Enter the age of the tweeting politician [Nation (Kenya)]
(Nation (Kenya) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Technology has magnified politicians' words. They come at us faster, more frequently, and from every angle. And the battle to win the next elections is increasingly being staged in cyberspace.
The use of electronic political activism is slowly taking shape in Kenya. WikiLeaks showed us how, by releasing caches of documents about political actors online, the Internet could destabilise traditional political establishments and send shivers down the spines of political bigwigs.
Advancements in technology, we assume, are only going to get better, and with leaders using social networking sites like Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and YouTube while making a conscientious effort to learn about the tech world around them, things could only get thicker.
They are listening to their constituents via those social networking sites, and that is the clearest sign that the age of digital politicking is here with us.
Lunga Lunga politician Khatib Mwashetani believes technology is crucial in politics:
"It's the way to go," he says, "It's very influential. I'm working with IT experts on several apps that I will use to boost my campaigns. That aside, I'm using Facebook and soon our messaging app will be up and running."
Technology is also being utilised to raise money as major candidates make mobile communication a big part of their fundraising and messaging efforts.
Just a few years ago, it was novel to have a website as a central way to raise money for an election.
But today multipurpose mobile apps like M-Pesa, YuCash, Airtel Money, and online payment applications like PayPal are being used for fundraising.
Presidential aspirants like Peter Kenneth and Martha Karua are using almost all the local mobile cash transfer services and even PayPal to harness the enthusiasm and generosity of their supporters.
"Websites form an integral part of any aspirant's campaign. Since a website can have a direct link to the public, it will always give the aspirant a platform of coverage when neglected by mainstream media," says IT expert Bill Kinuthia.
Twitter and Facebook are now the real-time news sources for influencers and the media.
They have emerged as a way for candidates to connect directly to constituents without the filter — campaign managers and media experts.
With an increasing number of politicians tweeting, there is no doubt that Twitter could play a big role in the 2013 elections, in possibly unforeseen and unwanted ways.
In the 2007 elections, social media had little or no impact. Facebook was barely teething.
Four years later, it is likely that the savvy use of analysts by candidates to sift through the mountains of data made available through social, mobile, and other types of profiling could give them an edge over their opponents.
And technology has made it even easier for political parties and aspirants to recruit members.
"It saves time to just sign up online. It's less expensive and very fast. And it links to the constituents," says web developer Pius Ngeti.
Pius adds that by getting people to sign up, they collect e-mail contacts of the members and this helps when sending bulk information through what he called "e-mail blasts".
And information technology experts have developed software that politicians could use. Camelot, Click and Pledge, Activate Direct, and Blue Campaign Solutions, among others, are changing the patterns of politics.
And for all their fanciful words and YouTube channels, politicians tend to use technology to express and explain. They certainly do not use it to lead.
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