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iHub Research By Editor / June 6, 2013

Online vs. Offline: Tales from Mathare


By Chris Orwa (@blackorwa)

Last week, the iHub Research team visited Mathare to interview residents to better understand any disjoint between offline and online worlds in respect to incident reporting during the 4th March elections. From our initial interviews, it is apparent that much more happened than was reported on social media (twitter) and mainstream media (newspapers). Insights from interviews helped us to better understand a phenomenon of online self-censorship. An assumption we held going into the field was that most residents in poorer communities like Mathare do not report incidents through social media because of lack of smartphones, awareness about such platforms, and/or disposable income to buy credit/data. On the contrary, one of the respondents we talked to knew at least five people who were on twitter; another interviewee had an active twitter account and blogged regularly. So, why minimal incident reports from these poorer areas?

It seems, based on deductions and admissions from our interviews, that online, no one wants to be associated with Mathare and those who do post material about Mathare should not post negative things about Mathare or they are castigated (usually offline) for putting up “negative” information about their communities online. This seems to suggest a type of self-censoring online community where everyone knows everyone (since it is a small network of Mathare residents who are online) that, if necessary, will clamp down on those who release negative information about their area. In comparison, in the middle-class estates, the story is completely different.

From our preliminary analysis, the highest number of election-related reporting and online discussions came from middle-class to upper-class estates (Langata, Westlands, Karen, Buruburu, Komarock etc), an indication that the online sharing and reporting (even of negative things) might be a culture of the well-to-do urbanite, a culture of the middle class. In Mathare, despite most respondents admitting to hearing gunshots during the electioneering period, our analysis of the 2.5 million Tweets collected during the election period have not picked up any such reports, other than a gunshot in Kitengela area. It brings to light what is considered “normal” in different areas of Nairobi; while in Kitengela, a gunshot is an incident worth reporting, in Mathare it is a normal happening, not worthy of a report.

As our research field team heads to other hotspot locations in the country, we hope these tales will enable us to create a robust crowdsourcing framework to encapsulate all the dynamics in Kenyan society.

Author : Editor

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  • kaluka at 09:06:50AM Friday, June 7, 2013

    Some people sensor themselves but i also believe some do not bother reporting as they do not see any value that will come out of it. They would rather live the way they are rather than go to the extent of reporting and no one responds.

  • javin ochieng at 11:37:13AM Monday, June 10, 2013

    where did u conduct your research since it not capture the real picture of ICT development in mathare by way mathare residence used social media to help each other during election so don’t focus on the negative our dear friends.

  • Simon Kokoyo at 16:01:14PM Monday, June 10, 2013

    The study was short of looking at other social media being used in Mathare apart from blogging. Kindly to your research well and you will realize that many people within Mathare used facebook to post. I think lack of smart is not a limitation in the use of social media. The use of social media should people driven and technology only facilitate the process

  • Kepha Ngito at 16:46:32PM Monday, June 10, 2013

    Check out, a dedicated team of young Mathare residents as well as other several independent citizen reporters who use both online and offline platforms to report incidences. Map Mathare is an affiliate programme of Map Kibera Trust (

  • Yvonne at 21:40:06PM Monday, June 10, 2013

    I like the post that you have written about online verses offline. one thing am sure about people living in mathare is that nobody is willing to share an information about mathare and thats why you may conclude there are few information or rather news from mathare. but as citizen journalist from mathare and especially me as a blogger we tried using the sms platform(ushahidi) , our blog page and our youtube channel and we worked hand in hand we the community. so if you want to get any information on mathare you can follow us on twitter or watch our videos on youtube channel(map mathare) and blog(www.voiceofmathare/org) our fb page Map mathare


  • ronald at 22:17:16PM Monday, June 10, 2013

    I think may concur with u on the issue of most resident are afraid to give out info especially concerning crime because I reside in Mathare 3c village to be precise,an area know notoriusly for all manner of antisocial behavior. but my main concern regards the incidents reporting of 4th march election, your alleging that they were many unreported incidences,you went even further to give examples of incidences of gunshots, this according to the corespondents you allegedly interviewed confirmed that there was gunshots and non was reported. I wish to take this opportunity to inform u that a dedicate team of Map Mathare an intiative of Map Kibera which is uses digital platform to inform and report of incidence happening in and within our community made up of residences covering the ten villages of mathare. During the electioneering period we did a splendid work, trying all we could to report all incidences worth reporting…? so may be I would urge you to do a thorough research and be certain before you put your pen to work…….for a real insight information about this years electioneering period visit our blog at,, our youtube account ,mathare in motion.

  • RICHARD CHAPIA at 00:35:49AM Tuesday, June 11, 2013

    I have read through the post and i think i have understood it very well. From the look of things in accordance to the post, its like no reports were submited during the election period. If i may ask in good faith which part of Mathare did the research specifically done? We are in Mathare and we know all the hot spots within Mathare. I would categorically state that Map Mathare was fully on the ground from the VOTER REGISTRATION DAY, NOMINATION DAY to ELECTION DAY and its after math. If there is anyone who doubts the information he can visit: or also visit mapmathare youtube channel. We also have our SMS line which is 0726300400 where by some incidence that took place in different parts of Mathare were reported by the reporters who were fully on the ground to give first hand information after confirmation. There is a saying that goes “No matter how hard you are trying to put yourself up, there is someone working hard to put you down”. For a fact i have been born and raised in the slum and sometimes not everyone will be pleased with you in the community. Some will appreciate you while some will try to put you down. And when all this happens i always say to myself “You must not loose faith in humanity, humanity is an ocean and if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean doesn’t become dirty”. Map Mathare played a major role in Mathare as compared to some other top media houses who feared even stepping in some areas of Mathare. I repeat if there is anyone who has doubts that no reportings, blogs written or videos captured in Mathare, he or she can visit: or mapmathare you tube channel or also confirm from the sms line. Thank you all.


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