…I feel like we all need to brainstorm some things to do here…hope to see you soon, ox

Emergency Crisis in Kenya is created by the Christian Blind Mission Ireland:

CBM is responding to the situation in Kenya. After weeks of political turmoil, violence has claimed the lives of an estimated 500 people and displaced around 250,000 in search of safety.

Another group is Peace for Kenya:

This cause seeks to raise money for Samaritan's Purse ( http://www.samaritanspurse.org/ ) and other Organizations trying to meet the needs of more than 500,000 affected Kenyans, including more than 250,000 people who have been driven from their homes. Thousands more are escaping ethnic violence.

Flickr
There is a Kenya Elections 2008 Flickr page:

Joshua Wanyama of AfricanPath has offered to help grow and manage images on Flickr of the post-election crisis in Kenya. You can find the Kenya Post-Election Pictures 2008 Flickr group here. Consider sending yours in and tagging your images with “KenyaElection2007

Wiki
An online community led by a Lithuanian activist, Andrius Kulikauskas, is using their community wiki to offer help:

Meet with us! Meet us in our chat and wiki session to help the Kenyan rebirth and draw inspiration for Lithuania and all the world.
Chat with us! 8 seconds ago. Fred1: whetherthe number and sentence of Margret has been added to kenyan to call right
Wiki with us! 1 minutes ago. FredKayiwa: KenyansToCall

Sokari writes about their work:

One excellent resource has been created by Worknets a global community Wiki site. They have a series of dedicated spaces which provide a resource of new sites and bloggers, action alerts, commentary and chat rooms by and for Kenyans.

Ethan writes about their use of PayPal, M-PESA and Kenya’s leading e-commerce site, Mama Mike’s:

Andrius Kulikauskas, a Lithuanian activist, has been asking his online community what they can do to help people in Kenya. They’ve begun a service that raises money via PayPal and transfers it to people in Kenya via mobile phone credit transfer services, like Mama Mike’s, and via M-PESA. They’re vetting recipients based on a simple reputation mechanism – they’re asking friends in Kenya to recommend people in need

Bridging the Digital Divide

Finally, what does all this mean in the context of the digital divide in Kenya?:

While blogging, emails, Twitter and the internet are doing a great deal of good getting the news out of what’s going on in Kenya to the rest of the world, I find myself troubled. You see, the communication that needs to be happening is at the grassroots level. Everyday Kenyans do not have access to any of these services.
Let’s put our minds and capabilities towards solving real problems for people beyond the technologically elite.

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