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Improving Village Life, 140 Characters at a Time
By: Kimberly Shrack
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Since its launch in 2006, the people behind Twitter have seen their platform used for everything from simple status updates and photo sharing to breaking news before the networks and mobilizing international political movements. But one government employee in western Kenya found a new use for this microblogging platform: making his village a better place to live.
 
When he was first appointed the administrative chief of Lanet Umoja, Francis Kariuki knew addressing the region’s problems had to start with improving the communication infrastructure. With the growing use of Twitter in the region, Kariuki put the microblogging platform to the test — and found incredible success.
 
When a local teacher contacted him in the early hours of the morning to tell him his home was being robbed, Kariuki sent out a Tweet, and within minutes neighbors had gathered around the house and sent the would-be burglars on their way. His tweets have even saved lives. When Kariuki received word that a local resident had fallen into a pit latrine, his 140-character message calling people to his aid prompted his quick rescue.
 
Twitter’s ability to mobilize has been demonstrated time and time again — but directly improving the quality of life for an entire region by means of social networking is pretty innovative. While Kariuki’s Twitter page only shows 300 followers, his reach extends far beyond that; he estimates that thousands of the village’s residents receive his messages, either directly or indirectly.
 
Thanks to his tweets, the village of Lanet Umoja has seen some real improvements. According to Kariuki, crime in the area, especially break-ins, has diminished drastically since he launched his Twitter offensive. But his Twitter feed isn’t always full of crime reports or calls for help — he also uses it to inspire the people of the village who have fallen on hard times, and plans to use the platform to promote peace as Kenya enters another election season.
 
While this will certainly not be the latest use of Twitter for long, it does serve as a good example of ways governments can use the platform to interact directly with their constituents — and make their regions a better place to live. 


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About the Author
Kimberly Shrack is a PR pro based in Philadelphia, specializing in writing and content development. She has worked in communication for a variety of industries including technology, travel, art, and healthcare. Follow her on Twitter at @kjshrack.
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