Sunday, February 19, 2012

Twitter's latest use: crime-fighting tool

Twitter has been used to report news, organize activists, but this is the first time we've heard of Twitter being used to stop a crime. However, it's a unique situation, being used in a small town in Kenya.

Lanet Umoja Chief Francis Kariuki got a call in the middle of the night, informing him that thieves had broken into the house of Kelven, a neighbor. He reached out to the community, using Twitter to send a message that reached much of the townsfolk.

"Thieves in Kelven's living room; let's help him out please," he Tweeted. "Hearing" his entreaty, local residents, who don't need Internet service to receive his Tweets, but instead subscribe through a free text messaging service leaped into action, surrounding the house and driving off the criminals.

Kariuki later Tweeted a thank you message to the town.

The small town is about 100 miles from Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. The majority of residents don't have access to the Internet or smart phones, and certainly don't have computers. However, since most everyone in the town has a cell phone and with text message capability, by subscribing as they do, most residents in the town can get Kariuki's Tweets.

Make it Yours
Kariuki said, "It's all about empowering the local person on the ground with information. Before I decided on this, I asked around -- how can I reach all my people in one time at no cost to them?"

Although the number of followers on his Twitter account numbers only 400, Kariuki says thousands of those in his town of 28,000 receive his Tweets. Some of those, he added, are the police, but some are also criminals.

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