Mar 27 2012

How a Kenyan chief used Twitter to tackle community crime

We were delighted to see this recent CNN article about a Kenyan chief using the social network Twitter to thwart a robbery!

cell phoneOnce the chief in the town of Lanet Umoja discovered that thieves were breaking into a neighbor’s house, he sent a tweet that local residents picked up through a free text messaging service.

Once residents surrounded the house, the would-be thieves fled.

Not only does this story show the power of a unified community, but it also demonstrates the reach of social media and cell phones in Kenya. The use of cell phones in that country has increased dramatically since 2000.

Janet Tinsley, CFCA project director for Kenya, said that cell phones have revolutionized the way that people connect there.

Even though landline telephones were historically too expensive for most families, cell phones have become more available as the government loosened controls on the telephone industry.

“A new, basic cell phone still costs around $100 in Kenya, far out of the reach of most of the population,” Janet said. “However, there are very vibrant used and black market cell phone markets operating in nearly every corner of the country.

“While a used phone can still be a bit costly, black market phones can be fairly cheap, making it possible for even families with limited means to own one.”

Before inexpensive cell phones were available, communities struggling with poverty were even more isolated. Now, at least, they have access to some form of communication.

Most of these cell phones are on a pay-as-you-go system that needs recharging from a card that can be purchased at almost any small shop or kiosk, Janet said.

Many people choose to send text messages instead of calling, as text messages use less of a phone’s credit.

CFCA social workers, for example, may inform mothers group leaders about important events through text messages, who in turn spread the word to those who don’t have access to phones.

“It is very common for CFCA social workers to communicate with, or get the news out to, families participating in the sponsorship program about meetings and CFCA events through cell phones,” Janet said.

The times, they are a-changing! What are some ways in which you communicate the latest news to your family?

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