Kenyan government ticked off for poor social media utilization

The government of Kenyan came in for criticism at the AITEC East Africa ICT Summit in Nairobi this week for failing to properly utilize social media in engaging with the country’s population.

Japie Swanepoel, CEO of South African social media company Interactive Concepts, told the summit that there was a gap in terms of population usage of social media sites and the way in which it was utilized by the government.

A study released by Portland Communications in January – How Africa Tweets – found that Kenya was the second most active African country on Twitter with almost 2.5 million tweets in the last quarter of 2011. Only South Africans tweeted more than Kenyans, while Kenyan companies are becoming more active on social media in responding to the queries and concerns of customers.

Yet Swanepoel said government had not adapted to social media as quickly as some corporates had.

“I see a slight gap between that and what is happening in government,” he said. “Close that gap, and let the citizens experience what the customers are on social media”.

Though he commended the government’s online data portal, he said they still had a way to go in building up an effective social media presence that would allow them to engage with the population properly.

“All information I see is all one-sided, whereas social media is about the conversation,” he said. “Why can’t the City Council of Nairobi or any other government department speak to these people?”

He noted that though the likes of Nairobi City Council and Konza Technology City had set up Facebook pages, they did not seem to know how to properly utilize them, with the pages attracting just 316 and 145 “likes” respectively.

It is not the first time the Kenyan government has come in for criticism for failing to use new media to engage with Kenyans, particularly young people. Chris Kirubi, chairman of Capital Media Group and a prolific tweeter, has also been critical of the government’s failure to adapt quickly enough to the new media age.

“I think we have to stop fooling ourselves that we have changed,” he said earlier this year. “We need to believe and get the government to do the right thing. The government talks to youth through a newspaper. Why don’t they go to the platform that the youth use? If the government wants to talk to its citizens it should talk to them in their language, in their medium. I think maybe our government is scared of revolution.”

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