Book Review

Kenya’s digital democracy against analogue politics


Digital Democracy, Analogue Politics: How the Internet Era is Transforming Politics in Kenya by Nanjala Nyabola. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

Nanjala Nyabola’s Digital Democracy, Analogue Politics: How the Internet Era is Transforming Politics in Kenya is a book about the interaction of technology and politics in Kenya.

Nyabola, a writer and political analyst based in Nairobi, talks about the book as descriptive rather than prescriptive.

She does not pontificate about what people are doing wrong and what should be done instead.

Rather, she explores the theme rooted in actual examples about key moments in Kenya’s internet life, starting with the role of social media in the fall of Chase Bank and then exploring other developments at the intersection of politics and technology such as the crisis-reporting site Ushahidi and responses to the Westgate attack.

Nyabola’s storytelling injects a lively narrative energy. For instance, I relived the events around the social media trend #SomeoneTellCNN.

However, under Nyabola’s guidance, I was also able to see the sociopolitical significance of that moment.

“Overall, this is a book about how people in an unexpected country in an unexpected continent are making use of technologies that were not designed with them in mind in order to shape their political destinies,” she writes.

Nyabola explores the role of traditional and new media.

This book is worth your time if you create content as it will help you situate yourself and your role in a larger ecosystem.

It is also an important read for audiences of the same to understand what influences the content they consume.

Nyabola’s writing is rich in style and packs a punch contentwise.

In a chapter about women’s work in online spaces, she zooms in on the harassment that triggered the #MyDressMyChoice movement.

“If terrorism is violence perpetrated with the intent of spreading fear, then by many measures Kenyan women have been terrorised.”

I especially have a soft spot for the way the book zeroes in on the Kenyan context.

Although Nyabola shows the importance of Kenya’s experience in the global context and vice versa, I was really glad that in the world of the book, Kenya on its own was important enough to be the centre of attention.

This gave the book depth and I felt like I could trust Nyabola to lead me through the muddle that is the intersection of the two complicated themes that are technology and politics.