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Conduit for a Continent

Kenya’s Ory Okolloh: Blogger and New Media Visionary Mobilizes Voices of Africa

“As Africans we need to start challenging our leaders. We need to start taking responsibility for our continent.”

Ory Okolloh is turning heads in cyberspace. A young Kenyan lawyer and activist whose family struggled to send her to school and whose father died of AIDS, she is bent on communicating that Africa is no sob story. Okolloh is devoting her life to letting the world know—through her blogs and “labor of love” digital projects—that the continent is loaded with the power of the people and their solutions. Today she is on the forefront of a wave of young Africans who are using the power of blogging, cell-phone texting, and web-enabled democracy to push their countries forward and help Africans to truly connect.

When Kenya erupted in violence in early 2008 after the presidential elections and the government clamped down with media bans, Okolloh had a vision. With the help of web-savvy friends, she created Ushahidi, a web-based map where Kenyans can report real-time acts of violence (and acts
of peace) from their cell phones. Ushahidi, which means ‘’testimony’’ in Swahili, has captured widespread support and is currently being released as a free application that anyone can customize to bring awareness to crises in their own regions, from rapes to looting, from the Congo to Chechnya.

When the idea for Ushahidi struck, Okolloh already had her own personal and popular blog: Kenyan Pundit, as well as another site she runs, called Mzalendo, which monitors the performance of Kenya’s parliamentarians. Mzalendo enables Kenyans to talk directly to their officials, and helps ordinary people understand what the government is doing, so they can hold them accountable. Through Mzalendo, and now Ushahidi, Okolloh deeply believes that the people of Africa, once connected through digital projects like Mzalendo and Ushahidi, can break the cycle of exploitation by corrupt leaders. And, in doing so, she hopes that Africans will start exercising their right to hold officials accountable en masse.

“Accountability stems from demand,” she insists. “It is important for us to keep an eye on the political class and to ensure that the promises they have made are delivered,” she continues. “Otherwise we will find ourselves in the same scenario in a few years.”

In a few years, there’s hope that the political landscape will be far more democratic and responsive to ordinary people in Kenya and elsewhere, thanks to visionaries like Okolloh. Although Okolloh once had an opportunity to have a six-figure salary because of her talent and law degree, she’s long since forsaken that.

She’s in for the long haul: “Because my passion is here, because I want to do things
that are fulfilling. Because I’m so needed here.”

Visit ushahidi.com and drc.ushahidi.com to learn more.

Comments

Auma's picture

Thank you for Ushahidi.

Hi Ori,

Thank you for Ushahidi,and sharing with the world a true picture of Kenya.Are you on PulseWire.If not,then i would request you to register,and share more about Ushahidi,whose use should be now an urgent help for DRC emergencies .I then request you to join this group, http://www.worldpulse.com/pulsewire/groups/4575 ,and let us team up towards using Ushahidi as a resource tool in this time of need.

Cheers!

Leah Auma Okeyo.

Ory,
Bless you for your excellent work! I have just read about Ushahidi, Mzalendo and Kenyan pundit in World Pulse, and I promise I will learn more about them. However, the idea strikes me. Have you heard of the Clean Election Campaign, the Clean Kenya Campaigns? I think these would also be of interest for you.

Blessings to you.
Wanjiru

dr edonna's picture

Asante Sana!!!

May the spirit of Dedan Kimathi lift your wings higher as you continue to work towards the political liberation of the people, because the fight isn't over, it is only the warriors whose are ready for the battle that wages on the lands of Africa now being ambushed by those who look like us, talk like us, but ain't one of us. So, stay strong because right does prevail over perceived might, through the unified arms of the people!!!

The Afrika way's picture

inspiring

thank you for posting her story. it has really inspired, motivated me. she is truly doing a lot for her country and continent. amazing!

We need more and more young women challenging and bringing about change, like her. I have have heard of her blogs and I like her writings. Thanx for telling her story.

warm regards,

philo Ikonya Gacheri's picture

Ory, hi!

Ory,

I see your great work and I just want to let you know that I will be reading more now... keep going. Much is needed here and elsewhere. And so is that hope in Africa. Just last week I spoke at an Uhuru ASI meeting about sexism and patriarchy. And it was interesting... but even as I heard slogans of One Africa, One Nation, the vastness of our countries hit hard at me and the diversity and intensity of our problems especially those political. And I thought... I have hope in one thing too... communication through the net... this discovery has tomake the biggest difference for Africa: Literacy, education, awareness and even the vote! so keep it up. I will be more at it in Ushahidi now, and Mzalendo.

Blessings,
Philo

"Communication is the real work of leadership" Nitin Nohria

Evelyne's picture

Yes! Keep going.

Ory,
I read your story this morning.
My heart is deeply touched, as I wish for many voices like yours to cover the entire continent.
I was talking with my friend last week about the accountability of our representatives and how so often we remain silent during the years when they are in office, waiting until last minute for them to come back again to wrap us in their fake promises. The system of accountability is lacking in so many places, I'm thinking about my country Cote d'Ivoire.
Great resources, chances to do so much and yet we are moving very slowly.
Thank you for standing for what you believe and continue your work.
Blessings to you,

Evelyne,

Atchiman

Remember to take the essentials with you today!

Kizzie's picture

Inspiring young lady! During

Inspiring young lady!

During Kenya's post-election violence, I was following Ushahidi very closely. It was such a wonderful initiative!

best luck,

Kizzie

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