The African blogosphere part II – Kenya

Kenya provides a great individual case study of the African blogosphere, as there has been a lot happening there in terms of developing Internet access and localized Kenyan content in 2007. Despite halting progress, The Kenyan government is working on securing more widespread Internet access through an undersea fiberoptic cable, and has received money from the World Bank to facilitate this connection (Duncan, are there any more details you can provide?)
In addition to this online community and aggregator, the Kenyan blogosphere is extensive and vibrant. Started July 5, 2004, the Kenyan Blog Webring is a portal to the Kenyan blogosphere with an impressive breadth of coverage and a vibrant community comprised of individual bloggers. Ndesanjo Macha, a citizen journalist for the Global Voices project, offers an excellent summary of KBW’s activities and role in giving Kenyans a voice online. He writes that

Since its birth, KBW has been able to bring to a global audience gigabytes of voices, opinions, news, knoweldge and debates from the Kenyan blogosphere.

Writing on his own personal blog, KBW administrator Daudi Were declared 2007 to be “the year of emergence,” where KBW solidified its position as an Internet institution in Kenya. He says,

The most frequent support question we would be asked in the Admin Team during the first two years was, “Why should I start a blog?” or “What is a blog?” or variations on that theme.

In the last year we mainly get asked, “I have a blog, how do I join the webring?” or “How do I get your aggregator to syndicate my content?” or variations on that theme. They “why” and “what” questions are decreasing, the “how” questions are increasing.

That is a good sign and KBW members have played a big role in convincing Kenyans to blog. These days when someone asks me why they should blog I simply point them to the KenyaUnlimited aggregator. I can almost guarantee you that they will read something that they either agree with whole heartedly or disagree with completely, that fuels an urge in them to get to a keyboard and start typing to contribute to the debate.

In response, Sokari from Black Looks adds her thanks that KBW has played the role that it has played for the past three years.

Beyond the KBW itself, certain individual blogs offer a constantly updated view of the Kenyan blogosphere and/or current issues facing the Kenyan people. In response to a perception that Kenyan government officials have begun trying to enrich themselves at the expense of the Kenyan people – a perception fueled by such events as police raids of Kenyan media outlets last year and police force directed at protesters protesting and attempt by the Kenyan parliament to award themselves pay raises, as well as protests against a law to restrict media freedom proposed by the parliament – Ory Okolloh and a blogger who goes by the name of “M” started Mzalendo, a watchdog blog that publishes updates on the activities of the Kenyan parliament. This project grabbed attention around the Internet, from the BBC to Ethan Zuckerman’s widely read blog. In fact Mzalendo received enough media attention both in Kenya and around the world that at least one Kenyan official has used the site to explain his rationale in voting as he did in parliament.

And no, not all blogs in Kenya are about technology, Internet access, and current issues. Hash, a blogger at White African, one of the best blogs on technology in Africa I’ve encountered, lists KenyanMusings as a blog of interest. KenyanMusings is a blog kept by a 25 year old lady in Nairobi who writes about her daily life, much the way a young blogger in Milwaukee or Tulsa might. Reading through her blog I found a lot of fluff, but I found her writing to be an interesting street-level view of life in Nairobi – similar to many of my friends blogs here in the U.S., but with a definite African perspective added to the mix.

This blogosphere activity has spawned a Kenyan information technology group, BarCamp Kenya, which has weekly meetings to discuss information and technology related issues and maintains a blog called Skunkworks. Google has taken notice of this activity, and had one of their employees featured in a BarCamp Kenya discussion.

Other types of Kenyan Internet community services are also developing themselves. Hash writes about Mashada, an online community, message board, and blog aggregator based in Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi. As Hash says,

…This is one of the best community sites coming out of Africa today. It’s got a very healthy community of active users that make it their daily destination for conversation and news.

As Daudi Were noted, 2007 has been (and continues to be) a year of massive growth for the Kenyan blogosphere. And as it continues to grow in coming years, so will its ability to tell the stories of Kenyans to a global audience.

Posted by Aaron Bowen

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