Kenyan Politicians Become Technology Savvy
Nairobi, Kenya - Dec 2007
The national electioneering period in a country can be an adrenaline fueled experience for those involved in politics. Politicians will go out of their way to win over the electorate. The challenge is to reach the greatest number of people with the most convincing message at the lowest cost.
Kenya will be holding its general elections on the 27th of December, the electoral commission of Kenya has just declared the start of the official campaign period for the presidential, parliamentary and civic seats, however, in reality politicians have been campaigning for months.
In this information technology driven age, politicians have realised the power of the mobile phone and internet. The electorate are witnessing communication through channels that hitherto were inconceivable, given the poor communications infrastructure in most African countries.
Norman Gombe, is a ‘Value Added Services Consultant’ he said, the additional communication methods being used include email/ internet services, GPRS (General Packet Radio Service), EDGE (Enhanced Data GSM Evolution) and short message service (sms) via mobile phones. Gombe clarifies that the technologies associated with these methods of communication are easy to use and they do not require any specialized skills, as long as one is ICT literate. He notes that the issue of enhancing a politician’s popularity should not be seen as the only benefit accruing from the use of these technologies. “There are a plethora of other benefits, such as improved operational efficiency etc.!”
Text messages are relatively cheap to distribute and are a very effective mode of communication. Gombe notes an example recently in the political arena; “when we launched the sms and 0900 numbers for the leading opposition presidential candidate, ‘Raila Amollo Odinga’, it became a headline story in some of the daily mainstream papers. This obviously gave this politician a lot of political mileage as well as portraying him as a trendsetter, since then other leading politicians have followed suit. The effectiveness of sms was underlined when the president urged his supporters to ignore messages delivered via this channel that have been sent by his opponents.”
Gombe further revealed that all the leading candidates have set up very creative and enticing websites containing audio and video clips highlighting their key campaign issues.
Gombe concludes that the adoption of the latest communication technologies is inevitable, as the world is working with real time information because of the advancement in technology. Politicians are only taking their piece of the technology cake.