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Capsule Review

Digital Democracy, Analogue Politics: How the Internet Era Is Transforming Politics in Kenya

In This Review

Digital Democracy, Analogue Politics: How the Internet Era Is Transforming Politics in Kenya
Digital Democracy, Analogue Politics: How the Internet Era Is Transforming Politics in Kenya
By Nanjala Nyabola
Zed Books, 2018, 216 pp. Purchase

This survey of the growing role of social media in Kenyan society and politics does not offer a straightforward answer to the implicit question in its subtitle. Nonetheless, it develops some keen insights into the effects of the Internet in Kenya. With more than seven million of its citizens on Facebook and over a million on Twitter, Kenya may well be sub-Saharan Africa’s most online country. Nyabola describes a sophisticated community of users who have found agency through the Internet, whether in criticizing CNN for what they see as its Eurocentric coverage or in publicizing corruption and incompetence by Kenyan officials. The Kenyan government, Nyabola reveals, is deeply ambivalent about the Internet, attracted to it as a symbol of modernity but wary of the hard-to-control political spaces it creates. Nyabola’s conclusions are far from optimistic. She documents how the Internet allowed foreign actors, such as the British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, to manipulate voters during the 2017 Kenyan elections and explores how social media may come to undermine Kenyan democracy.

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