This is why NASA must take Online Kenyans seriously – #ElectionsKE

If you are reading this and you are a registered voter then the decision on whether Jubilee or NASA forms the next government squarely lies on your hands. This is because, according to all major analyses that have been published in The Standard, Daily Nation, The Star, and lately at Kachwanya.com agree on one thing, the 2017 presidential election is too close to call – a tie that will likely be broken by online Kenyans particularly the active ones.

When elections are too close to call, then the so called battle grounds become the decision makers. In the 2017 presidential election, battle grounds have been identified as Nairobi, Kajiado, Narok, Transzoia, Lamu, Tana River, Samburu, Isiolo, Garissa, Marsabit, and Wajir. Although these battle grounds have been so identified based on 2013 voting patterns, one important constituency that no analyst has taken seriously is online Kenyans.

Online Kenyans, although not being accounted for in opinion polls or by analysts, are the only people who can be swayed on either side solely based on policy and ideology – away from tribalism and political party leanings. For example, if you visit the Facebook timeline of Ephraim Njega, a Kikuyu from Nyeri who we would expect to be Jubilee leaning, we find that him and a number of his Kikuyu friends are NASA leaning. Ephraim Njega has singlehandedly managed to sway a number of his Kikuyu friends from Jubilee side to either be “undecided” or lean towards NASA . His persuasion has been based on hard data and facts on the performance of Kenya’s economy since 2013.

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The story is replicated on Facebook timelines of Washington McOdingo and Robert Alai, former die-hard ODM supporters who have since moved to Jubilee. Claims of being bought aside, these people have continuously used their online influence to sway some of the Luos to rethink their allegiance to ODM/NASA, and they too use data and facts of Jubilee’s performance since 2013.

The two cases mentioned above justify the claim that online Kenyans are easy to sway to either side of the political divide simply based on hard data and facts – and to a large extent propaganda and fake news. This is why, as we noted in this previous article, Jubilee has already invested heavily both to sell her own agenda online and likewise to paint Raila Odinga and NASA as people who cannot be trusted with political power. Interestingly, NASA has not done an equal investment to reach the vote rich online Kenyans.

Kenyans online are not few. According to CA data, some 88.1% of Kenyans have some form of access to the Internet. Judged by Facebook and Twitter activities, out of the 39 million Kenyans who have access to the Internet, about 7.6 million Kenyans who are eligible to vote are active daily on the Internet. In an election where the winner might win by a mere 130,000 votes, 7.6 million is such a huge number.

Despite the obvious fact, there is still a feeling that online Kenyans don’t matter much, and that’s why most analysts are ignoring this important constituency. In an with Interview with Kennedy Kachwanya who wrote the article “Talking Numbers -Jubilee 70%+1 Vs NASA 10 Million Strong“, Kachwanya explained that by and large online Kenyans are still not delinked from their tribal inclinations. This he explained by pointing out how Peter Kenneth performed in the 2013 general elections.

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In 2013, online Kenyans showed Peter Kenneth lots of love. They followed him both in Facebook and on Twitter – with his online campaigns garnering hundreds of thousands of likes and comments, with most of the commenters assuring him of their votes. On the very minimum, Peter Kenneth looked forward to garner at least a million votes, votes that he could have used to bargain for an important government position with the political side he would have opted to support in case of a run-off. But after the results were out, Peter Kenneth was not anywhere near 100,000 votes. Mr Kachwanya explained that the reason for the meager performance were the phone calls online Kenyans received from their tribal overlords who urged them to vote Uhuru Kenyatta.

Today, we find that the online debate is in favor of NASA, although Jubilee is the one sponsoring most of the debates. As I write this, as an example, one of the trending hashtags on Twitter is #WhyUhuruWillWin. For every reason given under that hashtag on why Uhuru will win, there are tens of comments negating the reasons provided. Under the hashtag, Daily Polls Kenya asked participants this question:

By the time of publishing this, some 862 online Kenyans had voted, with Uhuru Kenyatta receiving 0% of the votes while Raila Odinga receiving 89% of the votes. 11% were undecided. A similar poll by the same Daily Polls Kenya done on May 6, 2017 and had 3158 Kenyans participate, indicated that Uhuru Kenyatta would get 38% of votes from online Kenyans whereas Raila Odinga would get 56% of the votes from online Kenyans.

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With these kinds of results, and knowing that there are about 7.6 million Kenyans who read the reports, data, news, facts, propaganda and fake news from online sources on a daily basis, both NASA and Jubilee ought to invest heavily on shaping the online discussions. Sadly for NASA, Jubilee has already taken the lead in directing what Kenyans talk about online.

Odipo Riaga
Managing Editor at KachTech Media
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