15 November 2012

Kenya: Wordcamp 2012, Calls for Responsible Social Media Influence

The 2012 WordCamp Kenya Conference, which featured Orange as the title sponsor, took place last weekend at Maanzoni Lodge, in Machakos.

The two-day event, held on November 10-11, 2012, was conducted under the theme: "Responsible Blogging and Positive Influence on Social Media" and focused primarily on the role of the social media as an emerging medium of communication as well as other aspects of blogging, social media and digital publishing.

Social media's accessibility and the freedom of speech and expression as enshrined in the Kenyan constitution have helped in the growth of Kenya's online presence. This has led to more people being able to freely express themselves by way of the internet, reaching wide audiences both locally and globally.

Giving his opening speech, Kenya ICT Board CEO Paul Kukubo said that the blogging community is shaping perception about the country internationally.

"Bloggers should assist the citizens by thorough analysis and giving feedback on various issues including the National ICT Master Plan. Bloggers should go beyond writing for each other or other bloggers but focus on writing for the wider general public to shape opinion and perception," said Kukubo.

Mr Kukubo emphasized the need for bloggers to be responsible, noting that "one should only do online what they can do offline and stay within the law."

As the platinum partner of the event - through its Kshs 400,000 contribution - Orange's sponsorship went towards the organisation of the franchise conference, for the world's most popular blogging and online publishing software, WordPress.

Speaking at the event, Telkom Kenya's Chief Corporate Communications Officer, Angela Ng'ang'a-Mumo, reiterated the support and efforts from Orange to actively engage with various stakeholders on the social media and blogging scene, as the company increases data penetration levels in the country.

"Orange is a key supporter of content development as relevant local content is key and improved relevant content online is a key indicator of development. We do not even have enough material about Kenya on Wikipedia which is a challenge and an opportunity for the country's tech community and content developers" said Ms Nganga-Mumo.

Ms Nganga-Mumo also reiterated the need for bloggers and other users of online media tools to push positive messages and be cautious about the impact of negative online messages.

The conference aimed to equip participants with knowledge and expertise on how to improve their blogging as well as social media experience in the long-term with the other objective being to give special attention to responsible political blogging and social interaction.

This is especially key as the country gears for its watershed general elections in March 4, 2013 with most politicians getting online and embracing social media tools and platforms to influence votes in their direction as well as disseminate their political messages.

"This is a positive change that could however end up being used as a channel of incitement and abuse of these fundamental rights if used irresponsibly, more so as Kenya prepares for its first general elections after the 2007/2008 violence," said David Mugo, the key organiser of the WordCamp Kenya 2012 conference.

Other speakers at the workshop were popular blogger Moses Kemibaro; Benji Ndolo; poet and writer Njeri Wangare and ePublisher Kimathi Constable. Sweden's Isaac Keyet spoke on the technical aspects of Mobile WordPress. The event was live streamed to Uganda's Outbox Hub and Tanzania's Kinu Innovation lab.

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