A leading community organizer in Kenya has been using Twitter to help rally people to come to the aid of those in need. And no, to clarify with you flat earth-believers out there, I’m not talking about President Obama. I’m talking about someone who is actually Kenyan, Chief Francis Kariuki, who’s been using Twitter as a means to send out alerts to his community to keep them up-to-date on events. In one case, Kariuki even summoned people to help stop a robbery-in-progress at a neighbor’s home.
Kariuki’s use of Twitter is a pretty ingenious way to circumvent the problematic absence of internet access to most of the people in his community. While most can’t get online, almost every household has a cell phone which can receive Kariuki’s tweets via text messages as he posts to his account. In the instance of that bout of crime-fighting, Kariuki tweeted out, “Thieves in Kelven’s living room, let’s help him out please,” which alerted several local residents who then surrounded the house and managed to avert the would-be larceny.
Kariuki talked to CNN about how effective texts-via-tweets has been for helping keep his community informed.
“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.”
“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?”
The success of Kariuki’s implementation of Twitter thrives on the fact that the text messages his community receives are all free of charge and they don’t even need a Twitter account to receive them. On Twitter’s FAQ, the site explains how such a notifcaiton system can work when so many of Kariuki’s neighbors don’t have internet access let alone a Twitter account. Through the use of the Fast Follow feature, anyone with a cell phone can subscribe to updates from a Twitter user without first requiring an account themselves. The process of signing up is extraordinarily easy, too: simply text “Follow [username]” to your local Twitter area code and you’ll begin to receive text messags anytime that person tweets an update.
Kariuki uses his Twitter feed for more purposes than to prevent crime (although that’s a pretty boss use of it). He also dispenses helpful information to the community members about job openings and general comments of inspiration.
People may be talking, trying to make you look bad, but don’t let it distract you. Let God handle it.
A job vaccancy in a college restaurant. Job: supervisor/cashier. CPA1 & 2 years experience in a busy restaurant. sms ua details to 0722 …
We all have setbacks in our yesterdays. But your past doesn’t define your future. Today is a new day.
Aside from the John Glenn School retroactively live-tweeting the Friendship 7 launch and now Kariuki’s story, this is becoming an awesome week for novel uses of Twitter.