It is not about Technology, it is about People

I am still thinking about Riyaad Minty’s reminder about people. One that I would like to share with you here with his permission

All this talk on the role of social media in times of crisis really gets to

me. We’re not living in 2008 anymore folks. Yes, governments and people use twitter and facebook [and others. Thanks for pointing it out… again. Every news story is about PEOPLE. Real people. Who are impacted by something that most of us can never really understand. We sit and go through a ton of unedited footage of the
direct impact a bomb blast has on community, on a family. It’s shocking. It’s horrific. It’s real. Stop talking about the technology. Talk about the people and the issues – this applies to every story, from war to protests to natural disasters. And I say this as someone who runs the Social Media for one of the largest news organisations in the world.

It is particularly apt for technologists and a very important thing to remember when we talk about the systems that we make. It is just as important to focus on the people behind the stories, the report behind the red dot. A reminder to empathize, and whenever possible to assist in the alleviation of suffering. As humans we seriously need to be reminded what it means to have your life suddenly turned upside down. Whatever form that might be. Be it from poverty, war or natural disaster. We’ve seen so many affected, from Haiti, Cuba, North Eastern America, to Palestine and Israel and in my current location – Kenya. We need to zoom in, care and assist someone. Start somewhere…and as Jen Pahlka of CodeforAmerica recently told me. Lets work on the hard stuff.


I am getting increasingly interested in Complex systems science, not just to understand our complex world, but also to learn what can be done in terms of collaborative problem solving. The pre-eminent organization NECSI that studies this makes a point that I think bears repeating, and points as to why we should exceedingly care about individuals when systems start breaking.

“Losing pieces indiscriminately from a highly complex system is very dangerous,” said Dr. Bar-Yam. “One of the most profound results of complex systems research is that when systems are highly complex, individuals matter.” According to Bar-Yam, understanding the weaknesses of civilization is critical to our ongoing existence. “Complexity leads to higher vulnerability in some ways,” he said. “This is not widely understood.”

Other resources:
Book: Zero Degrees of Empathy by Simon Baron Cohen
Map: War on Gaza by AlJazeera
Follow Red Cross Kenya in covering the grenade attacks in Kenya, Javin Ochieng too

Ushahidi’s Netsquared mapping challenge (Action requested)

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We are upto 4 stars this morning, please help us by registering and voting for the Ushahidi project. Why? Because we want to continue mapping not only the violence, but also the ‘doves’ or peace efforts happening in Kenya. The last two months have been traumatic to our collective psyche, and we would like to be well equipped to continue this important project. While we will not hide from the trauma of the events; we want make Ushahidi even more relevant to other countries in Africa.

Crowdsourcing further dev. by Hash
Background info on the Ushahidi project.
The NetSquared Ushahidi page.
More about the NetSquared mashup challenge.

Thank you for those who’ve voted for Ushahidi, lets get some more stars up there!

Local Kenya Number for UShahidi – 6007


Please text incident reports to 6007, kindly include the location where you are texting from. The information will appear on Kindly pass this along to everyone in Kenya, particularly in the rural areas. By and large coverage of the situation in Nairobi is extensive, but we need information from the rest of Kenya as well. Thank you for your support.

Bloggers for Kenya: Thank you

Thank you to our dear blogger friends for supporting Kenya, and for spreading the word on the ‘Support Kenyans in Distress’ campaign with
Georgia of Caribbean Free Radio
African Loft
Kikuyu Moja

As the Mamamikes blog updates, the amount is exceeding $1900.
May i reiterate the thanks to the following people….

Omolo, Kuria, Kimura, Nyokabi, Miaud, Edgerton, Monyo, Kimeria, Dsouza, Kangethe, Muthoni, Coseac, Barbieri, Patel, Jabbar, Mann, Warungongo, Wairimu, Juergen, Njoroge, Laurance, Wanja, Wambui, Romanos, Lutz, Popplewell, Walsh, Kamau

Thank you to the following Kenyan Bloggers for committing their time to volunteer on the 17th.
M of Thinkers Room
Josiah Mugambi of Skunkworks and Mission Driven
The list is growing, so if you are a kenyan blogger/blog reader in Nairobi, please leave a comment if you can make it. we understand the situation might be tenuous but we hope it will be calm on Thursday. If you have any questions please feel free to send me an email, afromusing at gmail dot com

Date: Thursday January 17th 2008
Location: Mamamikes office – Kingsway Hse opposite Nairobi Outpatient Center on Muindi Mbingu Street
Time: 5pm

PS: Ushahidi Update: Local number to report an incident is +254 711 862 149 6007

Bloggers for Kenya, and Hope in Jamhuri Park.

Mamamikes’ donation page is now live. When you click on the homepage, you now have an option to purchase vouchers for Kenyans in Distress. The food and supplies bought will be distributed by the Red Cross to the various parts of Kenya that have been affected by post election violence. This is another way to help and it can save you on wiring costs associated with direct Bank Transfers to the Red Cross. Even without advertising, Mamamikes has already received $300, worth of donated vouchers. (Thank you to that Kind Soul wherever you are)
Update: The amount received so far is now $1000 (thank you!)
For your $10 voucher a package with the following items is purchased for the Red Cross.
-3litres of cooking oil,2kgs of rice and slippers
-2kgs of unga,5litres of water and a pair of shoes
-sanitary products,2kg unga and 2kg of rice
Vouchers are available in the amounts of $15, $20, $25, $50, $75, and you can buy as many as you are able to.

Bloggers for Kenya
This week we would like to appeal to all bloggers, friends of bloggers, wannabe bloggers, diaspora kenyans, Tedsters, treehuggers, geeks, nerds, boingboingers, worldchangers…you get the idea, to give what they can using Mamamikes’ donation page. On Thursday the 17th of January the bloggers in Nairobi will meet at the mamamikes office, assist in purchasing all the items and delivering them to the Red Cross.
Parliament opens tomorrow and there are some rallies planned later in the week, therefore depending on the situation, we will still shoot for Thursday to deliver the items to Red Cross. If for one reason or another the situation is too unstable on Thursday, we will reschedule and let you know. For now, please post about this and tag your posts with ‘Bloggers for Kenya’.

Hope In Jamhuri Park

With all the feelings of helplessness many feel at the current situation; what with failed mediation attempts, fears of more instability as Parliament opens tomorrow, the secondary trauma of watching news of your country being torn apart; perhaps the only thing that can keep Kenyans (here and in the diaspora) sane is doing something to assist the displaced. I have since learned the acronym IDP (Internally Displaced Person), something that aid workers such as Mr. Arunga who works in Darfur, and diplomats in Africa are familiar with…Now the acronym is being used to describe the people camped in various shelters in Kenya.
One such place is Jamhuri Park, Nairobi. I joined Martin and Cynthia of Mamamikes on a visit to Jamhuri Park to see first hand the plight of Internally Displaced persons. It was heart-rending, and very surreal. We could not believe that this was happening in our country, but left with a bit of hope in our hearts as we saw the work of other volunteers, the Red Cross, St. John’s Ambulance Service and even the police/military. Martin and Cynthia have written about the experience here. I will only add some pictures from our day, as they have wonderfully captured everything i wanted to mention in the post. Thank you!
Queues to get food


Queue for health care by St. Johns Ambulance Services

Red Cross
Ahmed’s red cross Jacket. He usually works in Isiolo, but came to Jamhuri Park to help with the tracing activities. I.e figuring out who are the lost children, photographing them, and tracing their relatives.

Soccer with the children

Kevin (the little boy) talks to Victone of the Red Cross,who is part of the tracing team that will try to locate and reunite Kevin with his family.

Children gathered for a bit of entertainment in the afternoon.

Volunteers entertaining the children with song and dance

Watching and listening…

The whole set of photos from the day is here.

The Death of James Odhiambo – Kenya Post Election violence.

Note: Images posted on
Disclaimer: The following images are gruesome and disturbing. The humanitarian crisis is real and dire. Complete set of photos taken in Kakamega by Mr. Arunga are available here. The images include shots of the police station, showing the displaced taking refuge there, burning shops, vandalized petrol station and burned car.

The death of James Odhiambo

Onlookers and concerned citizens around the body of 24 yr old James Odhiambo, who was killed in the post election violence in Lurambi – Junction on the way to Shikoti, Kakamega, western province, Kenya. The gentleman in white (Brian) on the right worked with James at the petrol station as attendants and witnessed the shooting.
The death of Joseph Odhiambo
Close up of the bullet wound on the body of 24 yr old James Odhiambo. According to eye witnesses, he was walking to work when he met the GSU paramilitary. Mr. Odhiambo continued to walking towards towards the GSU as he thought he could talk to them and find out what is happening. According to eyewitnesses, he was shot without even though he was not violent or doing anything that would indicate he would be a threat to the GSU. The witnesses tried to contact the police so they could come and pick up the body, but the police said that they did not have fuel for the vehicle. As of the writing of this post, the late James Odhiambo was buried yesterday in Homa Bay, Nyanza province. Brian and other friends from the area traveled to Homa Bay to comfort the family. If you would like to help the family directly, please do not hesitate to contact Brian Oluoch at +254 724 912015. Mr. Odhiambo was the sole breadwinner for his family…Any contributions towards their well being is appreciated.

Pictures were taken by Mr.Michael Arunga, who works for World Vision in Darfur, and was on holiday at the time. He witnessed the burning of a kikuyu owned property, as shown in this photo.
Burned store

**The decision to post the pictures here and to tell this story is partly because the pictures were sent to editors of newspapers in Kenya, they did not run them or cover the story. As people try to get back to ‘normal’ life around the country, it is important to remember that there is no normal for a lot of people in Kenya.

More ways to Help – Kenya’s Post Election Aftermath

Note: Global Voices Online has a special coverage page that aggregrates posts relating to the post election aftermath, based on Hash’s list of blogs.
Upload pictures, video and report incidents of violence in Kenya.
sms your incident to +44 762 480 2635 once a local number in Kenya is set up we will be sure to update you.

Online Petitions (Doubts on effectiveness aside, it might make you feel a little better)
Gopetition published by Coalition of Kenyans and Allies for Democracy, for Kibaki to Step Down for international friends.

Letâ??s send a wave of messages to our own leaders, asking them to hold off until agreement is reached and the results are independently reviewed: fill out the form below and your foreign minister’s details will automatically be entered – then personalise the message, or just hit send:

Click here.

The blog Sukuma Kenya has a paypal donate button.

Mama mikes is working on a donation page where you will be able to donate specific packages to the red cross. Once its live i will be sure to update you. You can still send credit and other forms of assistance to family members at any time.

Update: Jan 5th, and Ways to Help

Update: 5:45 pm Nairobi Time.
The Mamamikes crew are working to catch up with the orders placed, some of them were stuck in various parts of the country and just made it back yesterday. Most of the orders to Eldoret and various parts of the country are being processed now. Thanks.

I left Eldoret yesterday, with a heavy and broken heart. As much as i wanted to stay and write about what was going on there, i needed to get back to Nairobi and get back to work on my Global Voices gig.
First, this is the link to Kenya Red Cross and you can donate here.

I kept snapping pictures on my way out. This is of a Red Cross Truck heading into town, as we were leaving towards the airport. This was a good sign and a ray of hope.
The Kobil on the right only had diesel available, no petrol, same case with National Oil, just a few miles ahead.
Red Cross truck

The airport is operational. Saw remnants of a roadblock on the way.

From a chat with the former Councilor of Eldoret: There were attempts by religious leaders to convene a peace meeting yesterday, but this did not happen. The hurt and divide inflicted by events of the past several days may be too great to bridge over. It will take time and a concerted effort.

On what can be done: Donate to the Red Cross, which has a Uasin Gishu office. Happened to take a picture of the signpost…
Red Cross Sign
I had ordered some credit using mamamikes on the 1st of January, but still haven’t received it as of today. Like KP said, Safaricom and Celltel need to enable online recharge of airtime so that the diaspora and even Kenyans in Nairobi can purchase airtime for others. My aunt who uses MPESA said it was a godsend and will always keep money for emergencies. This is because MPESA can be used to send airtime/money to yourself and others.

Because of the hurdles encountered using either MPESA (their offices were closed) and Mamamikes, i would suggest that if you would like to Sambaza credit and have an immediate impact, you can send it to The Chairman of Kenya Red Cross Eldoret – Advocate Birech 0722 82 8484, who will distribute it to those affected and aid in the Kenya Red Cross effort in Eldoret. For international readers and diaspora, the link for donations to Red Cross should work, though will update you with more information as it becomes available.

Airlines operating out of Eldoret are
Aero Kenya
Jetlink – cant find website, but these are the numbers i have for Jetlink – 020827531, 020244285 and 0720 608 608

Anyone with other avenues of assisting is welcome to comment. Thank you.

Zimbabwe Suffering

Most of you in the blogosphere have heard how bad things are. If not, click here to see a video of what Mr. Mugabe’s govt is doing. Our African leaders failed to persuade Mugabe to stop the madness, meanwhile Zimbabweans continue to suffer. This picture which appeared on the photo widget caught my eye. It captures a bit of that exasperation and imminent danger to those in Zim.

‘If I die, I want people to know why’
This young man joined Zimbabwe’s National Youth Service in late 2005 and has related to the M&G stomach-turning details of secret prisons and torture camps. He has now been moved to an unknown location in Europe and continues to fear for his life and for the lives of his remaining relatives in Zimbabwe.
John Grobler, M&G

Read the full story about the above picture here (Title – “I was in a Zimbabwe Death Squad”).

Please visit a fellow blogger Sokwanele for more information and info on how you can help. Thanks.