Mobile phone campaigns in Kenya

Last week I went to the ‘E-campaigning forum’ also named for the specialists as ‘ECF09′. The event is for people who are into  online campaigning. It’s in Oxford and it’s a good opportunity to network with people from non-profit organisations like OXFAM, Greenpeace but also smaller ones like the Clean Clothes Campaign or the Children’s Food Campaign. OK this got nothing to do with mobile phone in Kenya – but yes of course it is! as one of the most inspiring guest speaker (within a lot of super inspiring speakers) was Tonee Ndungu from The Kenya Wazimba Youth Foundation.

The Kenya Wazimba Youth Foundation

The Kenya Wazimba Youth Foundation

Tonee and other members of the Kenya Wazinba Youth Foundation created a system where they take all the advantages of mobile phones and Bluetooth. They use this technology to pass information and create a social network in Kenya.

1 in 3 people in Kenya got a mobile phone and the penetration rate is growing according to Tonee, but also to Pyramid Research who conduct a report recently on mobile phone in Kenya. People in Kenya are already using their phones mainly for things like money transfer and phones are often shared within communities. So Tonee and his team have experimentated with mobiles to pass info (like funny video clips, infos on the prices of products, etc). With the bluetooth technology and with the help of transmittors, people can get  info on their phones and that really is how the networking started. When violence erupted during the elections in Kenya, messages on the community radio would ask people to help financially those who are suffering from the crisis. People could donate via their phones and that worked!

Now Tonee and the Wazimba Youth Foundation want to take their network forward. Just as I am typing this post, they are looking at ways to develop their websites to allow young Kenyans to share their stories on political issues in Kenya as part of a political education and engagement process leading up to the next national elections.

In his presentation Tonee pointed a few other examples of ways people campaign using mobiles in Kenya. The most famous example is on Ushahidi  (a platform that crowdsources crisis information) . People report violence from their mobile and this is visually representated live on a mashup map.

Another interesting Mobileinfo I gather (and this was mentionned more than once during the e-campaigning forum) is the mobile application Frontline SMS.  It is a free software that turns a laptop and a mobile phone into a central communications hub. Once installed, the program enables users to send and receive text messages with large groups of people through mobile phones. Worth having a look at this one too.

Other links to explore are…

  • Mobile Movement (Beta) – using your mobile phone to support youth entrepreneurs in the slums of Nairobi as they educate younger kids, improve the local environment and grow their small businesses.
  • Sokwanele created a google map for mapping election breaches using data they collected from their Zimbabwean Election Watch series.
  • Text to Change - a non-profit organisation which is devoted to improve health education and medicine adherence via mobile telephony in developing countries.
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