Robbery Stopped by a Tweet

It reads like a movie script. Thieves broke in a rural neighborhood in Kenya, plan in hand to commit somewhat a familiar illegalities. Little did they know that a neighbor was on his phone sending a distress call through his Twitter account. Dozens of followers, who received the tweet through an SMS text alert, responded to the message and foiled the robbery attempt.

No it’s not fiction. What the thieves did not know is that Kenyans took the second place in tweeting Africa, in a recent survey. What the thieves did not also consider, is that most Kenyans can access services such as twitter on their GPRS enabled phones, even though the town is 100 kilometres (about 60 miles) from a much more developed town, Nairobi.
Chief Francis Kariuki who was startled in the night, tweeted in Swahili: “Thieves in Kelven’s living room, let’s help him out please.” Followers of his account who received the tweet in text format, sprang into action, surrounded the house and forced the thieves to flee.

In Egypt social media including twitter, helped the revolution which saw the government of the day being overturned. This is how powerful the potential of social media is for Africa.

“It’s all about empowering the local person on the ground with information,” Kariuki told CNN. “Before I decided on this, I asked around: how can I reach all my people in one time at no cost to them?” Twitter was the answer.

This was not the first time the chief has used twitter to inform and alert his locals of what is happening. He has sent many tweets to mobilize his residents to a cause, at very little cost. According to a research by Portland Communications and the trend-analysis group Tweetminster 57% of tweets from Africa come from mobile phones.

This means the future for internet penetration for Africa still largely depends on mobile devices.

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