Social Media and Elections in Kenya

It took 38yrs for radio to garner 50 million users. Facebook got  over 200 million in less than a year! The impact that social media is having on our lives is huge. Africa has begun to embrace this child of the internet, and it is amazing to see journalists from all over the continent hanging out on Google+ on world press freedom day (see video). Such a thing was not possible three years ago. Kenya has over 2 million people who actively use twitter, the highest in the region. What makes you think that social media will not crown the next president of the country?

While it is true that what happens online is not necessarily what happens on the ground, the world is moving really fast to ensure that the two are in sync. We are soon going to find out that presidents will be elected based on the number of followers that they have on twitter, Facebook, Google+, and the number of blogs that speak favorably about them. Mainstream media outlets have begun to embrace this in Kenya, and you only need to watch NTV, Citizen and K24 to realize this. Kenya has not fully embraced social media, but you can take this to the bank: in 2017, the president to be will ride to the house on the hill on the back of social media.

We can’t go back to the precipice again

What about 2012 (or 2013)? How will social media affect voting patterns in the country? Ethnic based campaigns are on their way out, but the unfortunate thing is that they’re still present in the country, preparing us for another PEV!

It is my opinion that while Social media will play a part in the forthcoming election, it will NOT play a very decisive role in it. Here’s why:

Have fun and stalk people!! lol…

1). Kenyans are just starting to discover social media. We have yet to utilize the full scope of social media in politics. Granted, there are many people on social media platforms who are making an impact on the political scene, but the sad thing is that it’s not making a huge impact on all Kenyans. Not all of us use Facebook and twitter. Of those that do, only a few actually use these platforms every day to discuss politics. You’ll have to agree with me that we mostly use Facebook to update our statuses, play games and stalk other people!

2).A large no. of Kenyans access the internet using mobile phones. Most of these phones do not have the capabilities of offering that positive internet experience that we all crave for. The browsers on these phones only give you the bare essentials. This means that most of us will only go to Facebook, have a little fun and that’s it.

We need more phones like these

New models are coming into the market every day, and prices are bound to fall (thus making it easier for the ordinary mwananchi to get one). It’s only when the large majority of Kenyans will have efficient mobile phones that support operating software (Android and Apple, etc) that we’ll start seeing some progress in the realm of social media in Kenya.

That being said, enormous strides are being made in the sector, and the number of internet subscribers in Kenya has been increasing in the past few months, and is now hovering around the 6 million mark. You can read the full report here. Even the elderly are joining in on the fun, and this is set to increase as the months roll by.

By 2017, serious issues will be discussed fervently on social media.

This is why I’m convinced that social media will definitely affect the forthcoming elections. However, its full effects will not be seen until 2017. By that time, the number of internet subscribers will be large enough to ensure that what happens on social media platforms will decisively crown the next president.

P.S It’s true that Egypt’s revolution did not depend on the number of people who were on social media (they were not that many), so this might just happen right here in Kenya.
You just never know what might happen. After all, Kenyans are a very unpredictable lot!! So is social media!

Google Hangout on Citizen TV:
Interesting social media facts:

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