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From Kenya to the US: How New Technologies are Changing the Coverage of Elections and Beyond
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From Kenya to the US: How New Technologies are Changing the Coverage of Elections and Beyond


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Fragile States and the Media: A Research Dialogue Across Disciplines - Symposium …

Fragile States and the Media: A Research Dialogue Across Disciplines - Symposium
Guy Collender, LIDC; Charlie Matthews, IDS & James Deane
Stanmer House, Brighton, January 16 2009
Case Study: From Kenya to the US: How new technologies and changing media are affecting elections

Published in: News & Politics, Travel, Business
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  • Charlie First, some background. The main focus on new media in Kenya was originally inspired by the innovative and diverse response of bloggers to the post-election violence in Kenya after the disputed elections of 2007. This led to the creation of a wiki to gather all these different perspectives from alternative sources, not the mass media or political parties. The wiki was discussed and added to at the OUR Media citizen journalism conference on Identity, Inclusion and Innovation in Accra in August last year.
  • Ushahidi was listed as one of the top ten web startups to watch in 2008 by Technology Review.
  • The Kenyan blogger ‘Ritch’ gave a powerful and evocative account of the impact of the unfolding violence. He wrote: “I am hurting inside. I am in mental and emotional pain. I have seen it: my dear Kenyan brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers and children cut down by the machete; shot to death and left to rot in the streets. And before I pen off, please don’t ask me my tribe; I am a Kenyan.” ‘ Africa Expat Wives Club’: Life of expat housewives continues largely as before. We are still able to shop, although the cost of food has gone up noticeably, buy a cappuccino, arrange children’s play dates and meet up for lunch.” Ghanaian blogger, paa.kwesi: 'The Kenya debacle is a prime example of what the lack of a continent-wide defence force leads to. Almost without exception there is no state with the 100% policing capability over its territory. If anything, it will take a few weeks of haggling to pull together an AU force that will inevitably be slow to deploy and command.’ Kenyans for Justice, UK-based group of Kenyans, encourages petitioning for international sanctions against the Kenyan government, sending a letter to your MP and encouraging the press to cover Kenya.
  • Osborn’s study of the role of rumour in fanning the flames in Kibera also supports this analysis. She shows the power of the interaction between rumour, political purpose and modern communications which have given rumour its “particular potency in recent years.” Text messages were sent to circulate destabilizing rumours and hate messages. Bangre declares that because mobile phones were used in this way they were transformed from a communications tool into a “weapon of war”.
  • Bloggers’ comments about the possibilities/drawbacks of new media: Charlie to read when discussing global reach: Fletcher Tembo, Research Fellow at ODI: ‘ The birth of blogs and other kinds of citizen journalism have played a big part in allowing people to express their views across national boundaries. Using today’s technology, almost anyone with basic computer knowledge can capture news and distribute it globally. But we cannot rely on more widespread use of ICTs alone, since many parts of the world still lack access to a computer, let alone the internet.  We need to find other, more inclusive, ways to support people’s voices.’ Jan Abbink (2006), of the African Studies Centre, Leiden: ‘Not only in Ethiopia itself, but also in the Ethiopian diaspora communities, emotions ran high and fierce accusations were traded on a daily basis in numerous website discussions, which contributed to polarisation.’ Guy to read when discussing speed and anonymity: Anonymity is also a double-edged sword. Ethio-Zagol, an Ethiopian who began blogging after the disputed Ethiopian poll in 2005 to expose the government’s human rights violations, described how the nature of blogging lends itself to inflaming passion: ‘Anonymous blogging and comment give people the licence to be gratuitously offensive without being accountable. Hate speech and personal attacks abound. Scepticism, restraint and verification, all important values of proper deliberation, are sometimes in short supply.’
  • Transcript

    • 1. From Kenya to the US: How New Technologies are Changing the Coverage of Elections and Beyond Guy Collender, Communications Officer, London International Development Centre Charlie Matthews, Events Coordinator Institute of Development Studies Fragile States and the Media: A Research Dialogue Across Discipline Symposium Stanmer House, Brighton, January 16 2009
    • 2. Overview
      • Background
      • - New media response to Kenyan post-election violence (Real-time, web-based platform Ushahidi .com, blogs, text messages)
      • - Wiki created and discussed at OUR Media 7 conference
      • Beyond Kenya
      • - Impact of Kenyan experience - Ushahidi platform used in South Africa, DRC, Gaza
      • - Other examples of new media tools worldwide (Ethiopia, US)
      • Characteristics of the new media
      • - Advantages/disadvantages
      • - How the new media increasingly drive the news agenda
      • Contributing to the Wiki
    • 3. Kenyan context: Ballot boxes and killings
      • Disputed election - Mwai Kibaki (Party of National Unity) and Raila Odinga (Orange Democratic Movement) both claim victory after election on 27 December 2007. Kibaki sworn in on 30 December.
      • Violence
      • - 1,000 killed, and 600,000 displaced in riots and disturbances during next six weeks. Mob torches a church near Eldoret, killing about 30 villagers
      • Diplomacy
      • - Ghanaian President John Kufuor, ex-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan mediate between parties and power-sharing deal agreed on 28 February 2008
      • Today’s politicking
      • - Fractious coalition, claims of Ministry of Agriculture cartels
    • 4. : Crowdsourcing Crisis Information
      • Bloggers shared ideas and expertise to create Ushahidi (‘testimony’ in Swahili) mashup
      • Real-time, map-based view of incidents: Riots, deaths, rape
      • Submissions via email/texts, verification with local NGOs
    • 5. Diverse perspectives from the blogosphere
      • Personal, distraught
      • - Kenyan blogger ‘Ritch’: ‘I am hurting inside …
      • Personal, unconcerned
      • - ‘Africa Expat Wives Club’: Life continues ‘largely as before’
      • African dimension
      • - Ghanaian blogger ‘paa.kwesi’: ‘Kenya debacle is a prime example of what the lack of a continent-wide defence force leads to.’
      • Campaigning perspective
      • - Kenyans for Justice – Get Involved , Do Something: Calls for sanctions, letters to MPs, press coverage
    • 6. Text messages spark rumours
      • Research by Michelle Osborn, Oxford University ,
      • - (2008) Fuelling the flames: Rumour and politics in Kibera , Journal of Eastern African Studies, 2.2: 315-327
      • Typical text messages:
      • - Alert! Mungiki r hitting back n slaughtering our pple.
      • - Mungiki terror gang plan massacre by night raids
      • Mobile phones used as a “weapon of war” (Bangre)
      • Power of rumour – Rumours were frequently perceived as truths in Kibera, while government or media accounts of events were dismissed as propaganda (Osborn)
    • 7. Beyond Kenya: Growth of Ushahidi platform
      • Platform used to map xenophobic attacks in South Africa (May 2008), violence in DRC (Nov 2008) , war in Gaza (Dec-Jan 2008)
    • 8. The US election and new media
      • Twitter Vote Report
      • Voter Supression Wiki
      • Comparisons to traditional methods
      • Other countries, similar methods: Mumbai terror attacks, Athens youth protests
    • 9. Characteristics of new media
      • Dynamic
      • - Advantage: Aggregate information in new ways –
      • - Disadvantage: Technology for its own sake or for a purpose ? – questionable value of some Facebook applications
      • Global reach
      • - Advantage: Accessible to internet users worldwide, circumvents censorship
      • - Disadvantage: Exacerbates the inequalities of the digital divide
      • Speed and anonymity
      • - Advantage: Capable of providing real-time news, easy and quick to upload/access information,
      • - Disadvantage: Unchecked, unfiltered
    • 10. Contributing to the Wiki
      • Become a member of the Eldis Community
      • Visit the Wiki Workshop: Gathering Perspectives on the 2007 Kenyan Elections and Their Aftermath
      • - Perspectives from Kenya, Ghana, UK, OUR Media workshop, conflict sensitive journalism
      • Follow instructions online
    • 11. The end IMS Workshop in Kenya on Conflict Sensitive Journalism. Photo: Anne Poulsen/IMS
    • 12. Contacts Guy Collender [email_address] 020 7958 8260 ; Charlie Matthews [email_address] 01273 915 640 ;