Accepted paper:

How Digital Media Are Influencing Politics and Political Spaces in Kenya


Johanna Riess (BIGSAS)

Paper short abstract:

In western discourse, digital media in African countries are often associated with so-called digital divide or democratic hopes. Because of increase of smartphones, talks about digital divide are out-dated. Because governments are trying to block the Internet, democratic hopes seem to be questioned.

Paper long abstract:

Through technical improvements and cheaper access digital media are playing a crucial role in the Kenyan society. For many years mainly Internet caf├ęs have been the most important source for Internet access. Nowadays there are more and more people who own a private Computer/Laptop or use their working place to access the Internet. But the most important change is the rapid spread of mobile use of the Internet in Kenya. In my presentation I want to show how digital media are appropriated in the Kenyan political discourse and how Kenyans used digital media for political discussions during the elections of 2013. The research is based on a 11-month field-work in Nairobi, Kenya. The third Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki started to introduce the idea of the digitization of Kenyan society in 2005. Current president Uhuru Kenyatta used the idea of "being digital" during his election campaign 2013. During so-called post election violence in 2007/2008 over 1100 people were killed. Everybody was watching the election 2013 with worries and tension. During the election 2013 social media platform Facebook was used for political discussions when all other media were more or less under governmental control. Even though Kenyan government also tried to control the Internet, especially social media as Facebook and Twitter, users developed ways how to bypass the online-tracking of the government.

panel P028
Social media and the political sphere in Africa: reshaping democratic engagement?