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The Role of Technology in the Aftermath of Westgate

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, September 25 2013

An image that spread on social media networks during the Westgate attack (ILRI/Flickr)

“Are all our questions actually going to be answered?” That is the question of questions regarding the Westgate Mall attack, one of many that Kenyan citizens have posed to their government. Many have voiced their frustration and concern on Twitter. Altogether, they have at least 85 pressing questions which have been aggregated in a crowdsourced Google doc. There might have been more, but the administrator of the doc decided that the 85 questions were “adequate” and closed the doc. One of the most pressing unanswered questions in what the Christian Science Monitor called a “Kenya info blackout” is “Where are the hostages?”

The questions range from the most basic, e.g. “How many people are still unaccounted for?” to the very specific, “Do the police have access to architectural plans of Westgate and have the air vents too been checked to ensure no terrorist is hiding?” to the very complicated, “Why is Kenya a terrorist target for the nth time? What have we done? More importantly why is the Government not able to protect its citizens? Fow [sic] how long will we react instead of prevent?”

The tone of the questions ranges from frustration and outrage to sadness and anger. Some teeter on the verge of panic, and understandably so.

Meanwhile, Kenyans are also turning to crowdfunding to collect donations, using the mobile money platform m-Pesa. It has collected more than US$625,000 in donations for the victims of Westgate. Safaricom, the M-Pesa operator, set up a zero-rated number for Kenyans to send their donations on M-Pesa. It seems like quite a bit, but the target amount set by the Kenya Red Cross Society is US$920,000.

“I would like to thank Kenyans for their overwhelming support-we have seen Kenyans come out in large numbers to donate blood and share the proverbial ten cents to help out a brother and sister in need. The Kenyan giving spirit never ceases to amaze me and I would like to call on all of you not to tire because the task ahead may be daunting but with your help, we will overcome,” said General Secretary Abbas Gullet.

He also addressed in a roundabout way the issue of corrupution and public funds: “Further, I would like to reassure all Kenyans that we will account for every penny received towards this worthy cause. Please continue contributing. Asanteni sana.”

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

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