by NAKUNZA ALICE MARGARET
Times have changed and the world is revolving at an alarming rate. It goes without saying that revolution has taken a toll on our day to day routines. The world is now interconnected and movement is much frequent than ever before. Information can now be accessed effortlessly. Activism or rather activists’ movements have been amplified to heights beyond imagination due to the social media. I particularly enjoy the role they play in our societies today, acting as watchdogs and speaking on behalf of many voiceless people. Activists fight to change the current order of things.
Allow me to elaborate; The Liberian Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Leymah Roberta Gbowee, has labored in the peace building efforts in her war-torn country. By empowering women to take up leadership roles, after years of victimization during the war, Gbowee facilitated efforts to end the Second Liberian Civil War. She was instrumental in the ‘Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace’ movement, which granted her a meeting with the then Libyan President, Charles Taylor. Armed with courage, she demanded peace. Her relentless efforts greatly contributed to the end of the Second Liberian Civil war, in 2003.
The digital class eon is marked by the steady enhancement of technology. Funny enough to me a computer was just a gadget that was a necessity and I fall prey as one of those people who complain when the laptop is a little bit slow or taking too much time to process a command. Who would have thought that people would embrace technology this fast? Looking back at the topic of computers as the second revolution of communication and seeing just how long it took to build one and the mere fact that most people then could not own fast processing computers, I am glad to be a millennial breed. My parents are not aged, but growing up, through their college life they did not have computers; sincerely I do not think they even knew of their existence. And the thought of life without a computer is just frustrating.
Coming back to my topic, while the word internet still possess some novelty, activism is well-known among society, it was present before as it is now, the only difference is that now it is amplified with the rise of different tools of digital communication such as blogs, websites, chats, face book and twitter. The term social media to me are social sites that I can post, share, converse, and entertain myself, more so, it has come to like us in ways that were not possible before. Think about it, in this day and era, we live in a networked society that everybody is linked in a way or another. This in turn has helped amplify activism in our lives, who would have thought of resistant movements fighting for justice and the end of conflict when the term social media is mentioned. In most cases all we thought of social media were cyber-bullies and sexual predators.
I remember tales before digitization, during the days of the colonizers, to fight for our independence we formed various movements to fight off the colonizers. Movements such as the Mau Mau who fought for our independence by using the guerrilla warfare that worked in the long run, but imagine how many more people they would have gunnered up if social media existed then. Just think of how policies and governments would be put on the spotlight due to their oppressive ways. Since then the whole idea of activism has risen up to a whole new level. This in turn leads me to the End of power by Moises Naim who states that in this century, power is not permanent, it is easy to get, those who get it, find it hard to use and in the long run it is easier to lose. Activism has proved this beyond all borders, take for instance my all time favorite cyber activist, Robert Alai. His approach makes me take a look into the factors that have led to the end of power such as the more revolution in the digital age. Robert Alai is not only a cyber activist but also a blogger and an entrepreneur. He owns his own information technology weblog at Techmtaa.com. Due to the fact that he believes in truth, he earned himself a bad name, due to the constant social media perspectives that not only inform or entertain but also seem to embarrass the public officials in Nairobi. Never the less, he has been arrested and detained due to the same but this did not put him down instead his constant appeal for justice has made him become an icon for justice to the public.
Alai has been involved in both political and social causes. After the 2013 elections, he led the cord opinion supporters to accept the victory of President Uhuru Kenyatta and asked the country to do the same by appealing to their sense of goodwill. Socially, he financially aided the former Kenyan Lady boxing Legend Conjestina Achieng. In light of the West gate shopping mall attack, Alai played the role of Agenda setting, a theory by Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw, that states that the media plays an important role in setting the public agenda by telling the people what to think about. This is because mainstream media itself and the public were manly informed by him. He was given praises by both the local and the international media for the use of social media mainly Twitter, in time and creatively to provide information of the on goings of the mall. This just proves that the more revolution took place, in that despite the geographical location, news about the attack could reach you. One did not have to wait for the local news to see what was going on in Kenya, Alai kept updating via the social media. It also brings in the factor of Social networking theory by Emile Durkheim and Ferdinand Tonnies, how people, organizations or groups interact with others inside their network. Not many people are followers of Alai on Twitter but due to the issue of interconnectedness, a friend of a friend of a friend could view the updates due to constant sharing and collaboration. Instead of watching the local news that the government could easily spin doctor to protect the public image, Alai was the go to alternative for accurate news. Can you imagine that, depending on the social media for important information such as this. And unlike the mainstream media, Alai was up all night constantly tweeting. Other than the on goings of the attack, he covered the supposed miscommunication among the security agencies that led to the death of many security officers and the much condemned looting of the attacked mall by the security officers.
Imagine a world with no social media, how difficult it would be for us. Social media has made everything easy for us; today we have hash tag activism that enables information to spread wide and far in minutes. Today anyone can be an activist known or even unknown. Social media brings people fair news instead of the distorted news that is usually brought to us by the broadcast and print media. It can be accessible from anywhere as long as one has the device. Activism has been made easier and more comfortable by this media.