The Atlantic just wrote this emotional piece predicting Twitter’s demise (don’t worry, apparently they write a lot of “end of” stories). Personally, I believe Mark Twain’s misquote fits perfectly here, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
My friend Jonathan Ledgerd just sent me some links to the work that he and his colleagues have been doing at EPFL’s Afrotech Future Africa Initiative (Afrotech-EPFL) in Switzerland. They took all the geolocated tweets from Nairobi over a 3-month period near the end of 2013, with a total of 200,000 tweets in the data set.
The first of several such Twitter maps for African cities is Nairobi, you can find it here: http://twitter.lab.idiap.ch/
(Click on the top right icon to display and keep zooming in – at maximum granularity you can see exactly where the animals hang out in Nairobi National Park based on geolocated Twitter traffic.)
A few of Jonathan’s findings:
Tweeting does not mean production
More tweets are sent from Nairobi’s golf courses than from its factories. The industrial area of Nairobi, along Enterprise Road, produces some 8% of Kenya’s GDP, but sends sends fewer tweets than are sent from the fairways of the nearby Kenya Railway Golf Club.
Twitter is not yet embedded in the state.
Police, army and air force hardly use Twitter at all. The Kenyan army barracks on Langata Road is home to several thousand of the country’s infantry and elite commandos. It posts almost no Tweets, compared to the dense Twitter traffic produced on the road itself and in the new housing estate opposite the entrance to the barracks. Similarly, the Kenyan air force base in Eastleigh does not Tweet. By contrast, the mostly ethnic Somali community living along the edge of the base are active tweeters. More data is required to determine if government ministries reflect the pattern of the city’s military bases. If so, there may be implications for a state moving on an information cycle which is slower and less precise than that used by younger Kenyans in the private sector.
Twitter is still in English language
81% of recorded tweets were in English according to an automatic language detection system. Only 5% were in Kiswahili. The rest were in an array of other languages including Hindi, Kikuyu, Somali, Luo, the Sheng dialect, and other languages. Many of these were mixed with English. This contrasts with the wider use of Kenyan tribal languages on Facebook and in text messaging. The use of English is uniform even in the lower income dormitory towns such as Wajere and Rongai. More research is needed, but the brevity allowed to tweets as well as the common platform might force the use of English.
But Twitter is becoming more pervasive
The first tweet in Kenya was probably the one sent by the co-founder of Twitter, Evan Williams, from the lounge of the Mount Kenya Safari Club on August 11, 2007. There are now 250,000+ active Twitter accounts in Nairobi – 6 Twitter accounts per 100 Nairobians, against estimated mobile phone density of 80 mobiles per 100 Nairobians.
There are a lot more observations than this, which you can find on the map if you toggle the control on the upper-right.