Kenyan Chief Foils A Robbery Via Twitter
A Kenyan chief in a town far from the bustling capital foiled a predawn robbery recently using Twitter, highlighting the far-reaching effects of social media in areas that don’t have access to the Internet.
Chief Francis Kariuki said he got a call in the dead of the night that thieves had broken into a neighbor’s house.
He turned to Twitter, which allows users to send messages in 140 characters or less, to reach his community instantly.
“Thieves in Kelven’s living room, let’s help him out please,” he tweeted in Swahili, the local language.
Local residents, who subscribe to his tweets through a free text messaging service, jumped into action. They surrounded the house, sending the thugs fleeing into the night.
He later sent a message thanking the community in his town of Lanet Umoja for coming out.
While Twitter has been associated with bolstering uprisings and anti-government protests in Africa, its use is expanding in the continent, with communities in remote areas tailoring the global service and making it work for local audiences.
In the town 100 miles from Nairobi,a majority of residents don’t have access to computers, the Internet or smart phones. The sporadic cyber cafes strewn across the landscape charge for Internet access.
However, almost every household has a cell phone and text messages are a major form of communication in the nation.
“Every time we have barazas (meetings) twice a month, I make attendees subscribe to my tweets using their regular SMS or text messaging services,”Kariuki said by phone from the town. “It has not only saved on the cost of fliers, it has also allowed us to save trees and contribute to green efforts.”
Subscribers get his tweets in real time in the form of free text messages, and don’t need to have a Twitter account or an Internet connection to receive them. The chief can send them any time using his smart phone.
“It’s all about empowering the local person on the ground with information,” Kariuki said by phone. “Before I decided on this, I asked around — how can I reach all my people in one time at no cost to them?”
Kariuki leads a community of 28,000 residents and while his Twitter account shows he has about 400 followers — or people who get his tweets online — the chief said those who receive his tweets via text message are in the thousands.
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