Melissa Tully is a PhD student at UW-Madison who is researching the use of social/new media in social justice work in Kenya. She has been volunteering with Ushahidi for the past two and a half years. In this post, she highlights a workshop that she organized in Kibera.

On April 23 I, along with the Map Kibera team, organized a focus group on the Voice of Kibera (VoK) platform, which is designed to be a place for residents of Kibera, a slum in Nairobi, to post reports and information relevant to them and their community. VoK is a recent initiative of Map Kibera, which itself is a project to produce the first public digital map of this community.

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An early version of Map Kibera

The main goal of the focus group was to get feedback from people who live in Kibera and work with various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community-based organizations (CBOs). We had a great group of participants who openly shared their ideas about the usefulness of the Ushahidi-based platform, especially in regards to the SMS reporting mechanism. They also offered suggestions for how to publicize the site in Kibera.

Participants were excited about using the site to post reports about their community work and suggested that it could be used to post jobs and other opportunities. VoK has a mobile short code (3002) that was provided by their partners at the Social Development Network (SODNET), and the site uses a customized Ushahidi platform featuring videos, photos, a Twitter stream and a separate SMS Reports box. SMS can be used to send information about Kibera-based organizations, opinions on local businesses and services, problems encountered in the community, and things that are happening in the community (both good and bad).

Group Suggestions

After introducing Map Kibera and the Voice of Kibera site, we broke into small groups to test the site, enter new reports, and discuss SMS reporting.

When we reconvened in the large group, we heard great suggestions from each group. Their ideas included asking cyber cafe operators to put VoK as the homepage on the computers as a way of publicizing the site and making it more readily available to Kiberans; doing a better job of harnessing the personal networks of each participant; building relationships with local media, including Kibera Journal and Pamoja FM; and starting an editorial board to make key decisions regarding how the site will run. As a result, the first editorial board meeting will be held this Friday.

If the enthusiasm from the workshop carries over to the next meeting, VoK will be off to a great start.

More information about the workshop, as well as updates on VoK, can be found on the Map Kibera Wiki.

This post originally appeared on the Ushahidi blog.

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