#Help, #sheep #missing.
April 5, 2012 12:07 PM   Subscribe

Twitter is being used as a crime-fighting tool by a tech-savvy village chief in Kenya. Francis Kariuki, the administrative chief of Lanet Umoja, has used the micro-blogging site for everything from tracking down missing sheep to stopping home invasions.
posted by infini (10 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

I love thinking about these types of innovations as technology that's just waiting to be discovered on the infrastructure that's being built around us.
posted by stratastar at 12:28 PM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Any idea where Lanet Umoja is? I found some media sources that refer to a city of 28,000 (e.g.) and it being located 100 miles west of Nairobi, but I've been looking around on Google, Wikimapia, and Google Earth and can't find any such place.
posted by crapmatic at 12:31 PM on April 5, 2012

The other day some young Estonians who dropped by to see me whipped out their map of Kenya to show me where they were off to for their fieldwork, apparently quite close to where I'd been in the beginning of February. We couldn't find the town I'd spent 10 days in, nor the one 45 km away on the Mombasa Highway. So... if it isn't on the maps, it doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

you may want to check the district - Googling shows me its in Nakuru county. And the closest I find is Lanet Umoja Primary School so its gotta be around there somewhere but there's no guarantee it will show up in the first few maps you look for. I've spent hours searching for decent maps online and usually find them in odd places like NGOs mapping maize harvest yields or some such.
posted by infini at 1:27 PM on April 5, 2012

Thanks... your post motivated me to look some more, and after looking around I found a Kenyan news source that put it "near Nakuru". Tying Umoja and Nakuru together in Google led me to some real estate listings and this Wikimapia link. So here is some Lanet Umoja map goodness.
posted by crapmatic at 1:59 PM on April 5, 2012

Looks like its more of a 'suburb' than a rural village per se... Nakuru's close to being dubbed the 4th official 'city' of Kenya and has the boomingest cyber cafe industry anywhere (yeah, I made taht word up but how would you describe industry growth in the past 5 years from 20 cyber cafes to 80?) Implying, to me at least, that there's spillover re: social media like Twitter, which isn't as common tbh as Facebook in upcountry locations.

See, your post has me pondering this phenomena now...
posted by infini at 2:13 PM on April 5, 2012

I love thinking about these types of innovations as technology that's just waiting to be discovered on the infrastructure that's being built around us.

OK, grandpa question time: So I don't really know Twitter. I've seen it, but don't really use it or follow anyone. Why is Twitter considered so revolutionary with respect to organizing and communicating like this? Is there something in particular that make it more effective for broadcasting a message than, say, blogs or emails or text messages? Is it more easy to operate on mobile phones or something? What's the deal?
posted by Hoopo at 4:27 PM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Uh, short answer, yes. :p

In this case, it works with mobile texting (so no smartphones needed), you just decide to receive updates (via texts) from people you want to follow.

More generally, think of it as a chatroom but "roomless." The rooms are limited to who or even what topic you decide to follow. So its decentralized, voluntary, scalable, and malleable.

Its essentially the same as IRC, blogs, or texts but much more scaled, centralized, asyncronous, and real-time. These general factors add up to it being more responsive in certain situations.
posted by stratastar at 6:58 PM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's also effectively a free way to distribute messages to a lot of mobile phone users, which given the high penetration of mobile devices, and the very inelastic pricing of text messaging, means it's often useful in the many countries where Twitter has a deal with the local telcos.
posted by ntk at 9:09 PM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Kariuki's official Twitter page shows 300 followers, but the former teacher estimated that thousands of the 28,000 residents in his area receive the messages he sends out directly and indirectly. He said many of his constituents, mostly subsistence farmers, cannot afford to buy smart phones, but can access tweets through a third-party mobile phone application. Others forward the tweets via text message.

"Twitter has helped save time and money. I no longer have to write letters or print posters which take time to distribute and are expensive," Kariuki said.

posted by infini at 12:18 AM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

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