Mobile-based information service helps sift fact from fiction in KenyaBy Sentinel Project
International Development Research Centre
iHub Research Centre
The Tana Delta region in south-eastern Kenya has been suffering violent conflicts between the nomadic Orma and the farming Pokomo tribes, which left 52 people dead in 2012.
The violence is often influenced by local rumours, for example that the Orma had obtained a large number of weapons to use against the Pokomo or that a Pokomo health worker had tried to poison Orma children. In an atmosphere of fear and mistrust, the first response to a rumour is to believe it, which can escalate existing conflicts.
A Canadian non-profit called the Sentinel Project, dedicated to assisting communities threatened by mass violence, has developed a mobile-based information service called Una Hakika (meaning ‘are you sure’ in Swahili) to help address false rumours.
81% of the local population own mobile phones, with 45% of these devices internet enabled. Una Hakika enables local people to report rumours anonymously by SMS, through a phone call, by signing up at the Una Hakika website, or by contacting a trained community ambassador.
There are nearly 200 trained and neutral volunteer community ambassadors in 16 villages who verify rumours, taking into account how many people have reported the same rumour, and whether clear evidence can be identified.
The website is updated with results that show whether a rumour is confirmed false, true or remains under investigation. Subscribers to the service also receive up-to-date information through SMS.
Over the course of two years, Una Hakika conducted over 350 investigations and built up a subscriber list of 1,500 people, which translates to one in 15 adult mobile phone users in the Tana Delta, who in turn share information with 30 other people on average.
There is demand for growing the service in other areas. Find out more at https://www.unahakika.org
Image courtesy of Una Hakika
Last updated: 19th of September, 2016