Translating Online Conversations to Offline Action: The Case of Nairobi Road Safety and Traffic

By Jessica Colaço
  Published 29 May 2012
Share this Article
For those who are frequent users/observers of the Kenyan social networking platforms, you may have picked up on/engaged in trends and initiatives that arise from frustration or a need to transform the status quo as regards service in the private and public sector alike. You’ve probably used the #TwitterBigStick to express indignation towards poor service, or ranted about a matatu/bus/cab that’s overlapped you or even sought to end the ‘red plate menace’. It’s also likely that you’ve borne witness to an accident, or been the beneficiary of user-generated warnings via campaigns such as Red Cross’ iVolunteer, or even shared on the deplorable state of a road/highway, especially in the wake of the rainy season. One of the major socio-economic issues raised on the Kenyan digital sphere relates to traffic and road safety. It may well be because this is the one thing that few of us can avoid, especially in a busy city like Nairobi. With super-highways in construction, pot-holes in formation and traffic-lights as mere suggestions(not strict observations), we all, at one point or the other, have been victim or perpetrator. A recently-released IBM report states that inefficiencies within the city's transport sector cost Nairobi an estimated Sh50 million per day. Road accidents are increasing at an alarming rate. We know what the problem is, and likely where the solution lies,but whose job is it to link the two? How effective is it (or should it be) to tweet about a reckless driver or a matatu that’s completely out of line? Whose job is it to see your tweet/facebook update translate to recourse or punishment, as applies in any given situation? How can the individual, authentic witness accounts generated in no small number, on any given day, on your social media platform of choice, contribute to the much-needed reforms on our roads? With the abolishment of the Traffic Department of the Kenya Police, and barely any (functional) traffic lights on most roads, how will city traffic be managed? And while observations, opinions and recommendations are part of the process, they aren’t the solution. So we need to bring to the table all stakeholders: law enforcers, policy makers, opinion shapers,and you, the motorist/cyclist/pedestrian/tweeter/facebook updater. On June 2nd, at the iHub, from 10 am - 12 noon, this will be the issue discussed. It is fast becoming evident that it isn’t the job of any one person/institution to restore sanity on our roads. It will take collective effort, collective intelligence and collective commitment. There will be presentations on the IBM report findings and recommendations, app developers and initiatives  dedicated to finding the solution. There will be interactive discussion about what’s lacking and how to bridge the communication gap that exists between the law enforcers and motorists. Most importantly, it will be about establishing collaborative effort (be it lobbying for adoption of tech solutions and citizen engagement in traffic reforms or being the initiators of behaviour change on our roads) and commitment to favorable action. The event is a mere starting point, and hopes to generate sustained interest in the change process. Key presentations will include:
  • The Nduru App: allows users to report accidents and situations that are likely to cause a crash.
  • OverlapKE: collating and mapping tweets generated using the #OverlapKE twitter hashtag.
  • iVolunteer: the Red-Cross initiative for digital volunteers to share real-time information on accidents and hazards.
Please sign up here to participate in the event:  
comments powered by Disqus